The ABC reports…
“Gambling company Sportsbet has displayed “extraordinary arrogance and hubris” in floating a giant Jesus air balloon over Melbourne to promote betting on the World Cup, Reverend Tim Costello says.
Rev Costello, the chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, said the stunt was an overreach and against the principles Jesus stood for.
“There seems to be no corporate or civic responsibility to say ‘hang on, is nothing sacred?'” Rev Costello said.
“Is betting to absolutely dominate not just casino and gamble areas and TV rooms, but now literally the sky?
“This is extraordinary, if they knew anything about Jesus they’d know he’d be overturning tables in the gaming halls, because they’re highly addictive and destroy lives.”
Sportsbet spokesman Matthew Campbell said the company expected some criticism but stood by its marketing campaign.
“We realise that some people are entitled to their opinions, but from our point of view with over half a million followers on social media, we think we’re talking to the right people and those people might have a different opinion,” he said.
Mr Campbell said the promotion was about the Socceroos, not gambling.
“It’s not actually about having a bet; it’s about rallying the troops behind the Socceroos, who are massive underdogs,” Mr Campbell said.
“It’s a balloon replica of a famous statue that is used extensively to promote the World Cup.
“You can’t turn on the TV promotion without them showing the Christ the Redeemer all the time.
“All we’ve done is bring it to Australia and give it a Socceroos flavour.”
Rev Costello has called on the sport’s governing body Football Federation Australia (FFA) to speak out against the campaign.
“One of the great statues in Rio is Jesus, and Brazil is a Catholic nation that takes its faith seriously and its football fanatically,” Rev Costello said.
“You don’t exploit those things that are sacred to people simply for your own advertising reach and I think that soccer as a world game should be sensitive to that and certainly express their disdain for these types of advertisements”.
FAA officials are in Brazil and not available for comment.
This is not the first time the gambling company has caused a stir with a controversial marketing campaign.
Last year, Sportsbet promoted a rugby clash between Australia and Britian with a giant sign sprayed on a paddock near the Melbourne Airport depicting the two countries’ lion and wallaby mascots copulating, coupled with an offensive slogan.
The sign was condemned by the Victorian Government and Parks Victoria.”