The NRL’s new commercial has prompted Sydney’s iconic adman John Singleton to say “Rugby League Central should be run by the Anti-Discrimination Board”.
His comments are in reference to the two-minute brand film promoting the code’s progressive stance on diversity and inclusion by showcasing gender equity, indigenous pride and same-sex relationships.
The NRL advertisement for the 2020 season.Credit:NRL
The NRL’s re-creation of the Tina Turner campaign, using images over the past 30 years, prompted Singo to text: “Simply the Best has been Butchered. Great waste of opportunity. Terrible.”
Of two female players kissing at the end of a State of Origin match, Singo observed, “Will help get Qantas on board.”
Well, Singo did once hold the Qantas account; and the airline's chief executive, Alan Joyce, has been a strong promoter of gay rights. And the NRL doesn’t get the favours from carrier Qantas the AFL does from rival Virgin.
But that’s the only positive, according to the 78-year-old.
“It will fail on every other count.”
Now, Singo’s texts require such a degree of deciphering that I often lament the closing of Bletchley Park where the German Enigma code was cracked in World War II.
So, have a go at the following (where I have inserted linking words and punctuation): “Great ads take great talent. Rare, beautiful or ugly. Try (to) shift perceptions (and) thus (create) sales. (But) Changing perception from what to what? Bigger float in Mardi Gras?
“The league have managed to put this new commercial in the same class as poor Thomas telling the ref to blow that whistle.”
The last point is a reference to celebrated author Thomas Keneally appearing in a cost-conscious commercial to promote the start of the 1999 season, only a couple of years after the end of the Super League war.
Keneally, a Manly fan, was filmed on a Sydney beach opening the season with, “We all start equal” (hello Broncos!). Tom ended the pitch declaring, “Blow that whistle, ref. Send that ball soaring.”
Tom takes a polar opposite view to Singo on the NRL’s 2020 promotional campaign, saying, “I’m in favour in that rugby league is fostering its heritage. The occasional glimpses of Latrell (Mitchell) draped in the indigenous flag and two girls kissing have excited those who say it is the height of LGBT in your face-edness. But overall, the ad demonstrates a great sense of the heritage of the game.
“However, I’m not sure the little girl running out of the tunnel at the end of the ad is going to be a future Cameron Smith and captain Australia.”
Well, if it’s Cameron Smith’s younger daughter, Matilda, she could. Many a time, I have sat in the Storm dressing room after a home match and marvelled at the skills of the Smith and Slater siblings as they play touch football on the thin carpet covering the concrete floor. Matilda possesses talents well beyond her years.
Living in Melbourne, she is a chance of becoming an AFL champion, although Keneally draws a different comparison with the southern code, referencing the booing of Swans player Adam Goodes and the NRL campaign’s focus on Mitchell, who some perceive to be a divisive character.
“I think the NRL are doing it better than the AFL,” he said.
“Rugby league tries not to be partisan.
“What happened to Adam Goodes in AFL would not happen to an indigenous champion in the NRL and senior commentators in the NRL wouldn’t have done to an Adam Goodes what senior commentators did to him in the AFL.”
Keneally, 84, believes he is eminently qualified to compare the 1999 and 2020 promotional campaigns.
“As principal of the worst ad ever made, I am pleased to see this one.
“It delivers a great sense of Australian heritage. This should have happened years ago. The NRL missed their opportunity when the Broncos weren’t called the Brumbies and the Cowboys weren’t called the Drovers.
“Rugby league is the only game in town for us old guys, as the younger ones have a myriad of entertainment options.”
Well, I’m one of Tom and Singo’s generation who young people think still wind watches, strop straight razors and drink hot tea from the saucer. I am on Keneally’s side.
Singo, however, compares the resurrection of the Tina Turner anthem with cricket bringing back last December the 1978 Mojo commercial, “C’mon, Aussie, C’mon” to celebrate women in the sport.
“The Mojo ad was brought back about the same time. Great. Still,” he texted.
“Not social engineering.”
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