How did Peshawar Zalmi become PSL’s biggest franchise?
The third edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is about to start in less than two weeks’ time, which is why, as the tournament nears and we mark our calendars, it is understandable that the cricket craze in the country is reaching its optimal level.
Just like any other franchise-based competition, PSL thrives on the involvement of cricket fans, as the more fan following it manages to attract, the more money is pumped into the overall structure of the tournament. The competition managed to achieve just that through the first two editions, and in this endeavour its franchises have played a key role. However, as different franchises differed in their approaches, the end result was thus varied as well.
The first edition’s champions, Islamabad United, marketed their brand by organising two tournaments featuring U23 players in the joint cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. On the other hand, Lahore Qalandars organised their own tournament and followed it up by setting up trail camps in Azad Kashmir. Then there are the Karachi Kings, who organised a Naya Nazimabad Ramazan tournament, and new comers Multan Sultans, who recently organised a team launch where an exhibition match was played.
However, out of all of the franchises, the one team which stands out is Peshawar Zalmi. The team took an entirely different approach in engaging their fan base, which resulted in making them the most popular one by far in the competition.
It all began before the start of the first edition of the PSL, when Zalmi established the Peshawar Zalmi Foundation (PZF). The primary objective of PZF was youth development, an important task sorely neglected by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). However, the buck did not stop at PZF. Zalmi then turned their focus on the development of women’s cricket as well, another area of sports which needs immediate attention in the country. Even during the draft process, Zalmi’s approach was to go all in for the star power, something which is pretty common in different sports leagues all across the world. For that, the franchise had to let go of their options to trade first in the rounds with another franchise, Islamabad United, as their motive was to sign the biggest player in the tournament — Shahid Khan Afridi.
The method behind Afridi’s acquisition was an interesting one, as it had more than one dimension. Firstly, due to his immense popularity in the country, he was bound to generate more fan base for the team. Secondly, he had the ability to build a team which would be as aggressive as he manages to be on the field. The veteran all-rounder played his part extremely well, as he did build a team that displayed aggression, which was on display through Zalmi’s performance in both editions. Where at times the team opted to go in with four pacers in relatively spin-friendly conditions, they kept attacking even after losing wickets at regular intervals.
Even though all the aggression did not necessarily pay off for the team, and Zalmi had to bear this burden at times, it offered what we were all there to witness in the first place – exciting cricket!
Then there is the role of social media. Once again, learning from all the bigger sporting brands in the world, Zalmi approached the platform aggressively by introducing trends on a regular basis through their official Twitter account. Ultimately, this is what helped them gather far greater fan engagement than all the other franchises managed to get.
In an ideal world, every franchise should be able to do what Zalmi did since becoming active and also be successful at it, but unfortunately, this is not a realistic possibility and probably never will be.
However, what Zalmi did prove was that it is possible to learn from the best in the world, implement their practices successfully and generate impressive results. It is now up to other franchises to take the lead from Zalmi and establish an equally big brand with a larger fan base. After all, more franchises following Zalmi’s example can only help, by broadening the brand of PSL while ultimately taking Pakistan cricket to heights it has never seen before.
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