Bill Hicks may have called advertisers ‘Satan’s little helpers’, but they will always find a friend in the jobbing cricketer looking for a few extra bob. From porn and pate lacquer to rabbit-killer and rum, Phil Walker runs us through cricket’s steamy world of ravenous commercialism…
10) ‘Rod Marsh says Parade magazine is a man’s best buy’
Back in the Seventies, a naff Nuts-prototype that had been comforting lonely British men for decades discovered a few more readers in Australia, and got Rod Marsh to front their ad campaign. A legendary tinnie-crusher and professional Australian, Marsh was Parade magazine’s obvious choice to tap into the Aussie men’s market. In Christian Ryan’s book Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the bad old days of Australian cricket, the writer recalls Marsh’s ‘baggy green and larrikin smirk cresting the latest month’s busty covergirl’, accompanied by a few lines about king hugh and his amazing sex secrets. Different times…
9) ‘It’s my rum of choice, every time’ – Sir Garfield Sobers
‘Sir Garry’. The name alone conjures up many memories. 8,000 runs, 26 centuries, 235 wickets, six sixes in an over, 365*, and a bottle of Cockspur rum. Indeed, to mark Sobers’ achievements, the good people at Cockspur decided to honour him with his very own 2004 vintage: ‘Yours to savour and enjoy’, and complete with authentic Sir Garfield signature on every bottle. Cockspur VSOR has won awards for quality, and acclaim from connoisseurs across the globe, including Sir Garfield himself.
8) ‘We bury sheep’ – Jacques Kallis
A mysterious work of brilliant dada weirdness, this surreal slab of comedy first appeared in a South African cricket magazine, and boy is it strange. There’s Jacques Kallis, mid-pose, clasping his new Webco spade, and readying himself for what can only be some after-hours sheep burying. And how exactly is Jacques preparing to bury these woolly impostors? Why, with quality, strength and originality of course! How else does an international allrounder bury his sheep?
7) ‘Not out! And I’ve been smoking this pipe of St. Bruno flake for the best part of an hour’ – John Arlott
It’s not just players who have fallen in with the world of advertising. John Arlott, a greatly respected writer and the finest commentator of his era, rose to prominence more through luck than judgment, as he himself admitted. But his dark Hampshire burr and languid delivery made him the ideal figure to evoke the otherworldly majesty of ‘rolling your own’. In John’s case, it was only natural that his pipe would be filled with St. Bruno. “The most popular flake of all,” said the voice of summer, a wordsmith who would often leave his colleagues wondering how he thought up his poetic phrases. This one was probably dreamt up in a smoke-filled ad exec’s office.
Cricket has never quite taken off with our cousins across the Atlantic, but one brand tried its best to bring a little culture to the masses with KFC’s “Cricket Survival Guide”. The ads used players like Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson to promote their ‘Backyard Bucket’. But after allegations of racism from American viewers directed at one particular clip of a white Aussie supporter placating a crowd of black West Indian supporters with some fried chicken, the ads were pulled. Probably for the best.
5) ‘None of my cricketing foes caused anywhere near as much damage as what the rabbit has inflicted on Australian soil’ – Glenn McGrath
Glenn McGrath has kept out of the headlines since retiring from international cricket in 2007, bar brief excursions for Delhi Daredevils in the IPL, instead focusing his attentions to the McGrath Foundation following the death of his wife in 2008. But the big man did break a brief media silence to promote a product very close to his sheep-farmer’s heart – a strain of virus aimed at killing those evil bunnies who abuse the Australian soil. Widely regarded as a rabbit with the bat, it seems compassion for his fellow furry friends isn’t one of Pidge’s strong points.
4) ‘All those for the Shredded Wheat tour, follow me’ – Sir Ian Botham
Now here’s an offer! Join Beefy in the role of Wonka, taking the world’s cereal-lovers on a tour inside a giant, fabled Shredded Wheat! Roll up, roll up! This came at the end of three decades’ work as the frontman of the no-nonsense cereal, a beautiful relationship predicated on Beefy’s superhuman ability to put away three of those wheaty bad boys, leaving us withered mortals at home in our dressing gowns eaten up with inadequacy as we force-feed ourselves a measly second.
3) ‘It’s amazing where good hair gets you’ – Kevin Pietersen
A ‘confident swagger and creative style’ may make you a target on the pitch, but for Kevin Pietersen it’s delivered some rather tasty commercial offshoots. Revealed as the new Brylcreem Boy in 2009, taking over the lacquer from the original dasher, Denis Compton, KP took to his new role with gusto, but admitted he had “big shoes to fill”, after becoming the first celebrity to front the hair gel since David Beckham was dropped in 1999 for shaving his golden head. The adverts were spectacularly smug, with our hero leaning back with his feet up on the president’s White House desk as a dumbstruck Obama looks on from the side. Budget deficit? What budget deficit?
2) ‘I can play cricket, swim, or do whatever I want!’ – Graham Gooch
The godless world of barnet re-growth remains cricket’s favourite advertising opportunity. As daily cap-wearers, these days cricket’s masses are almost exclusively bald (don’t be fooled – they’re all wearing syrups), and this fact, accentuated by the slaphead pates of depressed under-performing batsmen, can have devastating effects on team morale. Thankfully help is at hand from the Advanced Hair Studio, who have helped restore the regal locks of, amongst others, Shane Warne, Graham Gooch and Martin Crowe. Choking back the tears, the legendary New Zealand batsman recalled the unease with which he awoke every day: “The toughest test I’ve ever had to face wasn’t a bowler, but the mirror – and the fact that I was losing hair.” Thanks to their new weaves, these men can once again hold their heads high and proclaim, “Yes, I’m worth it!”
1) ‘Colman’s mustard, like Grace, heads the field’
Commercialism is by no means a new phenomenon. In 1895, WG Grace became the first sportsman to cross from sports product advertising into the general product market when he became the face of Colman’s mustard. Colman’s produced a stunning, and stunningly timeless, full-colour advertisement in which The Good Doctor strides forth from the pavilion accompanied by the tagline ‘Colman’s Mustard Heads the Field’. An early-day Beckham in recognisability and stature, the choice of product seemed to suit the great Victorian’s character quite well: a spicy, confrontational individual who wasn’t afraid to bend the rules.