Digicel, C&W tussle over Lara
August 20, 2004

Digicel, C&W tussle over Lara

The Cable & Wireless, Digicel feud has gone from telecoms onto the cricket field.
Less than a month after West Indies Cricket Board President Teddy Griffith announced Digicel’s five-year sponsorship deal to support West Indies Cricket, some flares may have been sparked. {{more}} Digicel’s new relationship with cricket comes on the heels of the announced change in relationship between WICB and Cable & Wireless, which had lasted some 18 years.
And as evident that Digicel and Cable & Wireless may be at loggerheads, Digicel’s sponsorship deal with the WICB may have tangled even more wires between the two communication competitors.
Although Digicel may have won the bid to support Caribbean cricket, Cable & Wireless continues to hold onto some players in private endorsement deals.
A story published in the August 6 issue of this newspaper observed that it will be interesting to see “how both companies would have shared logo-wearing rights between Brian Lara and his obligations to the West Indies Cricket Board”.
However, Maureen Rabbitt, corporate communications manager for Digicel Caribbean, assured SEARCHLIGHT that come January 2005, the West Indies captain would not be seen with a Cable & Wireless logo on the cricket pitch.
She explained: “There may be personal [endorsement] contracts with players as long as it does not come in conflict with our [Digicel] contract.”
Rabbitt’s chat with SEARCHLIGHT took place after a press conference in Barbados last Thursday to officially launch two new services offered by Digicel (see related story on page 14).
Conversely, a story on Thursday, July 9, by sports journalist Hayden Gill in the Barbados Nation newspaper quoted Brian Lara as saying he did not view his new sponsorship deal with Cable & Wireless as a major bone of contention in the aftermath of the new arrangement between Digicel and West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).
The West Indies captain and world test record holder claimed: “In world sports, nearly everything that happens, there is always a conflict of interest… There are always people who are marching towards sponsoring teams and individuals – and products do compete,” he expressed.
Lara pointed out that other sporting bodies were engaged in multiple sponsorship deals.
“At the end of the day, we live in an age where everyone is benefiting,” Lara added.
But Rabbitt is concerned about the business relationship shared with Lara and Digecel’s main telecommunications rival.
“We are disgusted with Cable & Wireless’ behaviour. We are concerned about uniting cricket,” the corporate communications manager echoed.
Rabbitt described the attempts by Cable & Wireless as “petty” and stated that, “Hopefully the WICB can work out whatever relationship they have with Cable & Wireless.” Throughout the current tour of England, Lara’s bat is tagged with Cable & Wireless’ logo even though he and the other members of the team sport Sandals shirts.
But then Sandals and Cable & Wireless are not competitors. At a ceremony in London on July 6 to formally ink the sponsorship arrangement between the WICB and Digicel, the West Indies captain was noticeably absent. But Digicel’s chairman Denis O’Brien dismissed any suggestion that there was any significance to Lara’s non-appearance.
He explained that Lara had arranged to be at the press conference which was originally scheduled for noon, but was put back to 4 p.m. and, although stating he would have appeared in the next few minutes, Lara never did turn up.
How the situation regarding the telecommunications discords unfolds will be seen in the course of the next four months as the negotiations and sponsorships mature.
The Digicel deal is valued in excess of US$20 million. The company will sponsor home and away series, as well as Under-13, Under-15 and Under-17 cricket teams as part of the largest agreement ever done with the West Indian Cricket Board.