Cricket in Australia has a long association with alcohol and gambling.
Until the early 90’s, cigarette companies also were invited to play.
Remember the Benson & Hedges World Series?
It makes fiscal sense.
Big business getting to the hearts and minds of the country via its century makers and wicket takers.
Cricket needs revenue to survive and grow.
But at what point does a sport have to be considered about its social messaging?
Cricket Australia have a values and mission statement that provides some clues as to their focus:
“…the plan outlines the following strategic imperatives for Australian cricket over the next four years:
Attract more kids, clubs, communities and cricketers to the game.”
Should sponsorship choices form part of the discussion here?
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland stares down the waiting cameras and reporters.
He announces that the sport has signed its largest ever broadcast deal.
$590 million over 5 years.
A ridiculous 119% increase over the previous 5 years.
The coffers at Jolimont Parade are overflowing.
Most importantly, the Big Bash will be shown live into every Australian home during prime time.
The primary reason this competition exists is to encourage kids to take up the sport.
“BBL is the hottest and best value entertainment for teens and families“
It is all about the kids.
But cricket encourages the kids to wear fast food buckets on their heads.
Australian kids are fatter than ever before.
In fact, a quarter of Australian kids are currently considered overweight or worse. Eating choices and family diet are considered the main reasons.
Shane Warne poses for a photo shoot in his Melbourne Stars uniform.
On one sleeve is the logo of Jenny Craig. They are a weight loss firm.
On his right breast appears the logo of KFC.
They are to weight loss what Saudi Arabia is to women’s rights.
Every organisation strives to present consistency in its messaging.
This season will see the WA Alcohol Think Again Warriors play the SA West End Draught Redbacks.
One limb of cricket in Australia wants you to stop drinking. The other wants you to drink more.
Bupa is a major sponsor of Cricket Australia. They sell health insurance and promote healthy living.
Cricket Australia have other major sponsors.
They include three alcohol brands and a fast food chain.
The AFL is the biggest sporting code in the country.
Five of the 18 sides have signed the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation charter, which agrees not to sign commercial agreements with sports betting agencies.
According to the Australian Government, up to 500,000 Australians are at risk of becoming, or are, problem gamblers.
The social cost to the community of problem gambling is estimated to be at least $4.7 billion a year.
Since the showing of live odds in sporting games was banned in August 2013, gambling advertising on TV has increased by over 250%.
When Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell signed the charter, he said the move “aimed to curb the impact of gambling messages among members and particularly children and young adults.”
“As an industry, we need to proactively monitor the way this message is delivered, particularly given many of our fans are children”
Cricket Australia have this statement regarding their values:
Integrity – “Cricket Australia (CA) has a dedicated integrity unit designed to further protect Australian cricket from threats of doping, match-fixing and other activities that may undermine the integrity of its competitions and the game of cricket.”
They then go on to list their 20 official gambling partners.
There are so many, it requires its own web page.
One Big Bash franchise is sponsored by a union that is front and centre of a Royal Commission regarding alleged corrupt activities.
Do you remember those classic cricket sponsor adverts?
There was VB and that talking David Boon doll. He is that guy who is most famous for drinking cans while flying to the UK.
However, this is my favourite:
Alan Border lies on a tropical beach somewhere in Far North Queensland.
His canary yellow terry towelling hat protects his era credible moustache from the relentless Australian sun.
He has a Castlemaine XXXX beer in his hand. It is ice cold having been pulled straight from an esky.
Australia’s hero doing what Australian heroes do. Drinking beer on the beach and perving at women in bikinis.
All that was missing from this 1980s TV advertisement was Paul Hogan throwing another shrimp on the barbie.
Does cricket really need alcohol and gambling sponsorship dollars?
Could it take a reduced return by substituting these companies for others?
Perhaps it is an assumption that the returns would be less? Has it been tested?
Should Cricket Australia even care?
Maybe one day we will see an Ashley Madison logo on the chest of Steve Smith. Then again, maybe not.
Dennis Freedman runs DennisDoesCricket.com and is host of the “Can’t Bowl Can’t Throw” podcast.
He tweets at @DennisCricket_