There’s nothing hogging the news headlines quite like the Israel Folau saga.
Every day there’s a new twist and turn to feed the media frenzy – and never mind the issues like China/US trade wars, Iran, Brexit, climate change and other world issues, the business of a social media post and who has or hasn’t been offended is the issue I will discuss.
Now I’m not going to argue from the usual perspectives of either freedom of speech or hate speech, instead, I’m looking at the whole sorry saga from a marketing and brand point of view.
As arguably the only half-decent player in the Wallabies, Israel has a lot of responsibility to the Australian Rugby brand. He’s the guy who draws the crowds, he’s the guy the kids look up to, and he’s the guy the media feed on. He’s literally the face of Rugby – a game which is struggling to remain relevant in the face of soccer, AFL and other sports in Australia. His comments have tarnished the Rugby brand. It’s a bit like the Catholic CEO of Kellogs saying those religious Seventh Day Adventist folk at Sanitarium were going to burn in hell. It’s a dumb comment, and it is one that achieves nothing except bad publicity.
Perhaps the biggest sin committed is the way Rugby Australia has dragged out the sentencing and sacking. He committed a capital offence against his contract. According to the Old Testament laws, Israel should have been stoned, drawn and quartered or beheaded before he put his iPhone back in his pocket. But the whole thing has dragged on for months now culminating in the Go Fund Me debate. I guess the true test of any argument is when people are asked to put their money where their mouths are, and it seems the Christians are happy to put a few dollars in the plate of Israel to defend him. Would they be as generous to many of the other causes that are inarguably far more deserving than a multi-millionaire who’s pleading poor boy? Ok, so he’s been punted off GFM and now the Christians have set up their own fund and are pouring cash in (over $1.5 million and climbing). So now it’s a case of ‘hell hath no fury like a Christian scorned’. No matter what is happening, the real bottom line in all this is the many millions of dollars in media exposure both Israel and Rugby Australia have had. I wouldn’t dare say it’s positive or negative for either party, but if you’re a believer in any publicity is good publicity then it’s a windfall for both.
That’s the strange thing about the communication business – one comment on social media has the potential to blow any situation out of all perspective where any law of common sense goes out the window and keyboard lynch mobs rule on both sides. Israel has been the poster boy for Australian Rugby (which has been in a very sorry state for years) and now he is a pariah. Yes, he should have shut up and stuck to football, but maybe too should have Rugby Australia.
If there’s one lesson to learn from all this…and I don’t believe it is in either the old or new testament of the bible… “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.
If you’d like to chat about how to manage what you do and don’t say on social media to maximise the positives for your brand, click here.