The Australian cricket team dropped the PR ball long before its cheating scandal
The idea expounded by Matthew Sayed in his book Bounce revolves around the performance of hours of practice to achieve excellence. Brilliance cannot be achieved overnight; natural ability is over-emphasised in society and the only way to become world-class is to dedicate oneself to putting in the hours.
We have seen this week that the same belief must be applied to reputation management. Marginal, incremental gains over years must be used to build credibility because, when it does go wrong – and it will go wrong – positions cannot be redeemed overnight without proper preparation.
At the time of writing, the entire Australian cricket team’s legacy and reputation is on the line and it is entirely their own fault. However, the problem lies deeper than simply an awful decision by their ‘leadership team’ to tamper with the ball. For years they have neglected the value of incremental reputation management. It is this that has made the backlash so strong and the punishment so severe.
The Australian cricket team are infamous for arrogance and bullying tactics. Be it on or off the pitch, they are seemingly prepared to do almost anything to beat their opposition. They spent the summer abusing English players with allegedly entirely inappropriate sledging and then sought to humiliate Jonny Bairstow in the now famous press conference regarding the headbutt incident. If they did seek any communications advice before they laughed their way through the interview, it was either bad advice or they ignored it. The level of arrogance is unparalleled, except by the belief that they could get away with sanding the ball in front of 30 cameras.
Every child is taught that being a good winner, being gracious in defeat and playing fairly are fundamental not only to sport, but human interaction in all environments. The Australians have ignored these principles for years and it is coming back to bite them. The global condemnation of the Australian team would not have been as severe had they practiced the application of general reputation consultation over the years and not been as confrontational and aggressive.
Proof of this? David Beckham. There is no debate surrounding the size of brand Beckham. However, what does not get discussed is the work his team has done over the years to insulate him. This does not get discussed because it goes on below the radar. It is not about the big moments. It is about the continuous coaching, the ‘incremental gains’ made over years and years to create one of the biggest profiles in the world. Be it the voice coaching or the diversified advertising programme – from boxers to watches, Beckham’s image and behaviour has been continuously advised upon for years. The result of this is that people quickly forget of his alleged anger about not getting a knighthood, that he was filmed gurning at Glasto and the Rebecca Loos reports.
When people think of Beckham they think of a Unicef ambassador speeding along the Thames with the Olympic Torch – a national icon that has inspired millions to do and be better. This is simply down to the consistently impressive work his team have done over the years to insulate him from the crises. There are very few people that could bounce back from the scandals he has faced. He has not only bounced back but somehow comes back stronger every time with new and increasingly impressive brand collaborations every year. This is the exact opposite of the Australian cricket team, in particular Smith, Warner and Bancroft who are staring down the barrel of torn up sponsorship contracts and a year on the side-lines.
If you asked any cricketer or fan last week (pre-tampering incident) of their opinion of the Australian team, it would not have been positive. This is the crux of the issue. They have been arrogant, rude and confrontational for years. They have clearly not accepted reputational consultation (or if they have, they need to change who they are taking it from) and this is why so many people are calling for retribution.
Their hubris over the years led them to disrespect the spirit of the game and their opposition. It also, evidently, led them to feel untouchable and hence not require introspection, reputational management or any form of positive PR work. It is this hubris that has been their downfall and has led to tarnished legacies and the termination of sponsor association. It is going to take a complete overhaul of their attitude and communications strategy before the public and world of corporate sponsorship wants to know anything about the Australian cricket team.
James Porter is assistant account executive at W. You can follow him on Twitter @JEHPorter