JOHANNESBURG - Far from seeing themselves as a small player in a very packed field, the owners of Johannesburg’s newest sports team believe they can make an impression in a city that is home to South Africa’s two biggest sports brands.
The Joburg Giants, the City of Gold’s team in Cricket South Africa’s new T20 Global League tournament must attempt to establish itself as a premier sports brand in a town where Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates hold sway. Then there’s Wits, the PSL champions, and a Lions rugby team that has garnered plenty of praise for their success in recent seasons.
It is hoped that the novelty - initially - and then hopefully some dynamism on the field will allow the Giants to become a team that Joburg citizens will want to associate themselves with.
“I think the Giants will be able to carve out a niche for themselves and create that passion amongst the fans,” said the franchise’s CEO, Hemant Dua.
“As far as I know most sports fans normally follow more than one team. You could be a Kaizer Chiefs fan and still be a Giants fan. You could be an Orlando Pirates fan and still be a Giants fan. What the Giants bring to those two sets of football fans is a common platform for them to rally behind.”
Dua’s nifty marketing spin aside, the Giants face a tough task in carving out that niche in a very saturated SA sports environment. In India, where Dua and his company also own a IPL team, the Delhi Daredevils, it is in some respects easier, given the overwhelming support for cricket in that country.
In SA and Johannesburg specifically there are plenty of other attractions, but Dua is committed to ensuring that the Giants make an impression. “Cricket is a sport that sits right between rugby and soccer in South Africa. We are hopeful that we are able to draw both the fans from rugby and soccer to support the Giants. True cricket fans will always be there of course,” he said.
Dua, pictured, and the Giants owners have cast glances towards Australia where the Big Bash has set itself apart from a plethora of other sports in that country and is hopeful of mimicking some of its success in SA.
“The giant city that this is, it’s important (to understand) that all kinds of people live here, they have different passions and different sports they want to follow,” Dua said.
“I think that the T20 Global League will carve its own niche. The IPL is at a different level, that’s because you have a billion people following it, you don’t have a billion people here. You look at the Big Bash in Australia it’s carved its own niche in a nation that’s crazy about Aussie Rules football, has a large amount of soccer, rugby and other stuff.”
The Giants owners have formed a bond with the local city council to assist with various social initiatives centred around the sport - the building and maintaining of cricket pitches in impoverished areas. However most critical to the Giants and the T20 Global League's success will be the product on the field. Star names like Kagiso Rabada, Brendon McCullum, Temba Bavuma and Yasir Shah - who are all contracted to the Giants - will garner excitement, but Dua is aware more is required.
“At the end of that day, I feel, that while you can have all kinds of hype around it, what really sells the product, is the product on the field. If you have great games, people will come and cheer you - that’s what we are hoping. I’ve seen the all the squads, they’re very competitive and there’s going to be a good brand of cricket out there - and that good brand of cricket, combined with a good brand of entertainment off the field is a great cocktail,” Dua explained.