Brand Steve Smith will survive, and it all comes down to love

Jamie Clift considers Steve Smith’s ability to survive the cricket cheating crisis, by taking a look back at a marketing theory centred around the power of love.

Yes, it’s been a while since we’ve heard the term ‘Lovemark’ thrown about. Kevin Roberts’ thesis certainly received a fair bit of criticism when it first hit the bookshelves. But if ever there was a test of his theory, this is it.

According to Roberts’ contention, brands that are loved are more capable of being forgiven and surviving a crisis. Even a bad one.

Until two days ago, Steve Smith’s brand was untouchable – he was loved. The all-conquering hero of Australian cricket who successfully won back the Ashes almost off his own bat.

He was capable, polite, determined and whilst competitive, he was fair. Touted as ‘the best since Bradman’, sponsors loved him as did the Australian public. His future was secure and his earning capacity immense.

He was a great batsman, and capable tactician, but was he a great leader? Just like a great salesman doesn’t always make a great sales manager, a great batsman, doesn’t necessarily make a great captain. Whilst Smith’s ability with a bat is not in question, his maturity as a leader is.

I’d like to think his moral compass is sound, but possibly not strong enough to resist the propositions that others in his mysterious ‘leadership group’ put to him. I’m wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt – my heart says ‘yes’, but my head says ‘no’.

So perhaps there’s some truth to Lovemarks? If it were Warner at the centre of this debacle I’d say ‘on ya bike’ in a heartbeat. But Smith is special. He doesn’t court controversy every time he steps onto the field and his mouth normally doesn’t let him down. He has a quiet humility that is hard to resist.

Volkswagen perhaps, is the Steve Smith of the automotive world. Whilst the fraud they’ve committed is atrocious and the price they will pay is immense, they will recover. It’s seemingly a one-off. Sure, it’s a disastrous one-off, but it’s still a one-off. Their product remains great and there is enough equity left in the brand tank to ensure they will recover.

I’d like to think Smith will recover too. Maybe not as captain, but as a formidable part of a successful, humble and culturally re-purposed Australian team. After all he has done for us, we should give him the opportunity to redeem himself and earn back our love.

But he should be made to earn it. A soft suspension and a few moments in the naughty corner aren’t enough. His next move should be an open letter to Australia.

He should restate his mistake and he should beg our forgiveness. He should confirm what we already know, that to captain Australia is a privilege and an honour and it should be treated with respect every time he opens his mouth and walks onto the field.

His actions and his words can enhance the reputation of cricket and Australia, or they can sully it. I’m hoping he has it in him to swallow his pride and work his way back into our hearts.

Jamie Clift is head of Joyride.


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