I still remember going for the Sri Lanka vs England cricket fixture with my father when I was around 10 years old, where I happened to meet a giant of a man who was well over six-and-a-half feet tall. I got his signature. It read Tony Greig.
Years went by and when I joined the United Nations, on many occasions I met up with this great personality. In my view he was a self-made marketer. Let me throw more light on this perspective.
Tony – the man
He was born in South Africa to Scottish parents and went on to play for the great nation England. He was right up there in the game of cricket when a cricketer earned 1,200 sterling pounds for a five test series even though the grounds were packed to bursting point with spectators.
This was at a time when life was more relaxed in nature and a typical cricket enthusiast had the luxury of spending five days watching a cricket match. If this same product was offered today, the game of cricket would have died given that people just don’t have the time to spend on leisure with the fast-paced track on the career and the pressures of family and education to keep one’s skill set relevant in the fast-changing global economy.
From the many interactions that I had with Tony, I got the feel that he saw this coming and given that he was by nature an aggressive human being with a radical streak in him, when Kerry Packer invited him to launch a new brand of cricket, he jumped at the chance.
Later on, he revealed that he believed that in the new form of cricket of one day a typical player can earn almost 60,000 pounds. This would increase the commitment of players to go professional whilst also uplifting the game to be top-of-the-mind on entertainment.
In marketing terminology, Tony Greig had the insight to understand the changing spectator profile and the new product of one day cricket had the ability to meet this need better than competition at a profit not only to the supplier but also to the stakeholders like cricketing association and players not forgetting the sponsors and advertisers.
Tony, in other words, was responsible for creating a new wave in the game of cricket that would result in a younger audience coming in as spectators whilst attracting sponsors that wanted to get focused exposure to this target group that consisted of the critical mass in a country.
In my mind Tony Greig was more a self-made marketer and businessman than a cricketer, which made him a self-made marketer. He was the ideal person to take forward Kerry Packer’s idea of ‘pyjama cricket’ as it was called.
Tony – game change
It is fair to say that if not for the insight of Kerry Packer and the brilliance of Tony Greig whose responsibility was to recruit the best players in the world to play in the one day edition of the game which featured attractive coloured clothing, white leather balls, and vibrant music under flood lights that introduced fashion to the gentlemen’s game, the IPL version would not have been a reality. IPL, which is the next generation product introduced by Lalith Modi of just 20 overs, is today a $ 2 billion plus brand as per the Brand Finance valuation.
The World Series Cricket that was launched in 1977 captured the world by storm, though initially there was resistance to change from the die-hard cricketing public who wanted the gentleman’s game to be strictly white and of five days in duration.
But Tony knew that the power was in the consumer. The spectators who loved the excitement of the one day edition just like a carnival kept on repeat purchasing the brand and the Kerry Packer series. The media attention created a fashion statement to the world and this attracted the big brands to sponsor and advertise on this new opportunity of reaching the target audience. Tony Greig made this happen as without players there was no game for Kerry Packer.
Who is Tony?
Tony developed an inner vulnerability whilst he grew up in South Africa. His father had a distinguished war record, whilst back home in West Lothian Tony got the wrapping of an entrepreneur with their family’s electrical business, where the market for televisions, modern cookers, and record players was gathering momentum with the increasing disposable income.
This dual track upbringing made Tony a rebel whilst having the aggressiveness to succeed. In simple words, Tony grew up to understand what the public wanted and the business sense brought about a showman grail.
When Kerry Packer invited Tony for the fateful meeting in Sydney as some called it, the latent talents of Tony Greig made him to accept the offer instantly. He was mentally and physically prepared to accept the wrath of many establishments and the more conservative public who preferred to remain in the earlier game.
Tony’s entrepreneurial spirit sparked him to put his career on the edge, for which he paid a heavy price, but that’s what it takes to make a game marketing-oriented if may bring in the technicality of marketing. Tony was a self-made marketer who believed in his instinct to drive an idea to reality and that’s exactly what he did in making the Kerry Packer series a multi-million dollar business but also launch its own television network, Channel 9.
The only issue cited was that when he started his work on the Kerry Packer business, he was yet the Captain of the England team and he was two years into the job. I remember once, when I asked this, he said: “What do I do? I was young with a family and venturing into a new business and I had to hold on to something firm till I could get on my own feet and that’s what I did.” This was Tony to my mind. More than just a cricketer. A business man. A self-made marketer.
Tony – cricketer?
Whilst highlighting the business acumen of Tony Greig, I will not be doing justice if I do not highlight that this great man was one of the most outstanding sportsman that England has produced. He averaged 40 with the bat and 32 with the ball in just 52 tests, which gives us an idea of the all-round nature of the sportsman.
The innings he flashed in Brisbane in 1974 was said to be one of the best the world had seen at that time. His highest test score of 148 was with India in 19972-73 series whilst in the 1st class arena was a magnificent 226 against Surrey in 1973. The bowling performance was 8/86 vs West Indies in 1973-74 when competition included the greats of cricket like Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd, which gives us an idea of the cricketing talent of this man.
Tony – the brand
Give the DNA of Tony Greig, he went on to venture into a new career as cricket commentator, and he became one of the best in the world, beating the likes of Bill Larry, Ian Chappel, David Gower, Ravi Shastri, and Navajoth Sidhu. His brand name was synonymous with Australian cricket even though by birth he was a Britisher. He was the anchor on Channel 9 and was known for his signature use of car keys during the pitch reports he delivered.
Given his revolutionary nature, in 1998 when umpire Emerson called Murali a chucker, the one person who supported the bowler in public was Tony Greig. He went on to support Murali even before the bowler became a legend for Sri Lanka.
This earned him a special place with the fans of Sri Lanka, which ultimately led to the national telecom company Mobitel hiring Tony Greig as its brand ambassador. The familiar face was on many hoardings across the country and in the launch of the Blackberry service, which was the power of brand Tony Greig in Sri Lanka.
The beauty of the personality was that post the World Cup victory, when Sri Lanka Cricket entered the phase of scandals and mismanagement, Tony stayed right clear from controversy though in actual fact he could have reached the higher authorities to put the game right. This was the quality of the man. A fierce competitor, controversial in nature, but a perfect gentlemen. In my view, a self-made marketer, which can teach many lessons to youngsters in business.
(The writer is the Head of National Portfolio Development – Sri Lanka and Maldives of the United Nations Office for Project Services – UNOPS. The thoughts are strictly his personal views and not the views of the organisation he serves.)