The International Cricket Council (ICC) has revealed the results of the largest ever market research project into the sport, with the report detailing a strong emphasis on Twenty20 as a development format and strong public interest in cricket becoming an Olympic sport.
Cricket’s first global market research was conducted between November and January by Nielsen Sports and comprised over 19,000 interviews around the world including over 6,600 interviews with cricket fans aged 16-69 years. The survey was carried out in the 12 full member nations, plus China and the United States, two markets earmarked as having significant potential for growth.
The report reveals cricket has over one billion fans in the surveyed age category globally, the average age of which is 34 with a demographic breakdown of 61 per cent male and 39 per cent female. The report also claims that cricket has more than 300 million participants.
The research was undertaken to enable the ICC and its members to understand the growth potential of cricket, to help shape the development of the growth focused global strategy for the game, drive decision making and to provide a benchmark upon which to measure the outcomes of the strategy.
Close to 70 per cent of fans are said to be interested in Test cricket with fans in England & Wales showing the strongest interest in this format (86 per cent). South Africa lead the interest in one-day international (ODI) cricket (91 per cent) and Pakistan in T20 cricket (98 per cent). Globally, T20 is the most popular format with 92 per cent interest, whilst ODIs are close with 88 per cent interest.
The main motivators for sports fans who are not currently interested in cricket to become fans include a better understanding of the cricket calendar and making it an easier sport to follow, which the ICC said is being addressed in the global strategy for cricket currently being shaped across the sport.
“One of the insights that came through from non-cricket fans, when asked what will make them follow cricket, they just said make it simpler, make the calendar simpler,” Aarti Dabas, the ICC's head of media rights, told the ESPNcricinfo website.
“Fans want context and simplification. Hopefully with the World Test Championship (WTC) we are adding that context. Two-thirds of the fans in world cricket are still interested in Test cricket. That is a significant number. So we're hopeful with the changes of the WTC, with simplification, the context, we will retain fans and attract new fans.”
Fans were also asked about cricket and the Olympic Games with 87 per cent of fans claiming they would like to see Twenty20 cricket in the Olympic Games. An ongoing campaign is behind cricket gaining Olympic status.
The ICC was recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2010 but a concerted push to earn a place at the Olympics has failed to materialise. Cricket was part of the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998 although talks to secure a return for the 2018 edition on Australia’s Gold Coast proved unsuccessful.
Cricket made its solitary Olympic appearance at the Paris 1900 Games, but many have called for the sport to be considered for a return through the more modern and shorter format of T20.
ESPNcricinfo noted that the survey did not include questions on potentially enhancing the 50-over World Cup. “We've dealt with this point on a number of occasions, but the point is we're using the T20 format to grow the game,” ICC chief executive David Richardson said.
“Seventy-five per cent of our members only play T20 cricket. Therefore if we want to grow the sport and grow the number of participants and fans, T20 is the format to do it. The research does show that fans still love Test cricket and can't forget about it, but the way to grow the sport is through T20 and not the World Cup.”