Where the ads from the previous decades were often amateurish and poorly executed, they were no less charming for that fact. In the post Jerry Maguire 90's, for the first time we saw the mass-scale presence of player agents come into Australian sport, to the point where "sports management" University courses even became, well, a thing. Sports was big business, and the business world started to view players as brands and commercial entities.
So whilst these ads might lack the retro flavour of the 70's and 80's, they are an accurate reflection of the times; sports becoming more serious and professional and sometimes maybe less fun. A lot of the business side of sports that many of us fans now tend to view negatively had its genesis in this decade. There was still much fun to be had though, and here is a small selection of it.
1990 - The 12th Man
Billy Birmingham's albums were a pop-cultural phenomenon in the 80's and 90's. I can't think of any comedy albums, other than probably those of Weird Al Yankovic, that have reached such a position of cultural relevance within the world that they parody. It's now at the stage where Slats, Heals and Tubby do impersonations of 12th Man impersonations of Richie and Bill in the commentary box. If you think about that too deeply, your head will explode.
1990 - ABC Grandstand Cricket Coverage
Nothing says "summer" like the sound of Jim Maxwell's voice. Looking at this list of broadcasters and reminiscing, I almost forget about the current line-up, stuffed to the brim as it is with lightweight amateurs like Brett "Don't Ask" Geeves.
1990 - Allan Border for CTG
Damning themselves with faint praise by claiming that we won't need a University degree to use their phones, CTG then fall for the fatal advertising error: slabs of needless text. Despite the novella within the ad, there is not a single explanation of why AB's face appears. Some easy money for Captain Grumpy, you'd think.
1990 - The Greg Chappell Hat
If you asked me to list Australia's most iconic hats, not long after the slouch hat and the Akubra, the Greg Chappell Hat would have to enter the conversation. Used all around the world, this is a simple, well executed product that Chappell has probably made squillions out of. That's what they call "first mover advantage."
1990 - Graham Yallop's Indoor Centre
ESPN's recent documentary 'Broke' lifted the lid on the way many former star athletes lost the fortune's they earned playing sport, many of them through dodgy business ideas that seemed too good to refuse. I'm not sure whether Graham Yallop's Indoor Centre was a success or not, but the 'indoor sports centre' was a business idea adopted by many ex-cricketer's. This could be an old photo of Yallop in his playing days, but there is something amusing about imagining him kitting up like this 5 years after his last test.
1990 - Kanga Cricket
These things were everywhere at schools and sports clubs in the 90's. This ad tends to suggest it was something you'd use in your backyard, but I'm pretty sure anyone who pulled out a plastic bat in my neighborhood would have been laughed out of town.
1990 - "Limited Edition" Scamorabilia
This stuff probably appeared earlier than the 90's, but the 90's was when Tony Greig and Channel Nine gave it the kick in the pants it required to expand to plague proportions. Widely derided by genuine collectors, the concept of a "limited" edition of 500 still infuriates many viewers of Nine's cricket coverage. Finally the punters seem to have cottoned on to this epic scam, with copies of Dave Warner's "Powerhouse" print still available a full 2 years after they first appeared.
The one below contained the signatures of the 1989 Sri Lankan touring team; a real treat for all of you Graeme Labrooy fans out there.
1990 - Shane Warne for CBA
The 90's were the decade of Warne; a time when endorsement opportunities were limitless for the Sheik of Tweak. This is a nice one from his pre-superstar days at the Cricket Academy, a time in which he apparently became well-acquainted with the peroxide bottle. About a year after this when Warnie had burst onto the Test scene, I walked up to him as a star-struck kid and politely asked for an autograph. His response: "Sure buddy, that'll be two bucks." Not a word of a lie.
1991 - Albion C&D
"Confidently into the 90's, by refusing to accept that the 80's is over." In retrospect, so much of the early 90's was actually way more 80's than the 80's was.
1991- Coles Cricket Coins
I recall collecting these as a kid, one for every member of the 1990/91 Ashes squads. There is nothing more "Heavy Metal" than a Peter Taylor coin.
1991 - Player Merchandise
So you'd pulled on your acid wash jeans and a pair of Wayfarer's, the only thing left was to choose between your Deano or Waugh brothers t-shirts. This ad also shows that the advertising people were still finding those terrible cricket puns too hard to pass up.
