Disgraced former Australia captain Steve Smith has tied up with the local arm of Britain’s Vodafone Group in an advertising campaign that leverages the nation’s ball-tampering shame for marketing purposes.
Smith, along with former vice captain David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, remains banned from international and state-level cricket in Australia as he serves out a 12-month suspension for his part in the Cape Town scandal.
Vodafone Australia’s “Gutsy is calling” commercial starts with a voice overlay of Smith’s tearful apology when he fronted the media upon his return home from South Africa before cutting to scenes of him playing for local club Sutherland and conducting a coaching clinic.
“Everything I dreamed of, everything I was a part of was just falling to pieces,” Smith says in the commercial.
I was in a pretty dark space. It was just about being upfront and honest and taking responsibility.
“I’ve certainly had some difficult days. But it’s OK to be vulnerable. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s about the way you respond to it that’s really important.”
It concludes with Smith saying: “I want to come back better than I was.”
Smith’s Vodafone ad is not illegal. In the world of sports sponsorships, that low bar is the only hurdle; you hear it all the time. But in the real world, it just doesn’t ring true. Evidently, that gilded bubble is even harder to escape from than anyone imagined.
A house guest, not much into cricket, but wise to the ways of the world, watched the ad on Thursday evening and was indifferent until the tie-off line displaying the Vodafone logo, whereupon he exclaimed:
Smith has shunned interviews since returning home from South Africa in disgrace but is set to front the media on Friday before training with Sydney Sixers, a local team in Australia’s ‘Big Bash’ Twenty20 tournament.
Smith is also banned from playing in the Big Bash, which is sponsored by Vodafone Australia.
Local media reported Smith was donating his fee for the advertisement to a local charity for men’s mental health.
The advertisement — and Smith’s participation in it — was quick to draw criticism from local media pundits and drew mixed responses on social media.
“Don’t use mental illness to try and flog off some phones,” 3AW radio host Justin Smith said on the Melbourne station.
Looking at this tacky rubbish, I wonder if he’s learnt anything at all.
Vodafone Australia responded to criticism from one Twitter user, saying the company was supporting Smith “in his mission to spread awareness about mental health for young Australians.”
Australia, now led by Smith’s replacement Tim Paine, is tied 1-1 in the current four-match test series against India ahead of the third contest in Melbourne starting next week.
Smith and Warner are suspended until the end of March 2019. Bancroft’s ban expires on December 29.
Here’s the ad we’re talking about:
Vodafone released this ad on social media, but disabled comments. That is, a communications company shut down communications.
Or is it that they want consistency between access to their website and access to their network?
‘‘We believe in a second chance and a fair go for all Australians,’’ a Vodafone spokesman said, before the line dropped out. Smith always was going to get his second chance, which makes this ad campaign mere piggybacking. And as for a phone company’s lecture on a fair go, fair dinkum.
Like Smith’s batting early in his career, it is hard to see what he was thinking. Until now, he had been a model convict. He accepted his punishment humbly at the time and had been seen little and heard not at all since.
He still had questions to answer, particularly about the sequence of events in South Africa on that fateful day. But with three months of his ban still to serve, and Australia meantime making a manful effort in an enthralling Test series against India, a little longer laying low and polishing up his act seemed right.