Changing the game isn’t always seamless, even when you have the best intentions.
In keeping with the rising interest and participation in cricket for women and girls, Australian sporting goods company Kookaburra changed the sizing for the clothing and cricket equipment from ‘Mens’ and ‘Boys’ to a gender neutral ‘Adults’ and ‘Juniors’ in 2017.
And with good reason… the latest Cricket Australia participation figures released in September show 619 new female teams entering grassroots competitions with six out of every 10 new participants to the game female.
However, stock on the shelves at some stores still reflects the old sizing, which is what 11-year-old Olivia Cotter from Brisbane found when she went to her local sporting goods store in August to buy some batting pads.
Olivia penned a passionate letter which was shared on social media by her cricket club, in which she said “It made me a little bit sad that the size was just called ‘boys’ as so many girls are playing cricket now too.”
Beautifully argued request from player in our Heat Girls League team. Fair point made. Thnx for response so far @KookaburraCkt. @ahealy77 pic.twitter.com/y2N4gftG6u— Bulimba Cricket Club (@BulimbaCricket) August 24, 2018
The letter went viral and was shared by her hero, Southern Stars wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy, who called Oliva “a great role model”, an unexpected role reversal which no doubt will help inspire Olivia to chase her dream of one day captaining Australia.
Olivia you are a little legend for writing this! @KookaburraCkt are on the ball and recognised this. Cricket is a sport for all and I’m so pumped you love the game! See you during the summer I hope! https://t.co/ZaxkbwqvzI— Alyssa Healy (@ahealy77) August 24, 2018
Kookaburra Head of Communications Shannon Gill said as a company, Kookaburra has supported women’s cricket and cricketers for decades however male-named sizing had been a convention that had gone un-challenged by the cricket industry for 120 years.
“The rise of more mainstream media coverage of women’s cricket and increased participation has led to everyone looking at what they do within the sport,” Gill says.
The conversation started in 2015 and when the products reached the shelves in 2016/17 Kookaburra led the way as the first cricket company to change to unisex sizing. In what fits into the ‘no-brainer’ category of decision making, the move received little resistance.
“We needed to educate retailers and consumers on the changes, so we filmed video spots on the changes with our players talking about why we’ve done it. The retailers got it pretty quickly,” Gill said.
And the growing number of women and girls playing cricket loved it as well.
“There were some pretty powerful stories from our players and the theme of how there was uncomfortableness going into buy cricket gear because of the labels.”
“Female cricketers at the elite and the junior level don’t want different gear to the males, they don’t want different shaped or even different coloured gear… they just don’t want it to be labelled for boys.”
“When it was suggested that we should do a pink coloured range for girls we got the opposite response… whether it was elite or grassroots the response was that it was just a token stereotype… we just want gear that’s not named for boys.”
Despite it going viral and plenty weighing in with their view on social media, Kookaburra viewed Olivia’s letter as anything but a crisis.
“It was great vindication of how much it means to young girls playing cricket and why the right decision was made,” Gill said.
“How many girls over the years were discouraged by male sizing? Olivia chose not to be, and good on her for speaking about it, but we don’t know how many may have been discouraged in the past.”
“The pipeline is such that you just can’t wave a wand and everything that sits on a shelf in a store is gone or changed. You have to flick the switch at some point to make a change.”
And just as Olivia has requested, Kookaburra are using more of their female role models like Healy and her Southern Stars teammates in their marketing efforts.
“Kookaburra can’t control what images retailers use in the catalogues and at point of sale, however we are including as many women as men in our marketing, retailer imagery and social media to encourage them to visualise the growing number of female participants in the sport.”
“The market is changing and the way we market our products has to be just as relevant to males as females,” Gill said.