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Yorkshire defend 'Vikings' rebranding
Yorkshire have defended renaming their limited-overs side "Yorkshire Vikings", insisting the name reflects the history of the region and will help the club appeal to a new, young audience.
While immediate associations with the Vikings might not be positive - Yorkshire are understandably keen not to be seen to endorse pillaging or plundering - the club feel the name will provide a useful marketing hook and should have no negative connotations. As part of the rebranding the club have agreed a partnership with the Jorvik Viking Centre in York, which will offer "match-day experiences" to younger supporters in a bid to attract new followers to the club.
"We wanted a name that was relevant to the community," Danny Reuben, Head of Media & Marketing at Yorkshire, told ESPNcricinfo. "And, as the Vikings settled here 1,300 years ago and shaped the look and the language of the region, they have had a huge impact. One of their legacies was establishing the three Ridings of Yorkshire and the words 'York' and 'Yorkshire'.
"We are also entering into a partnership with the Jorvik Centre in York, which is the home of Viking history in this part of the world, and they will provide match-day experiences which will hope will capture the imagination of younger supporters.
"We did have an online poll to pick a new name but we had to ignore the results as it was high-jacked by Lancashire supporters. Had it been up to them, we would have been called the Yorkshire Puddings."
Yorkshire's commercial director, Andy Dawson, said: "With the Vikings brand, we now have a name that is marketable and gives us a hook to promote the club to a wider audience. Our creativity in developing a new look and feel for the team will enable us to implement new revenue streams and attract a younger audience.
"Cricket cannot be viewed simply as a sport. It is a form of entertainment that in modern times operates in a highly competitive environment vying for consumers' leisure time. We hope that people and in particular children will identify with the Yorkshire Vikings and embrace the activity we have planned at Headingley this season."
Sarah Maltby, director of attractions at the Jorvik Group, agreed the Vikings' negative reputation was largely unfair. "The Vikings did many things," Maltby told ESPNcricinfo. "They did invade, but then they settled, they created towns and cities, they manufactured and they traded across the world. The fierce stereotype people have of them is only one side of the story. They were much more than that."
As well as having a bat and ball game that some have compared to cricket, the Vikings also invented the words "ball", "run", "leg", "loft", "hit", "cake" and even "sledge".
Yorkshire, who had been branded as Yorkshire Carnegie in limited-overs cricket until the end of their sponsorship deal with Leeds Metropolitan University, will play under the Vikings name for the first time on their pre-season tour of Barbados, which commences on March 16 against Hampshire Royals at the Kensington Oval, Bridgetown.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo