Cricket Australia has been left without a naming rights sponsor of men’s Test cricket after real estate giant Domain pulled out midway through a four-year deal with the sport’s governing body.
The online property company, which is 60 per cent owned by Nine, publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, linked up in June 2018 with cricket as the sport embarked on a major reputational rebuild, with the Australian team’s standing having careered off a cliff when the ball tampering scandal erupted in South Africa.
The so-called platinum partnership was struck after financial services company Magellan withdrew its naming rights sponsorship in the wake of the sandpaper affair and led to Australia’s contests against India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and New Zealand over the last two seasons each being branded as the Domain Test Series.
However, CA has been left to secure another major backer of home Test series after Domain’s decision to cease the sponsorship, which was to run until 2022, was formalised at a board meeting in Sydney on Wednesday. Under the arrangement Domain had an option after two years to extend or not for a further two.
The news of its withdrawal comes despite Tim Paine’s Australian team coming off a highly successful summer with series wins against Pakistan and New Zealand consolidating their position in second place on the ICC World Test Championship ahead of the first-ever final at Lord’s in June next year. All five Tests were one-sided, however, with Australia winning by margins of 296, 247 and 279 runs against the Black Caps and by an innings and five runs and an innings and 48 runs over Pakistan.
Despite the prospect of a far more absorbing four-Test series against Virat Kohli’s India next summer – and then the Ashes in 2021/22 – Domain chief customer officer Jason Chuck said the company was "moving away from that particular vehicle" because of a fresh desire for a more targeted and local marketing approach as opposed to one focused on generating national awareness of the brand, which was the rationale behind the Test cricket deal.
"We’re in discussions [with CA] about how else we might evolve our relationship with them," Chuck said.
The Australian Test naming rights are regarded by CA as its premium property and it is already in the market for a new sponsor, said CA executive general manager of broadcast and commercial Stephanie Beltrame.
She confirmed CA was in talks with Domain about being involved in another facet of the game such as a different format or in community cricket.
"They are stepping away from the Test naming rights but have enjoyed a successful partnership with us and due to some internal recalibration they’re exploring how a new partnership could look," Beltrame said.
Australian players are back in South Africa for the first time since the events at Newlands two years ago, with the first of three Twenty20 internationals being played in Johannesburg on Friday (Saturday 3am AEDT) before a three-match one-day series to complete the tour.
They will take the field in Cape Town next Wednesday for the third T20.