Wednesday, June 19, 2024

After USA Cricket’s Early Success, World Cup Shifts Ticket Approach

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For the organizers of the T20 Cricket World Cup, the U.S. team’s automatic berth was initially viewed as a fringe benefit of America co-hosting the event—a way for fans to back a local, albeit undermanned, team which would likely lose in the group stages. Then the U.S. beat Canada in its opener, followed by an upset win over three-time finalist Pakistan.

Now the ICC and local host committee are rapidly adjusting to an underdog story in a sport that America’s sports-loving populace has yet to fully embrace. Among the changes is a new reduced-price hospitality area reconfigured specifically for Wednesday’s showdown with heavily-favored India, which the organizers hope will draw a more concentrated contingent of U.S. supporters.

The new “Club USA” is a section of the pop-up Long Island venue’s premium club area. Tickets have been reduced to $350 from about $1,000, according to the event’s website, putting them in line with general admission prices. The ICC is now marketing the seats to those it believes might be interested in rooting for the U.S. team, including U.S residents who previously bought tickets, and locals in Nassau County.

“It’s about accessibility and visibility,” Claire Furlong, the ICC’s general manager of marketing and communications, said in an interview. “Following the USA’s brilliant results against Canada and obviously against Pakistan, interest levels are huge. And we wanted to be able to capitalize on that interest in the best possible way.”

As of Monday evening, the game had about 1,000 general admission tickets still to sell, not including the higher-priced hospitality areas, Furlong said. Those general admission tickets would likely sell out by game-time Wednesday morning, she added, probably purchased largely by fans rooting for India.

The Club USA plan achieves two goals. First, it shifts more seats to lower price points. While general admission sales have been strong even for weekday morning games not involving India, there have been considerably more empty seats in the premium sections. Second, it might help attract more casual U.S. fans who caught wind of the Pakistan victory and are interested in seeing a game.

That’s part of the ICC’s goal in hosting the event half the U.S.—to better expose the sport to the world’s largest sports media/marketing economy, both for generate new fans and new corporate partners.

“The USA is a strategic priority growth market,” Furlong said. “We’ve got a great tactical opportunity here, so how do we use it to our best advantage?”

Club USA is one of a handful of ways the ICC and local host committee have responded to the Pakistan win. Local media interest in the U.S. team has increased dramatically in the past few days, Furlong said, and the ICC is helping facilitate those requests. The governing body also recently offered 18% ticket discounts for the India game to corporate partners who might want to invite U.S. employees or clients. Why 18%? That’s the number of runs the U.S. scored in its super over, cricket’s version of overtime, in the win against Pakistan.

The ICC says it is seeing an influx of new U.S. users to its platforms—website, app, social and video—as the tournament progresses. The percentage of U.S. users that are new has jumped to 61%, up from 21% during the 2022 event in Australia. Overall, despite co-hosting the event in a country that isn’t cricket-mad, and holding events at difficult hours for many in Asia, the ICC says worldwide video views so far are up 11% this tournament.

The U.S team is playing in the tournament because it is a co-host—a right common in big global sporting events like the soccer World Cup or Olympics. The team’s quarterfinals odds got even longer after it was placed in a group that included No. 1-ranked India and No. 6 Pakistan. The U.S. team can lose to India and still advance with a win vs. No. 11 Ireland to close out the group stage.

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