The NRL's new campaign has blown up in Todd Greenberg’s face. Photo: Lachie Millard
The NRL's new campaign has blown up in Todd Greenberg’s face. Photo: Lachie Millard

Kent: NRL still can’t see how they got it wrong

GENTLE amusement ran through the 16 NRL clubs on Tuesday.

It was just last week that NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg stood in front of them all and, around announcing a $30 million profit for the game, revealed chief executives in the past had tried to get up anniversary editions of the Tina Turner commercials and they had all failed, but now, after two years of long hard work, here he was, Greenberg, the one who finally delivered.

Some club bosses looked around nervously for trumpets, such was the pageantry.

Almost as an afterthought they realised it didn't seem to matter that as the boss, Greenberg, stood there in his own warmth, much of the hard slog had been done by others.

This was the moment to shine and Greenberg was sharing the spotlight with no one.

The clubs were amused at the audacity on the eve of the new commercial's launch. Not a crumb for anybody else.

This is what the fans want. Photo: Peter Muhlbock.
This is what the fans want. Photo: Peter Muhlbock.

The mood within the NRL has been described by an insider as one of "devastation".

Nobody saw the disaster that the new NRL ad, which was released on Monday night, would become.

It was promoted as the 30th anniversary of Turner's "The Best" commercial but almost immediately it turned into a tawdry political statement aimed at appealing to minorities. A vast majority of NRL fans felt alienated.

Whatever goodwill was generated in the first instalment 30 years ago was now tarnished.

It left a question many old-school NRL fans had been asking for some years and which was always met with deafening silence at League Central.

This was what they got.
This was what they got.

How can the NRL be so removed from its own fan base?

The original intent, which failed to be sold, was that "our differences are what unites us".

Somehow, it was believed that is the message that fans would take from the ad.

This is a concern for the game.

They believe the ad was "misinterpreted", that the strategy was not to get political.

The fallout has led to a feeling of frustration within NRL headquarters.

This should ring a four-bell alarm for rugby league fans.

How is the NRL so out of touch?

Greenberg and NRL chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo travelled to Penrith on Tuesday for an annual check-up.

Of course the new ad soon came up and the Panthers officials asked how they could get it so wrong.

The message that Greenberg pumped was one of any publicity is good publicity. If people are talking about the ad, the Panthers were told, that is a good thing.

There is an admission right there.

Some club bosses questioned why this game has made a recent move to the Left.

When Turner's original ad first came out 30 years ago the then NSW Rugby League, which administered the game, on a fraction of the staff compared to now, worked hard at avoiding any political allegiance.

They knew the moment they leaned toward Labor, for example, they would lose the Liberal vote and vice versa.

The golden rule was do not alienate fans.

Their job was to run a sport.

All this new ad needed was Greta Thunberg to pop up halfway through it and warn if we don't start recycling our old footy boots soon, then we will bake to death in 40 years.

The game's hierarchy is so blinded by politically correct activism that they no longer share the values of its core audience.

It is sad because many good people worked on this campaign and it should have been the success many hoped it would be.

Almost immediately work began on the shortened version of the ad, a 30-second version cut down from the two-minute version released on Monday, which will do most of the mule work when it comes to selling the game.

The NRL insists all the political statements contained in the longer version will be edited so only the on-field highlights of the past 30 years remain, suggesting this was always going to be the case.

Take that for what it is worth.

Greenberg, the boss who spent two years getting an ad that could not survive 24 hours, has already privately hung some out to dry on this.

Someday, the game will get it right once and for all.

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