It's Bad Form That Steve Smith Is Profiting From Ball-Tampering
The ad's great, but a suspension is not a thing to profit from. This feels crass. Phone companies are not charities.
There are two ways to look at the new Vodafone ad in which suspended Australian cricket captain Steve Smith talks to kids about having the guts to admit your mistakes and come back better from them.
One is to say well played Smith for being a force of good in the world. Kids need messages like these. Good on you for honestly and openly sharing your learnings, even as you continue to heal from the ball-tampering scandal.
The other response is to shake your head in disbelief and go WHAT? WHAT THE ACTUAL??? Stop us if we're missing something, but are you actually COMMERCIALISING THIS SORDID EPISODE WHICH ALMOST RUINED AUSTRALIAN CRICKET AND MAKING A BUCK FROM IT?
Let's backtrack and give Steve Smith a whole lotta love here. He is not a bad man. Quite the opposite. In fact he's about as loved as a cricketer can be.
Everyone has a favourite Steve Smith story relating to either cricket or life. There's the great one about the day the young batsman felt pity for a club cricket bowler after hitting him for too many sixes, so turned his stance left handed. First ball? You guessed it, he whacked a left-handed six.
Here's another story you'll like: One day I arrived awkwardly early at a sponsor event where Smith was slated to do some media interviews. I was pretending the Gillette shaving blurb sheet was deeply fascinating when up walks Smith and goes "Hi, I'm Steve".
I knew who he was. He knew I knew too. That's the point of the story.
Over the years, cricket fans have come to love Steve Smith's unorthodox batting. It's not technically classical, but boy does it work. In this respect, Smith mirrors the great DIY Australian impulse. In his imperfect perfection, we see our best selves. Improvisation over the textbook. Life done our way, and done right too.
As a captain, Smith hadn't yet carved a popular image that could be described in one word the way that Allan Border was "grumpy" and Mark Taylor was "tactical" and Steve Waugh was "tough". The jury was still out on his leadership style.
Unfortunately, the one word that now characterises it is "cheating". Smith doesn't deserve that, but there it is.
Let's be clear. Dave Warner was the main player in the ball-tampering scandal. Smith's crime was to fail to stop it. But he should have stopped it. And do you know what that would have taken? Guts, that's what.
The guts to take on the most influential character in the Australian dressing room. So guess what the Vodafone ad tagline is. It's "gutsy is calling".
Gutsy is calling. Which clearly plays to having the guts to admit your mistakes. It's about being willing not just to move on, but actually to change.
Unfortunately, when gutsy called Steve Smith in South Africa in March, he didn't pick up the phone. He just let it ring out.
10 daily contacted Vodafone to ask whether Smith was paid to do this ad. They told us he has entered into a commercial arrangement as a Vodafone ambassador. This ad is his first stint at the crease for his new team.
It's pretty clever of Vodafone to cast Smith as the giver of life lessons to kids -- because who can argue against the inherent good in that? It's like booing Santa Claus.
For the record, Smith recently became an ambassador for the Gotcha4Life programme, which aims to teach teenage boys "the importance of opening up and having courageous conversations". The organisation's logo is visible in the ad.
Again, it's a noble cause and the ad is well-crafted and inspiring. But it also feels crass in its timing. Phone companies are not charities. Smith and Vodafone should have waited three months till the ban was done.
Steve Smith's 12-month ban has cost him millions in lost earnings. This feels like a clever way to enable him to recoup some of it, cloaked by a social message no one can argue with.