Sportsbet's Giant Balloon Jesus Is A Terrible Marketing Campaign And A Viral Hit

So, this really happened. An Australian betting company, Sportsbet, thought a giant floating Jesus was a good way to advertise gambling on the Brazil World Cup. Needless to say, this brilliant marketing strategy backfired — or maybe it succeeded, because, like a train wreck, it's basically impossible to take your eyes off the massive balloon modeled after Rio de Janeiro's iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.

The devilish air-filled impostor statue, classically adorned with the Biblical passage #keepthefaith (Matthew 1:1-3), was an advertisement from brilliant troll Sportsbet, which advertises itself as "Australia’s premier internet betting and entertainment website." The balloon statue was flown over the city of Melbourne on Tuesday morning, a weird combination of serenity, blasphemy, sin, and willfully bad advertising decisions that proved to be a viral success. When else are you gonna see a giant Jesus balloon flying among the clouds over a big city?

This may not end well for Sportsbet: A similarly comic take on the statue inspired wrath in Brazil when Italian broadcaster Rai plugged the games with an image of the statue dressed in an Italian sports jersey. The leader of a Vatican sports organization, Edio Costantini, reportedly told an Italian paper that the ad was part of a pattern.

We live in a world that has put God on the bench. At a time when religious values seem to have become insignificant and everything is commercial it's right to feel indignation.

London's daily newspapers also got in on the fun, publishing an altered photo of the statue apparently letting loose with alcohol and a woman wearing a bikini captioned: "There's a more exciting side to Brazil." That earned them the ire of the Evangelical Alliance, whose director Dave Landrum said in a statement that the statue should be "beyond exploitation for commercial purposes."

This advertisement is an offensive abuse of an image of Christ that is known and loved around the world. It is offensive to Christianity, which with its emphasis on freedom and grace is often an easy target for this sort of thing.
I can't imagine many other religions being treated with such a lack of respect.

Which makes you wonder how Landrum would react if Sportsbet fired up their Jesus balloon over London.

Image: Sportsbet and Telegraph Video/Rai.