It would be surprising enough to see a giant, floating Jesus in the sky, but what if he was wearing a jersey adorned with the logo and advertising slogan for a sports-betting website?
That’s what commuters in Melbourne, Australia, saw Tuesday morning. The gambling site Sportsbet modeled a huge hot air balloon after Rio de Janeiro’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue and put the figure in a jersey with its logo on it. Under the logo is the hashtag #KeepTheFaith.
The stunt is clearly intended to drum up excitement—and bets—for the World Cup, which kicks off in Brazil on Thursday. Though it may have accomplished that, it has also set off some intense anger.
“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,” Rev. Tim Costello, chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, told 7 News
He continued: “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.”
Matthew Campbell, a spokesman for Sportsbet, told 7 News that his company isn’t the only one using images of the statue in promotions.
"We realize 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.
Sportsbet has certainly dug in its heels behind the balloon stunt, with a string of snarky tweets about the complaints, including this one:
The lone response to that tweet is someone asking, “You don’t get it, do you?”
The response to this tweet was a bit more mixed:
Some respondents said they like Sportsbet’s marketing; others said what it’s doing is offensive.
What do you think, PR Daily