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What brands can learn from The Ashes: how ‘Bazball’ can foster a creative culture

By Joe Murgatroyd, Partner and creative director



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July 19, 2023 | 7 min read

In what’s become known as ‘Bazball’, English cricket has had a rebrand. Here, as the fourth test in a historic Ashes series begins, Brandnation’s Joe Murgatroyd takes a run at Bazball for brands.

An Englang cricket match, viewed from the pavillion

What can brands learn from England Cricket's innovative approach, Bazball? / Mark Stuckey via Unsplash

“Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained?” blasts Gladiator’s Maximus after decimating his adversaries in the iconic movie scene. It was this image playing over in my mind after Ben Stokes and company triumphed over Australia in a third breathless Test.

For the uninitiated, I’m talking about cricket’s The Ashes: one of the oldest rivalries in sport; a summer-long battle between England and Australia over five dive-day matches.

England may still be trailing in the series, but as we head to the colosseum of Old Trafford next week in what’s a perfectly poised series, the only thing we can confidently predict is the entertainment value is going to be box-office. Yes, Russell, I am entertained. Very entertained indeed.

It hasn’t always been like this. Over the last 12 months and under the direction of Kiwi head coach Brendon ‘Baz’ McCullum, the England team has manufactured a new brand of cricket. This brand, entitled ‘Bazball’, is an identity, philosophy, and mindset that, with over 170,000 Google searches of the term in the past month, has gained more momentum than Mark Wood’s right arm.

Characterized by a fearless and positive mentality, its hype (and, in the main, overwhelming success), poses the question of what we can learn from this phenomenon.

On the face of it, ‘Bazball’ is an intriguing advertisement for the power of a brand. The concept has been embraced and expertly executed by the squad and has inserted personality into their game – and I’m not just talking about Stuart Broad’s headband.

This identity is progressive and memorable – galvanizing and connecting with the fanbase, capturing the attention of new audiences, and injecting a shot of adrenaline into long-format cricket. Sounds like an enviable list of outcomes for any brand team, doesn’t it?

Investigating ‘Bazball’ on a more granular level, there are striking similarities between its seven principles, as identified by cricket writer Chris Stocks, and how these could be applied to foster a creative culture in the workplace – one that matches the creativity of Joe Root’s shot-making.

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No fear of failure

This is an essential pillar in any creative culture. While I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that ‘all ideas are good ideas’ (disgraced short-lived UK prime minister Liz Truss’s mini-budget for example), a fear of failure can be devitalizing for teams. A sense of fearlessness encourages us to think originally and without restriction, which usally leads to the most interesting work.

Even for the best in the game, for every ingenious idea, there’ll be more than a few stinkers. It’s part of the process (just ask Australia’s David Warner, who has had his own fair share of disgrace). Keep the faith and embrace failure; it’ll always come good.

Embracing mental freedom and fun

Quite simply, working in our industry should be fun. Like firing a ball into the terrace for six, we should get a buzz from the work we produce.

The way England has prioritized fun and mental freedom shines through in their cricket. Allowing talent to be expressive and working to these strengths has squeezed the best out of the team.

Our lesson here is to lean into personalities and keep it fun to maximize potential at every level.

Simplicity of message

It’s incredibly easy to over-complicate things with many stakeholders being part of the creative process. Don’t cloud the process with thousand-page War and Peace briefs and feedback – keep it clear and concise. That clarity of thought will come to life through the work.

We can all become guilty of ‘paralysis by analysis’. Of course, reviewing processes has its place, but being solutions-focused and looking into how things can be improved rather than what went wrong is a smarter course of action.

It should be noted that brand ‘Bazball’ isn’t infallible, but its core principles are conducive to a creative environment that empowers creatives to do great work.

The final chapters of this year’s Ashes are yet to be written, but there is much to learn from England’s brand lessons. We know it’ll be all-out entertainment; I just hope it has a happier ending than Gladiator.

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