What has happened?
On August 1, England and Australia became the first cricketing nations to wear names and numbers on the back of their shirts in a Test match, the first time in the conservative 142-year history of Test cricket. Since Shashank Manohar, chairman of The International Cricket Council (ICC), declared in February that ‘test cricket is dying’, the ICC have begun implementing changes to halt the perceived decline. The governing body believes names and numbers on the back of test shirts will help popularise the waning format by increasing fan engagement, allowing fans around the world to connect with players on a deeper level. The move has been received negatively by many cynical fans and former players alike, who have labelled it as a shameless merchandising ploy that will add nothing to the spectacle of the game.
The Media Store Take
If executed well, numbers on the back of sporting shirts can drive positive brand impact for sporting organisations, teams and individual athletes. NBA icon Michael Jordan is a great example of how important a number can become to an individual when marketed correctly. The ICC is right to try and engage fans in any way possible, especially when aiming to target a younger generation that are not as engaged in Test cricket as they are shorter formats of the game. Numbers on the back of Test shirts has the potential to increase brand awareness for individual players, test nations and the game as a whole. As for the merchandising, Test shirts with names and numbers are yet to go on sale, but you can be sure Cricket Australia, who after sandpaper gate are still one of the least trusted entities in Australian sport according to the Roy Morgan Sports Net Trust Score survey June 2019, will be doing all they can to help fans get behind their players this summer.