Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Another 4? Must Be Time For A Delicious Chicken Bite

Chicken nuggests, Johnnie Walker, Gatorade and the Colonel: it must be the cricket season.

Two fantastic test so far in this Ashes series. No complaints about the events on the pitch but for the fans there are nuisances and irritants at every turn, as the rampant commercialisation of the game steps up a level.

In every conceivable gap in the action, whether watching live or on television, there is a barrage of advertising and ex-players lining up to offer their ringing endorsements to some product or other.

Hayden brings a beaming smile and a gushing, excited travel pitch to his 1 minute of fame, while Gilchrist is involved in a hilariously stilted conversation about youth cricket. However neither can match one of the chief sponsor's spots which involves the current, beleaguered team singing embarrassingly into the camera. Can't bat, can't bowl, can't field...add can't sing to that list.

Serious calls Down Under for Warney to be recalled but he's already making his presence felt, just unfortunately not with his sharply spinning, dipping leg breaks. Not only is he offering his pearls in the commentary box, he is also fronting a frankly ridiculous campaign for everyone's favourite fast-food chain.

Turn to the big screen after a ball whistles to the boundary and you will invariably see the great man's grinning face behind the latest poultry-based, nutritious sarnie.

Eventually you might get to see a replay of the shot.

Often he can be talking on the TV when the ad will be visible behind the action so you get to see and hear old Shane simultaneously. The tagline for the same company on the hoardings reads, 'So tasty it sells itself.' Why the need for Australia's favourite son then?

If it's a significant score for the batting team, hundred up for a batsman or a record partnership we must now accept that this is a Johnny Walker milestone. A drinks break is no longer simply a chance for the players to rehydrate, it's an excuse to bring a huge bottle of energy pop onto the ground. The 20 minute stoppage after the afternoon session has been re-named the Vodafone Tea Break. The stumps are similarly branded. If anything can be comandeered by the sponsors it will be.

What's next?

Is the sacred green, baggy cap safe? Or will we soon see that embossed with corporate logos and messages?

The promotion of children's cricket during the lunch interval at the Gabba or Adelaide Oval is of course commendable...but does it really need to be sponsored by a high calorie, chocolate milk drink? Clearly every sport needs its sponsors but fast food, whisky and energy drinks hardly seem ideal choices for the young cricketers watching on or indeed the active sportsman.

Advertising is taking over the television coverage, and no longer solely during the commercial breaks. We now have the Colonel's question thanks to Kid Friendly Chicken, Kangaroo Fried Chippy or whatever it is called. Or a trivia poser from that bottle of scotch.

But nothing is more shameful than when one of the commentators shifts seamlessly from an analysis of the game to plugging a mobile phone provider or another needy sponsor. Mute buttons have never been used so quickly around the country.

Can I heartily recommend ABC's radio coverage of the test matches which is thankfully still immune to this marketing blitz. It remains focused on insightful and entertaining commentary rather than all this hullabaloo which surrounds and invades the game.

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