Too Long, Too Tiring, But Here's Why Big Bash Was Still A Success

The Big Bash ends today with the all-Melbourne final between the Stars and Renegades. Finally.

BBL08 has been the longest edition of the Twenty20 domestic competition in its history, with 59 games extending from mid-December to mid-February.

For many, it’s simply been too long.

Players such as Melbourne Stars’ Jackson Bird and Brisbane Heat’s Chris Lynn have voiced their concerns stating they’re feeling the pinch. According to them the season had "gone on too long" and "there are some tired boys".

Perhaps more problematic for Cricket Australia is the fact that fans appear to be nodding along in furious agreement. One fan tweeted recently:

"The Big bash this season has lost me. Worst season ever. In my opinion the number 1 reason is (this) season is way, way, way, way too long.”

This person was not alone.

While total people through the gates is up by about 130,000 so far this season, average crowds are down 20 per cent at an average of 21,000 per match, compared to 26,000 last-year and 30,000 the season before.

Television audiences are also down. The combined average audiences for Seven and Foxtel is 889,000 per match, compared with Ten’s average of 969,000 last season.

But for all the huff and puff about it, is anyone really all that surprised? The fanfare and thrill a minute nature of the Big Bash may have caught the attention of many young fans, but I’m not sure it’s captured their soul. At least not yet.

Twenty20 cricket is a manufactured product, created by marketing masterminds and packaged and sold in a manner designed to heighten the senses of young fans. History shows this kind of ‘top down’ commodification will work. Big brands the world over tell us what we should be buying, watching and liking every day of the week. Even if we initially resist, they generally wear us down.

It happens in almost every industry imaginable. Singers and artists can now make their name and become famous on realty television shows. So, too, can chefs and DIY enthusiasts. They’re created from the ‘top’ by marketers and sold ‘down’ to consumers.

Same goes with sport.

Yet, the games that resonate the most are still those that define us. They’re the games that were created by communities as an expression of our way of life.

They, too, adapt and change to reflect the values of the current generation, but importantly, they actually mean something to fans.

For some, these sports become part of their personality. Winning gives them a bounce in their step. Losing claws at their stomach. These emotions exist not because of marketing spin. Rather, they come from shared life experiences with their family, friends and community, generally before we’re old enough to realise and sometimes long after we’ve gone.

As author, Trevor Grant, once noted, when it came to the spiritual homes of our favourite teams, “For some it would be where their ashes would be scattered".

The Big Bash hasn’t yet created this sense of meaning. For so many, it’s sill entertainment, and that’s all. We’re not ‘all in.’

But in today’s flashy, digital world of abundant sports related content, when our attention span has been reduced to a mere eight seconds, it’s never been more difficult to hold a fan’s attention.

For a sport to ‘stick’ for an entire season it needs to mean something, otherwise fans will likely drift away when they’ve had enough.

But things could be worse. While many believe its lost its lustre, the reality is with more than a million people through the gates to watch this season and combined television ratings up around 900,000 per match, the Big Bash is still Australian sport’s market leader for many periods of the summer.

After all, the Big Bash is a clever, well developed product. It’s well marketed, packaged and promoted to a demographic that undoubtedly enjoys consuming it, even if they have grown a little tired of it this season.

And that makes it a success, whether we emotionally care about it or not.