The England Women’s Cricket Team recently signed a standalone sponsorship agreement with Kia Motors, in a two year deal worth over six figures per annum. This 'ground-breaking partnership', in which Kia will become the sole sponsor for all England home test matches, is fantastic for England Women’s Cricket.
 
Former England Captain, Clare Connor, who is now Head of Women's Cricket at the England Cricket Board spoke to Support through Sport UK's Claire Allen ...
 
Thank you very much for talking to Support through Sport UK. Tell us more about this fantastic new sponsorship deal ...
 
The key points are that it’s a two year sponsorship term, it’s our first stand-alone commercial partnership for the England Women’s Cricket team, and it’s the first stand-alone partnership for any international women’s cricket team. Kia are a big global brand; we are really looking forward to working with them. Obviously they have huge experience already within the sport sponsorship sector: they sponsor the Australian Open, Rafa Nadal is their main ambassador and obviously they've just come off the back of the World Cup. We feel they have significant experience and I am sure we will learn loads from partnering with them for a couple of years (and hopefully more years after!). We are delighted that, given the wide portfolio of sporting events that they have been involved with, they want women’s cricket to be their next project. For me, what's key is the brand and also the profile of the brand. Kia is a fun, exciting brand - they want to talk more to women, and obviously we do as well, so it all fits together really well. It’s been about a year in the making - they have an existing relationship in cricket (with the Kia Oval and Surrey Cricket Club) but they wanted to get even more involved with cricket, and so we started talking to them about a year ago. One of the tipping points for Kia, I think, was that the England Women’s Squad went professional earlier this year - and I think that cemented the fact for Kia that everyone’s very serious about the England Women’s Cricket team here at the England Cricket Board. I think that really clinched it.
 
Why would you encourage girls to take up cricket, and what steps should they take to get involved?
 
To touch on Chance to Shine, which is our Partner Cricket Development Initiative for schools (for girls and boys) ... We recently celebrated one million girls going through the programme. Many members of the England Women’s Cricket Team coach and doambassadorial work for Chance to Shine. It creates a lovely connection between England Women’s Cricket and the grass roots game. The girls are good role models and the fact that they can go into schools and really talk to girls, and boys, about a career in cricket now, which they couldn’t have done a year ago, is fantastic. The fact that the school girls have the exposure to the players - and can listen to their stories and see a really clear pathway to playing is fab. If they just want to play for fun and be a lifelong lover of the game, then that’s brilliant. And if they want to get onto a performance pathway then they can do that too; they can aspire to be the next Charlotte Edwards, or Sarah Taylor, or Lydia Greenway. So we have a good number of girls picking up the game and we’ve got a really good story to tell them about what a future in the game could look like. I think, as well, that it's not just about attracting new players to the game - but also new coaches, new volunteers, new umpires, new administrators - so people who love the game and and want to work in a related role Hopefully the team's achievements over the past few years, coupled with the good (sponsorship news from today, will mean that the women's game will continue to grow.
 
Who were your role models growing up?
 
My role models were all men. In the world of tennis, however, I would watch Steffi Graff and Martina Navratilova - both had such amazing skills and athleticism. But, in terms of cricket, I looked up to players such as Steve Waugh, Ian Botham and Alec Stewart - the big slow ball stars of the men’s game. So now it’s wonderful to think that, next week, an 11-year-old girl from a primary school near Cambridgeshire will be coached by Charlotte Edwards - and then she can come and watch Charlotte play - or listen to women’s cricket on BBC Radio or watch it on Sky. Charlotte Edwards can be her role model. I think that, when I was growing up, there were obviously some amazing women playing sport - they just weren’t as celebrated or well-known.
 
And hopefully the new deal will help with the media coverage of women’s sport?
 
Yes, I think it’s a bit of a virtuous circle. I think the fact that we’ve had good media coverage over the past couple of years - really good viewing figures, really good reach in the press and social media - it’s been that increase in profile and coverage that has probably given us the credibility and the value to secure the Kia deal. So I think it’s an inter-dependent relationship between media coverage, profile and commercial interest. It’s very hard to secure any commercial interest without being able to tell a sponsor what they're going to get back.
 
Finally, what advice would you give to young, sporty girls, in a world in which sports media coverage is still very much dominated by men's sport?
 
I suppose the key advice to girls is to give anything a go. Many sports now have great schemes with which to engage women and girls - very different to ten years ago. Sport has really come on in how it tries to deliver programmes to both boys and girls - so my advice is give everything a go! I think that, what with the Olympics, women’s cricket, women’s golf ... there's so much for girls to aspire to nowadays. And sport is a great way to have fun, to socialise and to keep fit and healthy.
 
Many thanks to Clare for taking the time to talk to Support through Sport UK today.
 
Clare Connor: Clare Connor is an all-round cricketer, who made her England debut in 1995 and captained the side from 2000 until her retirement in 2006. She was awarded an MBE in 2004 and an OBE in 2006 for her services to cricket.
 
The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation recently reported that only 0.4% of the commercial investment in British sport goes to women’s sport. Hence this Kia deal is a fantastic step forwards for UK women’s sport!