I’ve just got back from a long weekend in sunny(ish) Cornwall, where, along with a few friends and some family, I played in the Lusty Glaze 2008 beach tag competition. We’ve played in this particular competition a couple of times before but the last time was 2005 and boy has it grown since then.
The last time there were about 40 teams taking part, the vast majority of which were local and featured a wide range of ages. The pitches, when not under water, were marked out with tape and one of the Lusty staff commentated on whatever he could see from the stage. The whole event had a real community feel to it, made magical by playing rugby under floodlights while listening to the waves and the strains of the local band. Which was one of the reasons we decided to venture down again this year.
This year though, it had become part of the large O2 Scrum on the Beach set of tournaments taking place around the country and the very visible corporate sponsorship couldn’t help but change the the feeling of the tournament and not necessarily for the better.
It started at the top of the 133 steps down to the cove, where 02 goodie bags were being handed out. The bag and flip flops were welcome, but some of my team mates were a little miffed that they couldn’t enter the competition to win the England themed camper van because they weren’t 02 customers. One said they’d have been happy to pay to enter but that wasn’t an option.
When we hit the beach it was impossible to look anywhere without seeing the O2 logo. As part of the registration we received more 02 goodies bags, this time with some free PowerAde. Although to get that goodie bag you had to enter another competition although this one was operator agnostic. There was a large screen off to one side of the beach showing live footage and a presenter inviting us to visit the O2 Blue room, where we could receive free massages and fruit smoothies. If you were, or with, an 02 customer that is.
And that was sort of the tone for the weekend, you could enter the limbo competition but only if you were or with an 02 customer; you could have a go on the bucking ruby ball but only if you were, or with, an 02 customer. You could sit on the huge beach bean bags, but only in the 02 area which you could only get into as an 02 customer etc. 02 customers and their friends also had the first crack at getting autographs from the two England rugby stars that were down for the day, although they did venture out and happily signed away for everyone later in the afternoon.
Not being an 02 customer didn’t spoil the weekend but it did make my friends feel excluded. The 02 area took up a lot of space on a not huge beach. It wasn’t that fun to be reminded every hour or so that you couldn’t do something. What was worse was that they didn’t give you the opportunity to join the exclusive club. Again my friends mentioned they would be happy to pay a fee to get into the Blue Room especially if the money went to one of the various rubgy charities. They even said they would be equally happy to sign up for marketing and promotional offers or discuss potential payment plans but that wasn’t an option either.
There were some good points to the 02 sponsorship, the big screen was great for keeping up with the action on the other pitches and I doubt they’d have enticed two current England players down otherwise. However it would’ve been better if they hadn’t been a little elitist, which is something we should probably bear in mind when we think about offering exclusives for journalists and bloggers. Being part of an elite group is only fun for that elite group and if you do run the risk of alienating everyone else. Especially if the difference is repeatedly pointed out and you know aren’t going to be able to to join that group at any point.
All that said Team X had another rather marvelous time at Lusty. The rugby was top-notch and the weather was kind most of the time. Most enjoyable though was somehow, with a little help from the F.B.I (Forest Boys International) and Tim and Moro from the Cornish Rattlers, we won the shield, which we will be back to defend next year. Though if 02 is still involved, I have a sneaky feeling though that some of my team mates might give Vodafone or Orange a shout and ask if they fancy sponsoring us.