There’s no doubt that the United States has a passion for professional sports like no other country. From the Super Bowl to NBA All-Star Weekend, Major League Baseball, and the Daytona 500, America’s got a massive market for pro sports, worth a whopping $69 billion.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) wants a slice of that pie, and that’s why it’s hosting the 2024 T20 World Cup in the US and West Indies. Yep, the world’s second most popular sport is getting ready to spread cricket fever across the States. The tournament kicks off on 1 June 2024 and wraps up on the 29th of June, with matches played across nine venues.

ICC Men’s T20 World Cup begins 1st June 2024 with the USA and West Indies as joint hosts | Credits: ICC Cricket

Cricket fever in the USA: A long and rocky history

Cricket might have been around in North America since the 18th century, but it never really took off. Meanwhile, countries like Australia, India, South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka embraced the sport. Cricket became a major cultural force over there, especially in places like India and Sri Lanka.

In the US, though, cricket always took a backseat to sports like basketball, tennis, American football, soccer (football to us Aussies!), and of course, baseball, America’s simplified cousin of cricket.

But then, on 13 July 2023,  Major League Cricket (MLC) debuted as a professional T20 league in the US, with six teams representing major cities across the country, including  Seattle, Washington, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Texas. Backed by big names, including Microsoft Chairman, Satya Nadella and Adobe Chairman Shantanu Narayen, the first season of MLC drew in about 70,000 spectators, raking in $2.8 million in ticket sales. With an average stadium capacity of 80% each day, those are impressive numbers for a country that doesn’t usually go crazy for cricket.

This set the stage for the 2024 T20 World Cup to come to the land of opportunities.

Captains of the MLC T20 Tournament gathered around the MLC trophy | Credits: Forbes India

So why is the U.S. a good choice for the 2024 T20 World Cup?

Well, according to the tournament director, Fawwaz Baksh, it was an ‘obvious choice’. It’s all about the growing community of cricket lovers in America and bringing in some fresh and exciting locations where cricket simply hasn’t been played before. And let’s face it, if cricket gains more fans in a country like America where sports is a national pastime, it could be the beginning of something special for a sport that has so far been largely popular almost exclusively in South Asia.

If you’re still wondering if the US was a good pick (and some big names in the sport have questioned it), the huge response to the ballot applications should put those worries to rest. Over 3 million ticket applications were received during the ballot, proving there’s a genuine hunger for cricket in the States.

While the excitement is great, how’s the ICC trying to spread cricket fever in a non-cricketing country?

Let’s get to the bottom of the marketing strategies, shall we?

The ICC knows it can’t just rely on the novelty of the game to sell tickets for a month-long tournament. They want to build a whole Super Bowl-level hype machine (yep, that’s right, the Super Bowl). Getting there is going to be a tall order and whether it works or not is yet to be seen, but it’s worth exploring how exactly they’re planning to get this done using some popular and proven marketing strategies.

What are these strategies you speak of?’ we hear you asking. Keep scrolling through.

#1: Get fans familiar with the sport

Cricket and baseball may seem similar, but the rules and gameplay are different. And when entering a market without a strong built-in audience, educating the fans is the first step. The ICC plans to have a series of introductory events and activities leading up to the tournament, giving curious spectators a crash course in the sport.

The ICC is focusing on what happens outside the stadiums, too. While the exact details are still kept under wraps, they’re aiming to create something that resembles a carnival where new fans can learn about the sport. It’s all about making this whole tournament a long-term play to turn the US into a viable cricket market, so putting on a fun show where people enjoy themselves is critical.

#2: Don’t forget to engage your existing fans

While the goal is to bring in more fans, you can’t forget about the existing ones. With the opening game set to kick off in Dallas, Texas, the ICC is planning something big to celebrate the tournament.

Even though there will be elements aimed at new fans, there are also going to be some activities that generate excitement for existing fans in a carnival-like event.

For instance, former West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo and England’s Liam Plunkett launched things by hitting sixes with local fans and players in New York, giving fans a chance to have an experience that they will likely not forget for a long time.

#3: Create campaigns that bring the hype

The ICC kicked off the 2024 T20 World Cup celebrations with their ‘Out of this World’ campaign. Giant cricket balls popped up in places like Bridgetown, Barbados, and New York’s Times Square to mark the 100-day countdown to the event. 

Cricket ball in Times Square to mark 100 days to go for the ICC T20 World Cup | Credits: Por Homme

But the hype didn’t stop there! To unveil the coveted Cricket World Cup trophy, organisers brought out the big guns—American fast-bowling sensation Ali Khan and the legendary West Indies batter “Universe Boss” Chris Gayle. Khan represents the growing force of American cricket, while Gayle embodies the infectious energy and power that the West Indies bring to the sport.

As if the trophy unveiling wasn’t exciting enough, the iconic Empire State Building joined the celebration! In a dazzling display, the New York City landmark was illuminated in the vibrant colours of the 2024 Cricket World Cup, signalling the global significance of this event while also creating curiosity among the American public.

#4: Usher in the crowds with inclusivity

If there’s going to be a cricketing event that brings in more and more nations together, the T20 World Cup is it. While the sport is enjoyed by 2.5 billion fans around the world, the 2024 tournament will surely spike those numbers as it’s set to debut several teams that haven’t been featured in an ICC event like Canada and the USA.

This tournament ramps up the teams from 16 to 20, giving fans around the world more reasons to cheer and allowing players from countries like Canada and Uganda—and hosts USA—to compete on the biggest T20 stage against world-class teams.

There’s a lesson to be learned here because many brands and businesses stick to the audience they have without making any changes, fearing that they’ll lose their loyal consumer base. But this simply isn’t the case if your marketing strategy can focus on existing and new markets much like the ICC is doing.

#5: Build your legacy

Entering new markets is essential but it’s also important to make sure that your legacy can stand by itself once you’ve left the building—or in this case the cricket stadium. The ICC faces the same challenge. It’s not about a one-off event that brings in fans into the stadiums for the duration of the tournament.

For any sport, the most avid fans travel from one country to another, following their favourite players or national teams—whether it’s the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup. That’s the ultimate goal in the cricketing world as well. It’s not just about creating a large audience in the U.S. for a month; it’s about getting fans hooked on a sport that they tune into to watch or fly across the world to experience in a stadium filled with fans who are just as excited about the sport.

That’s what brands want to create. A legacy that can be self-sustained and grow in different markets.

Got cricket fever yet?

Whether you’re a cricket fan or not, there’s a lot that the ICC is doing right now to make sure that the T20 World Cup in June is an unforgettable experience and the strategies they’re using can be modified to match practically any industry or business.

From a marketing strategy that targets an international audience to capturing audiences who are new to the sport, there’s a lot that can be implemented to give your brand the boost it needs. 

Entering a new market that’s already dominated by other players is a common challenge that any business that’s scaling finds itself trying to solve. The trick is to create a big splash that makes your presence known and one that potential consumers won’t have a choice but to acknowledge.