1991 - Merv Hughes for County
There is no better way to be taken seriously as a bat brand than sponsoring a fast bowler. Fact. Merv was a pretty marketable personality in the early 90's though, and there was no shortage of Merv-endorsed product on the market.
1991 - Mike Whitney and Lindsey Reeler for Callen
Mike Whitney also somehow managed to get himself a bat sponsor, but the real gravy train arrived five years later when he carved out a lucrative TV career paying people "FIFTY BUCKS!!!" to stick their head in a bucket of baked beans on 'Who Dares, Wins." Yep, the 90's were so much more sophisticated than the 80's.
1991 - The Sidchrome Supertest Team
This was much more of an 80's innovation, but his 1991 ad was all I could find on the competition immortalized by Billy Birmingham. These were the innocent early days of a fantasy sports culture that is now an enormous industry in itself.
1991 - Mark Taylor and Simon O'Donnell for Stuart Surridge
"These two mean business: Mark some cricket, Simon auditioning for a Country Road modelling job. "
1992 - Border Turf
I unsuccessfully lobbied my parents to have Border Turf installed in the driveway. I'm pretty sure this is the only reason I didn't become an international cricketer.
1992 - Dean Jones Kookaburra Shirt
There is no indignity in sports advertising quite like having to model another sportsman's signature line of clothing.
1992 - Graham Gooch for Stuart Surridge
In the 90's, bat companies were very fond of commemorating a batsman's highest score with a special edition bat. Gooch's 333 was also great for fans of palindromes. Forgotten fact, Gooch made 123 in the second dig of that game against India. Not a bad five days work.
1992 - Cricket - The Interactive Television Game
Add this one to the list of "Cricket games that aren't 'Test Match' therefore aren't any good." Greigy is far too happy with himself here, this one was a turkey.
1992 - Mark Waugh for Slazenger
"A bowler's nightmare... until he gets to 70 and chips an easy catch." We still loved you though, Junior.
1992 - Players Bar & Grill
"And then I said, 'You know what it looks like, you go find it."
Forget the Bourbon and Beefsteak, go where the real players hang out. Does anyone have a story about this place? Feel free to share in the comments, especially if you had a drink with Viv.
1992 - Mark Taylor Rebound Cricket
I had the football version of this which was endorsed by Peter Daicos; basically just a footy with a stretchy cord and a tent peg attached. No real surprise that Tubby wasn't able to retire off the money earned from this business venture.
1992 - Steve Small for Impala
When you think of Australian cricketing dynasties, you think of the Chappell's and their grandfather Victor Richardson, or if you're the marketing manager down at Impala, you think Smaller, much Smaller.
1992 - Telecom
Admit it, you cannot prove that this guy wouldn't be a better keeper up to the stumps than Matthew Wade. You just can't.
1992 - The Richie Richardson Hat
Taking the Greg Chappell idea and extending the brim by about 30%, Richie added a Calypso flair with this maroon hat. It was both his personal style trademark and a popular piece of merchandise for fans. Was it just me, or did the brim become comically larger as time wore on? You used to see these things everywhere at the cricket back in the 90's. Might be time for a re-release.
1992 - World Cup 1992 - Nissan 300ZX
As more money flooded into the game, prize money and player of the match rewards got more and more juicy in the early 90's. Martin Crowe ended up driving away in this thing though many of us will remember that World Cup for South Africa's farcical semi-final run chase that contributed heavily to the eventual introduction of the Duckworth-Lewis method for calculating revised run chase totals in rain-affected matches.
1993 - Richie Richardson Bradman Range
In 1992-93, Slazenger introduced a range of 'Bradman' bats to sit along their iconic V series range. And who more appropriate to promote the Bradman name than.....Richie Richardson?
1993 - Alan Border for Duncan Fearnley
Another iconic bat brand of the 80's and 90's; Duncan Fearnley. For me the brand is synonymous with the final years of AB's career, when he got his own range of bats.
1993 - ISC Cricket Shirts
In this period, an Australian company finally cottoned on to the demand for replica national team shirts. This was actually the first time you could purchase international and domestic one-day shirts, and what designs to start with.
