No Lions tour before 1991 made a profit but, with 35,000 fans expected to descend on New Zealand and 11 major sponsors, the brand is now big business
Regardless of what is on the menu at London’s Hurlingham Club, it will not match the delicious irony served up a week next Wednesday. It is an evening with the “Cambridge University Big Cats” and, if the billing sounds contrived, it is because the British & Irish Lions have instructed them to drop “Lions” from the title. Quite apart from the fact that Cambridge have provided the Lions with 73 tourists over the years – more than any single club – among the legends due to be present is John Spencer, who happens to be manager of this summer’s tour of New Zealand. It would not be surprising to hear of him making a swift exit after dinner.
If it seems like heavy-handed ring-fencing, the Lions would point out that their brand is a shooting star – every four years it burns brightly but not for long – and that they have a duty to their sponsors. They also have charity dinners to sell out themselves and the next is in Edinburgh the day after Cambridge’s – a seat is yours for £249. It raises the question of whether the Lions as a brand has jumped the shark. As a commercial product, has it become a monster?
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