Branson backs Carib bowlers

Virgin is all aboard for Caribbean cricket and Sir Richard Branson is eager to join the greatest party in sports.

Organisers of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League T20 tournament have announced Virgin as a tournament partner for the inaugural event, as well as a founding team sponsor for the Antigua Hawksbills franchise team. Virgin, together with Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Holidays and Virgin Media will support the competition, which started on 30 July.

The partnership covers the league’s six competing franchises, as well as making Virgin Atlantic the official airline of the league. Virgin’s efforts will be very focused on the Hawksbills, coached by West Indies cricket legend Sir Vivian Richards, while offering a host of competitions and prizes to help raise the excitement level even further.

Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, said, “With cricket fever in full swing, I am delighted to announce Virgin as an official partner of the Hawksbills in this year’s new league. Twenty20 cricket is always an exciting competition – but in the Caribbean, it will surely be the greatest party in sport.

“I’m looking forward to heading over to Antigua to watch the game against the Barbados Tridents on 13 August. It will be a great opportunity to catch up with Sir Viv and it will be one of the last chances to see the great Ricky Ponting bat, alongside some top West Indies talents like Marlon Samuels and Kieron Powell.

“The carnival atmosphere in the stadium has to be seen to be believed and we are planning a few special Virgin touches to ensure the party goes on long into the night, long after the game is over.”

The competition began at Kensington Oval in Barbados on Tuesday with a glitzy opening ceremony, followed by a super clash between the host team, Barbados Tridents and the St. Lucia Zouks. Tridents next face Antigua on Thursday, 1 August, before rounding off the triple-header with a much-anticipated clash with Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel on Saturday, 3 August.

League CEO Damien O’Donohoe added: “We are thrilled that Sir Richard and the team at Virgin are going to be involved with the League and the Hawksbills this year. We have always said LCPL would be the party everyone wants to be at as we look to create a unique Caribbean experience both on and off the pitch.

“Virgin will add significantly to that experience and we are excited about the impact our partnership will have across the world.”

Organisers say Virgin has much in store for fans, the details of which will be announced soon. Among those organisers is Cayman Islands-based company Kelly Holdings.

Ajmal Khan, chairman of Verus International and founder of the league, endorsed Mr. Branson’s support.

“This is further good news for the league, it is fantastic to have Virgin involved,” Khan said. “It is a great endorsement in terms of what we have created with league and no one understands marketing better than Virgin, so we are delighted to be working with all the group companies in delivering some novel and creative ideas that will benefit the local fans and players.”

Branson and his Virgin brand are not the only form of recent corporate support for the competition. Scotiabank is extending its relationship with cricket by becoming an official partner for the first season of the league. According to Scotiabank’s Marketing Director for the English Caribbean Heather Goldson, the sponsorship is part of the bank’s commitment to supporting cricket across the region.

“We are excited about becoming the official bank of the league and contributing to the growth of a sport that celebrates Caribbean heritage,” Goldson said. “Scotiabank has had a presence in the Caribbean for more than 125 years and with Scotiabank Kiddy Cricket we have been committed to youth cricket for 14 years. This year, we are taking the game to the next level by sponsoring the tournament.”

The tournament runs for about a month and ends on 24 August. Twenty-four matches will be played across six franchise countries – Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago – and will feature top Caribbean and international players.

“Scotiabank has long been synonymous with the development of cricket in the Caribbean,” says Jamie Stewart, commercial director and consultant to the league. “The league aims to spark a renewal and renaissance of cricket in the region and in that sense Scotiabank is the obvious partner.

“We hope to work together to build our community initiatives and we thank Scotiabank for supporting this landmark venture.”

In July, Scotiabank, through its Bright Future programme, signed a five-year contract with the West Indies Cricket Board, extending its exclusive sponsorship of the Kiddy Cricket programme.

Scotiabank and the WICB are working together to provide more than 150,000 young people in 15 territories with education and training to improve their cricket skills. This year, the investment is providing 20 new positions for coaches to assist students and physical education teachers.