"We like sportz and we don't care who knows."
1993 - Mark Waugh for Bolle
Perfect for checking weather conditions, inspecting pitches and making observations on team selection. Also handy to keep a low profile when the ACA crew are waiting in your driveway when you get home.
1994 - ACB Merchandise
"That's a cool story Flemo, but can you get Warnie's autograph for us, or not?"
1994 - The Allan Border Hat
Having neither the history of the Greg Chappell, or the novelty appeal of the Richie Richardson model, this one proved to be short-lived. Did Chappell ask for AB to be removed from the Captain's club for this?
1994 - Tim May and Shane Warne: the "Spin Twins"
Remember that brief period when Shane Warne and Tim May formed the most unlikely double act in the history of sports marketing? It didn't last for long; there wasn't much need for a second spinner with Warnie effortlessly slicing through opposition batting orders. I do recommend Tim May's book, 'Mayhem' though. It's a pre-Warwick Todd tour diary (with names changed) that is highly enjoyable trash.
1994 - Australia A ODI Series
"Ok everyone, put both hands up if you think this is a good idea."
We give Mike McKenna and Ben Amarfio a bit of stick around these quarters for the way the Australian game is marketed these days, but whoever came up with this idea puts both of them in the shade. It lasted one ill-fated season during which the full Aussie team barely saved the blushes of the ACB, pulling the A team's best performed bowler of the series, Paul Reiffel, out of the team for the finals, only to make him 12th man for the "first" team. Absolute stinker of a concept.
1994 - Brian Lara World Record (Gray Nicolls)
For a couple of years there, you expected Brian Lara to make a ridiculous score every time he went out to bat. Some of them may have ended up being selfish pursuits of records at the cost of wins for the team, but there was no more marketable batsman than Lara.
1994 - Hong Kong Sixes
Before there was Twenty20, there was the Hong Kong Sixes, a tournament with far fewer billionaires, and the kind of cricketing display that made you flick the TV over to something exciting, like the Lawn Bowls. How did anyone think this would catch on? I think they actually still play this tournament. Australia take it so seriously that they send test players...from 25 years ago.
1994 - Mahatma Cote
Perhaps the funniest thing about Cricket Australia's recent public rebuke of Greg Ritchie and his Mahatma Cote "character" was that they were so keen to be seen as taking a moral stance on something that was, you know, totes racist. The thing was though, they had no problem with it in the 90's, when he appeared in official match programs and represented major sponsors like Toyota. "Blacking up" and being a bit racist was fine in the 90's, you see.
Do yourself a favour and don't read Mahatma's "amusing" take on the summer here. Absolute dross.
1994 - Victoria wears shorts in Mercantile Mutual Cup Games
As mentioned in a previous post, yes, this actually happened. The only reason this should be brought back is to see the kind of figure that Mark Cosgrove would cut.
1994 - Merv Hughes and Zoe Goss for Milo
After bowling out Brian Lara in that weird Bradman Tribute game, Zoe Goss went from relatively unknown women's cricketer to national celebrity. Thankfully the women's game is now drawing attention without the need for any such novelty publicity, but it was a great "15 minutes of fame" tale.
1994 - Shane Warne for Powerade
Again, the regulators should have had something to say about Warnie claiming (at that point) that he got his energy from anything other than cheese pizza and cans of Coke. Truly crap tagline as well.
My own personal memory of this product is painful. Having downed a litre of it prior to a junior state squad training session, I proceeded to be smashed all over the place by Adam Crossthwaite for about 4 hours until I finally staggered into the change rooms and spewed a big blue fountain of Powerade all over the place. Moral of the story? I'm not sure there is one but I've never had a blue drink since.
1994 - Toyota Rav 4
Because the words "occupational healthy and safety" were not of huge concern to anyone in the 80's and early 90's, cricket fans were afforded a treat at the end of every Benson and Hedges World Series. The player of the tournament would receive a car from the sponsor which they would then proceed to drag race around the arena with teammates crammed in the back like drunken schoolies in a stolen rental car.
I distinctly remember players poking out the top of the sun roof on this Rav 4 as Shane Warne practically did donuts on the outfield. Then the fun police moved in and the sponsors became a little less generous. Boo!
