A ritual annihilation on Twitter was not quite what New Balance had in mind to institute its new kit deal with the England cricket team.
That’s what they got, though, for the advertising campaign which includes a poem in free verse penned to the nation’s next potential Test player, signed by the team. The letter - which is David Brent meets Brendan Rodgers in tone - opens with ‘Dear 677’ - the cap the number which the next selected player will be handed. It then disappears into a large vat of cheese, with the cringe factor compounded by someone’s bright decision to re-write the script of the film on which the letter was based.
The BMB agency’s film tells the would-be England international about being on “a staircase to greatness.” The letter transforms that to: “the first step of a never-ending flight of stairs to success.” The implication being that England will never reach the top is, needless to say, slightly less poetic than originally intended.
The language of the backlash was more incisive than the re-writing. “Pure unadulterated cringe” and “asinine nonsense” both featured and Twitter being the kind of blunt instrument we all know it to be, the considerable merits of the ad campaign of which the England film formed a part were then entirely obscured.
The film is actually one of four shot by the agency for the kit manufacturer’s #tomyfutureself campaign, in which athletes describe what delivered them to the sporting peak through letters written to themselves in the future. The film featuring the passion and fire of tennis player Milos Raonic is perhaps the best. Others feature American middle distance runner Boris Berian – whose journey from working in a fast food outlet to Olympic finalist and world champion runner took 18 months – and skateboarder Alexis Sablone. Swimming’s Fran Halsall and former gymnast Shona Vertue will also be featured.
Amid the endless output of high-end sporting advertisements in which the sole aim seems to be get the biggest nameable stars accomplishing the most eye-catching feats that technology can create, the #tomyfutureself campaign is welcome. The kind of output that you feel might actually get a prospective tennis player or skateboarder out of the front door and onto a court.
The mystery is why the England cricket film did not feature an individual star, too, because in the figure of new England captain Joe Root there is one would fit extremely well with Raonic, Sablone and Co.
A few weeks ago, the sponsors of the Chance to Shine cricket charity, Yorkshire Tea, took Root back to his old primary school, in the Sheffield village of Dore, as backdrop to the launch of a new campaign of their own. There, sitting in the top floor Year 6 classroom where he once gazed out dreaming of playing Ashes cricket for England, Root delivered a simple yet vivid and entirely convincing picture of how any 11-year-old, in any state primary, in any quiet suburban place in England, could possibly be a future international captain, if only blessed with talent and depths of determination.
Root - an excellent, modest individual - fielded every question about captaincy, pressure, and the winter Ashes, though it was his prosaic discussion of primary school life which was most vivid. “That box down there was my year three classroom,” he said. “When we behaved well we had Oasis on for five minutes at the end of the day.” Here was promotional gold-dust. No free verse required.