1994 - Shane Warne for Oakley
Oakley M Frames were the sunglasses du jour for any self-respecting cricketer in the mid 90's. Dean Jones was actually the first player to wear them regularly in a game. Just ask him, he'll tell you all about it.
1995 - Craig McDermott ad for the Ansett Test Series 1995-96
"So Craig, we're going to make it look like your run-up is taking in mountainous terrain. It'll make you look pretty tough mate, it's going to be great."
"But I break down with injuries walking to the post box."
"Don't worry mate, no-one remembers that stuff."
1995 - Shane Warne for the Aussie Sunwatch
With this one, Warnie was banking on getting a slice of those billions of dollars up for grabs in the skincare market. What he wasn't banking on was that no-one wanted to wear a sunscreen watch and make themselves look like a complete bell-end.
1996 - Ansett Australia Test Series
"Australian cricketer's wouldn't be caught sexually harassing any other air stewardess's."
1996 - Ian Healy's "Gloves Off" Apparel Range
"Hey Heals, hook your thumb into the pocket of your jeans, otherwise you'll look like a real wanker in these photos."
With this range, Ian Healy massively overestimated the appeal of Ian Healy. Much like his commentary stylings, I guess.
1996 - Ricky Ponting for Kooburra
When someone says "1997" I think about Radiohead's Ok Computer and all the other great albums that came out that year. When someone says "1996" I just get an immediate visual of Ricky Ponting's goatee.
1996 - Shane Warne for Nike
In order to enter the world of cricket, Nike clearly felt like they needed to get behind a big name, and there was no name in cricket bigger than Warne's. Soon enough there was the "Nike Air Flipper" and those 'Mystery Ball' ads which mainly served to trick people into believing that he actually had a mystery ball. I think it worked out pretty well for both parties, Warnie also managing to indulge in that 90's standard of douche-baggery; the Nike stud earring.
1996 - Steve Waugh for Toyota
"Steve Waugh would like to introduce you to his new batting partner. Unlike Michael Slater, he won't run you out."
1997 - Nike Air Flipper
Nike showing their ignorance of the game with this ill-thought-out early ad. This ranks up there with that hilarious joke people from non-cricketing nations tell: "...and then after 5 days, sometimes nobody even wins!" Cue death stare.
1997 - Steve Waugh for Gunn & Moore
"Sorry kiddo, you're an inch or two short to go on 'Steve Waugh's Mental Disintegration Ghost Train."
1998 - Mark Waugh for Slazenger
"Form is temporary. Class is permanent, as is a Test batting average of 41."
1998 - Michael Bevan for Light Ice
I just tried to come up with a more fitting beer to represent Bevo than this but couldn't. It's too perfect.
1999 - Adam Gilchrist for Crown Forklifts
Once Serpico finally got released on DVD, I had to find new "it's an injustice that this isn't available" hobby-horse. Enter the TV commercial that Adam Gilchrist did for Crown Forklifts. It was the kind of shambolic nonsense you'd generally only see on community TV. If anyone has it on an old VHS tape, do the right thing and get it up on YouTube.
1999 - The County "Black Label" Collection - Hansie Cronje
"Only $299.00 inc GST, we can accept payment by cash, EFTPOS or a no ball off the fourth ball of the seventh over tomorrow."
1999 - Sheffield Shield sold to Pura Milk
One of the worst sports marketing trends of the last 20 years has been the sale of team/competition/stadium names to our 'generous corporate partners'. The selling out of the Sheffield Shield to be renamed the Pura Cup was the worst in Australian cricket. They even had the temerity to change the trophy, shitting over our domestic cricket legacy from a great height. Absolute bollocks.
1999 - Michael Clarke at Kingsgrove Sports Centre
Many of the images for this post were found in my brothers' old cricket gear catalogues. While I was scanning through them, I noticed there were some great shots of a young Michael Clarke working at the Kingsgrove Sports Centre. I couldn't leave them out.
1999 - Steve Waugh for Polaroid
I had to give the final word to Steve Waugh. Warnie may have been the star, but the decade belonged to Tugga in my view, so here he is spruiking some Polaroid sunnies.
The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades.