On a late winter’s day in August 1963, two opposing rugby league captains embraced after a close fought grand final on the Sydney Cricket Ground. This fleeting moment became the inspiration for the Winfield Cup. Dr Guy Hansen, Exhibitions Director, explores how professional sport has been used by advertisers.
Speakers: Alex Philp (A), Dr Guy Hansen (G)
Location: National Library of Australia
Typist’s notes: inaudible caused by distance from mike
A: Hi everyone, my name’s Alex Philp, I’m the Director of Overseas Collections and Metadata Management here at the National Library of Australia. Before we start, I’d like acknowledge the Nanbury and Ngunnawal people who are the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today and to pay our respects to their elders past and present.
It’s an absolute delight for me to welcome you here on this beautiful autumn day to introduce this Curator Talk with Dr Guy Hansen and his topic as you know is sport, tobacco and advertising, the story of the Winfield Cup. Dr Hansen’s the Director of Exhibitions here at the Library and he’s a keen Parramatta fan. I definitely won’t be referring to the mighty Radars and their win over the Eels last weekend.
Given that I look after the Library’s Overseas Collections I was really puzzled about why I was asked to introduce this talk about Australian advertising and Australian rugby league and then I remembered I run the Library’s footy tipping. So, the exhibition, The Sell, Australian Advertising, 1790s to 1990s has been a really wonderful success. To my mind, it’s the perfect example of the kind of exhibition the Library’s been doing so well for so many years and the kind of exhibition I hope we continue to do for many years to come. Drawing on everyday items such as posters, newspapers and magazines to tell a rich story of Australian history is right at the heart of our mission to provide access to our national collection of Library material.
There’s a long-held belief about money spent on advertising, that it’s 50% effective but you just don’t know which half. For this sports-mad kid growing up in the 1980s I was surrounded by tobacco advertising, immersing myself happily in rugby league during the winter and cricket during the summer. And then, when I started smoking, inevitably my brands of choice were surprise, surprise, Winfield and Benson and Hedges. Clearly, I was in the effective half of their advertising budget. So there’ll be time for questions after the presentation but please join me in welcoming Dr Guy Hansen.
G: Well thank you very much, Alex, and I can’t emphasise what an important role it is running the footy tipping competition in any organisation, it helps build morale and gives you something to do in winter.
Okay so thank you very much for those kind words. As Alex explained this talk is part of the programs associated with The Sell exhibition and if you’ve visited the exhibition you will have seen that sport and sporting heroes have been used by advertisers for many years to promote their products. So here you can see a poster with Don Bradman and the 1949 Australian cricket team to promote Capstan cigarettes. The endorsement or association of a product with sporting success helps to build sales. If your heroes smoke Capstan why don’t you?
What I’m interested in today is how advertising can be used to sell harmful products such as cigarettes. I will look in detail at the story of the Winfield Cup to show how one tobacco company overcame the ban on cigarette advertising to develop one of the most successful marketing campaigns in Australian history. I’ll argue that a central part of the success of this campaign was the use of the famous Gladiators photograph. It was this image which inspired the design of the Winfield Cup. Without this image the Winfield Cup could not have achieved its goal of making its brands synonymous with rugby league and perhaps making the young Alex smoke Winfield.
As I mentioned earlier for many years cigarette advertising was legal in Australia. At times claims would even be made in ads that smoking was even beneficial to your health. As knowledge about the dangers of smoking grew around the world countries began to ban cigarette advertising. Here you can see some of the key dates. So when you look at this timeline one of the most important dates is 1964 when the US Surgeon General, Luther Terry, released a report linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease and that was most probably the beginning of the end for cigarette advertising. This slow accumulation of evidence confirming the health risks of smoking led to increasing regulation of tobacco advertising in the western world. In 1965, cigarette advertising was banned on British television. In the same year, health warning labels became compulsory on US cigarette packets. Later on in both the UK and US cigarette advertising was banned from radio and television.
In Australia things moved more slowly. The Menzies Government introduced the voluntary tobacco advertising code for television in 1966 and in 1972 the McMahon Government introduced mandatory health warnings for radio and television tobacco advertisements. Radio and television advertising was phased out by 1976 with print advertising continuing until 1989. This left only cinema, billboard and sponsorship as a form of direct tobacco advertising.
This quick potted history of the banning of tobacco advertising brings me to the story of Winfield Cup. There’s no coincidence that the rise of the Winfield Cup coincides with the ban of other forms of advertising. From the 1970s, cigarette companies began to channel funds into the sponsorship of sport. This was a deliberate strategy to circumvent the increasing bans on traditional advertising. In this way, cigarette companies could keep their brands in the public eye by associating themselves with professional sport. This stream of money proved irresistible for sporting organisations. The reason I want to speak about the Winfield Cup is, I think it’s one of the most effective examples of tobacco sponsorship. The New South Wales Rugby League working with Winfield successfully rebranded their competition and made it synonymous with Winfield brand. This was a tour de force in marketing but is also a cautionary tale about how tobacco money can undermine a sport.
Before I talk about the Winfield Cup however I need to go back to a later winter’s afternoon in August 1963 when the image which gave the Winfield Cup its power came into existence. This is the famous Gladiators image, which over time would become synonymous with rugby league. In this image, you can see two rugby league captains embracing after a close fought grand final on the Sydney Cricket Ground. The victorious captain, St George’s Norm Provan, enfolds his diminutive foe, Arthur Summons, from the Western Suburbs side. Both players bear the marks of battle, bodies exhausted and drenched in mud. This fleeting moment of contact captured by Herald Sun photographer, John O’Gready, was taken on the 24th of August 1963 and it’s one of the most famous sporting images in Australian history. It is not only seen as a snapshot of the aftermath of the 1963 grand final but it is often presented as emblematic of Australian sporting values. It stands as a symbol for masculine camaraderie, endurance and mateship. I think it’s worth pausing for a moment to talk more about the game that produced this amazing photograph. There’s more to this photo than immediately meets the eye.
The 1963 grand final was played on a very muddy SCG. The reigning champions, St George, had already notched up seven consecutive premierships. The challengers, Western Suburbs, had been defeated by St George in the 1958 and the 1961 and the 1962 grand finals. In 1963 however it appeared that the tide was turning, Western Suburbs had won their two encounters during the premiership season and had won again in the semi-finals. The 1963 grand final held the enticing possibility that St George’s dominance could be brought to an end. With this build-up it was no surprise that despite the heavy rain a record 69,860 fans arrived at the Sydney Cricket Ground to watch the match. The scorecard shows it was a close game, the Dragons claimed a narrow 8-3 victory over the Magpies.
While the Dragons had taken another premiership there were many who smelled a rat. Western Suburbs hooker, Noel Ned Kelly, claimed that the match was fixed. In his biography, Hard Man, written with journalist, Ian Heads, Kelly alleged that the match referee Darcy Lawler was paid £600 to look after St George. Kelly describes how he was approached in the dressing room prior to the game by fellow player, Jack Gibson, who informed him that the referee was backing St George. Other senior Western Suburbs players were told, including the team captain, Arthur Summons, as the game unfolded the suspicion that Lawler was not impartial was fuelled by his decisions. He awarded a try to St George player, Johnny King, after he appeared to have been tackled. Later in the game Lawler also disallowed a try to Western Suburbs’ Peter Diamond, ruling that he’d not grounded the ball over the try line. At the end of the game the penalty count favoured St George 18 to 7, further eroding West’s confidence in the referee.
Today it’s not possible to confirm or deny the allegations against the now deceased Lawler. It’s clear however that Western Suburbs believe the match was stolen from them. An awareness of the intrigue surrounding the match brings a different light to the Summons and Provan post match embrace. Rather than the popularly perceived image of comradeship and respect associated with a photograph the moment was one of high tension. Provan recalls that he had approached Summons to swap jerseys, a long practiced post-match tradition. This explains how Provan appears stripped to the waist, shoulder pads exposed like a gladiator. Summons, deeply disappointed and harbouring the suspicion that the referee had manipulated the result, refused to part with his jersey. He wanted to swap jumpers and I told him to get stuffed and that St George was not – had not only beat us but the referee was paid to do a job on us. That’s a quote from Summons.
The incongruity of the transformation of Provan and Summons’ post match encounter into a symbol of sportsmanship is not lost on former Western Suburbs players. Noel Kelly, the player who first spoke about the allegation of match-fixing described the evolution of the image as a huge irony. Nevertheless he conceded that it is a great image and I quote, which in its moment of shared mateship after a tough game seems to capture just about everything good there is about the game of rugby league. Kelly’s words neatly summarise how the power of the image overwhelms the specifics of the historical events that surrounded its creation.
How then did O’Gready’s photograph come to be transformed into a symbol of rugby league? Geoff Armstrong, in his article on the history of rugby league photography, makes the point that at the time of the original publication O’Gready’s photograph was met with little fanfare, it appeared on page 3 of the Sun Herald below the heading who’s that? At this point the image had not taken on the full symbolic power it was later to acquire. Rather it was presented as a humorous shot of anonymous mud-drenched players. The accompanying article gave us some hint however of the power of the image, describing them as players plastered head to toe in mud, looking like bronze statues.
Jack Percival, a senior member of the Sun Herald’s editorial staff, told the paper’s pictorial manager that the photo was the second best he’d ever seen, the best in his opinion being the famous shot of the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima. I love the fact it was the second best. What was in this photograph that Percival had seemed to compare it to such a famous photograph as the marines at Iwo Jima? As with the Iwo Jima photograph The Gladiators has great narrative power, the contrast between the towering Provan, the victor, and the much smaller Summons, the vanquished, gives the photograph a sense of drama. Provan’s shoulder pads appear like ancient armour providing a classical weight to the image. The association of the photograph of a titanic struggle between two great clubs and two of the greats of rugby league all add to the image’s power. Above all else however The Gladiators derives its symbolic power from its appeal to the myth of Australian mateship. In virtually all the descriptions of the image the terms, mateship is used. The muddied embrace of Provan and Summons is seen as evidence of camaraderie in a time of struggle. The composition of two mud-splattered warriors employed in The Gladiators is reminiscent of other iconic Australian images.
What I’d like to do now is show you some other famous Australian photographs which I think help you understand why this photograph has become so powerful. So let me start with George Silk spline digger photograph which featured a wounded Australian soldier being assisted by a – Orokaiva man, which was published in Life magazine in 1943 and this at the time of publication caused a sensation. The Gladiators photograph also reminds us of the soldiers in Damien Parer’s World War II documentaries, Kokoda Frontline, An Assault on Salam – I can’t say that word, Salamella, both of which feature shots of injured soldiers assisting each other in the mud and here’s one of those shots which I’m sure you’ll recognise.
So, The Gladiators is particularly reminiscent of this photograph where a wounded infantry man is assisted across a creek by a fellow Australian soldier. Film historian Neil McDonald describes this sequence as one of the most famous images produced during the Second World War. In the case of The Gladiators, the battlefield is not New Guinea but the rain-sodden pitch of the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The final stage of the movement from photographic image to icon of the game came with the decision to create the Winfield Cup in 1982. Prior to the introduction of the new trophy the ultimate prize in New South Wales Rugby League was the J J Giltinan Shield, a much more traditional style of trophy. This shield was introduced in 1951, traditional timber housing, it celebrated the original founders of rugby league, one of the original founders, James Giltinan. The shield is rich with the game’s history with inscriptions for the victorious teams for each year it was presented. The idea to present an additional trophy at the grand final was put forward in 1981 when the New South Wales Rugby League began exploring ways of changing the format of the grand final. Throughout the 1970s the grand final was held on Saturday afternoons with seating for the game unnumbered and I don’t know if any of you were around at the time but I can remember queuing up in front of the SCG with my ticket, trying to make sure I got a good seat to watch the game. So you had to get there at 5:00 in the morning, very uncivilised.
A leading New South Wales Rugby League official, Bob Abbott, put forward the idea of providing entertainment on match day and involving a greater range of sponsors. In this context discussions were held with the cigarette company, Rothmans, an already established sponsor of the game about the possible involvement in the grand final. Rothmans’ agency, Hertz Walpole, developed a proposal that a new trophy, the Winfield Cup, be presented to the winner of the game. This trophy, named after Rothmans’ flagship cigarette brand, would not replace the Giltinan Shield, the existing grand final trophy but would be an additional prize. The new cup would be designed to be the holy grail of rugby league.
Hertz Walpole’s objective was to create a new symbol for rugby league which would help promote the game and by association the Winfield brand. Winfield had already established itself as the market leader in Australia at this time. It was however under pressure from international brands such as Dunhill and Benson and Hedges. And I’ll just remind you that Benson and Hedges were doing a very similar thing to Rothmans, they were beginning to sponsor sport. They became the major sponsors of Australian cricket at this time.
So in this context Hertz Walpole crafted a strategy whereby Winfield would position itself in the marketplace as a quintessentially Australian brand in order to maintain brand loyalty. This strategy had already produced the anyhow, have a Winfield campaign built around Paul Hogan in the 1970s. The use of Hogan’s ocker persona demonstrated Winfield’s interest in appealing to a working class market. Rugby league with its strong working class roots and masculine image was an ideal association for Winfield. The challenge was to find a symbol which would – could give the proposed trophy the necessary power to penetrate the public imagination.
Rothman’s marketing executive, Maurie Bryan, a passionate rugby league fan, suggested the O’Gready Gladiators photograph as a potential source for the new trophy. The sculptor, Alan Ingham, was then commissioned to transform the two-dimensional image into a sculpture which was then cast in bronze and mounted on a wooden base. You can see him working on his Marquette there and the finished trophy looked like this. This trophy was launched at the end of the 1982 season with the slogan, Winfield Cup, making the big game bigger.
Kevin Humphries, the President of the New South Wales Rugby League at the time described the symbolic meaning of the Winfield Cup in his inaugural column in the Big League, the league’s official journal and I quote, the Winfield Cup trophy has been presented as a symbol portraying aspects and characteristics that apply to all players of the big game, it’s about support for a team-mate, it’s about friendship, it’s about acknowledging skill and dedication of others. The Winfield Cup is put forward as an ultimate symbol of Australian sportsmanship. What Kevin Humphries didn’t say of course was that it was really about cigarettes and money.
Following the adoption of the Winfield Cup the new trophy became an integral part of marketing rugby league. Hertz Walpole developed strict guidelines for how Winfield Cup could be used. When in public the trophy was accompanied by a security guard and transported in an armoured van. When flown between cities the trophy was given a business class seat. Handling the trophy was restricted to the players on the winning side of the grand final. Coverage of post match scene celebrations inevitably focused on the victorious team hoisting the trophy above their heads and here’s a little display for you. Paramatta, last time they were doing well. The Raiders in their 1989 grand final over the Tigers, sometimes said to be one of the best grand finals ever. And of course here we have Alfie with Tina Turner where I think you’re getting to the – where the marketing is becoming extremely powerful and you really are seeing that basically rugby league and Winfield have almost become one by this point in the game.
So these images of players holding the trophy aloft had a recursive power with the bronze figures surmounting the trophy echoing all previous grand finals. Images of the trophy used in advertising were retouched to ensure the trophy appeared as impressive as possible. And interestingly there was a period where they could continue to use the trophy in print advertising ‘cause print advertising was actually phased out later than television advertising so they got a bit of extra use out of the Winfield Cup in that way.
The Winfield Cup was readily accepted by rugby league fans. In media coverage of grand finals the new trophy quickly replaced the Giltinan Shield as a symbol of rugby league supremacy and after a while the J J Giltinan Shield was actually downgraded and became the shield that you received for winning the premiership competition, not the actual grand final.
Stories of the new trophy also entered rugby league folklore and I’ll give a Canberra story because we’re in Canberra. In one famous incident Canberra Raiders hero, Laurie Daly, dropped the trophy from the back of the ute in Queanbeyan during the victory parade after the 1989 grand final. The wooden base of the trophy was split and required urgent repairs prior to an appearance at a victory dinner hosted by the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke and in the photo you can actually see that the players have artfully wrapped a towel around the base of the trophy to conceal the fact that they’ve managed to break it. I don’t think Winfield would have been too happy ‘cause you can see the Winfield brand can no longer be seen.
The success of the Winfield Cup did not go unnoticed by antismoking groups. One of the most active groups was the Sydney-based urban graffiti organisation, Billboard Utilising Graffiti Against Unhealthy Promotions or BUGA-UP. In the 1980s BUGA-UP had successfully targeted tobacco sponsorship of the Australian Open tennis championship and Formula 1 racing, both through graffiti campaigns and public shaming events. And of course rugby league was very much in their focus as well.
BUGA-UP produced a poster entitled The Winfield Cup. Instead of Provan and Summons the Winfield Cup featured a doll dressed as a football player encouraging a baby doll to smoke a cigarette. The slogan at the top of the poster replaced Winfield’s slogan, making the big game bigger with making the big boys pushers. The inscription on the Cup reads accepting tobacco sponsorship is hazardous to your integrity.
In 1992 legislation was passed banning tobacco sponsorship. A three-year period of grace was provided for and the Winfield Cup was discontinued in 1995. The Gladiators however continued to be used as a key brand for rugby league. Without tobacco sponsorship rugby league turned to Optus for support. This marked the end of the New South Wales Rugby League competition and the beginning of the Australian Rugby League Optus Cup competition. So this is one of the rugby league’s attempt at expansion into a broader game than just Brisbane and Sydney. The symbolic power of The Gladiators was considered so important that it was used as the central motif for the new competition trophy, the Optus Cup.
This period almost marked the beginning of the super league war which culminated in creation of a second elite competition as the super league in 1997. In the battle for the hearts and minds during this period The Gladiators image played an important role in reminding fans of its historical roots of the game so The Gladiators image continued to be used by the Australian Rugby League whereas the super league developed a new trophy which looked very much like the Vince Lombardi American Football trophy but the ARL tried to say we’re sticking to our roots.
In an interesting sideline to the super league war Sydney Morning Herald artist John Shakespeare created a rival cup featuring the two major protagonists of the super league war, Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer. In this case Packer took on the role of Provan and Murdoch took on the role of Summons. The celebrated embrace of two mates is transformed into a wrestling match with no holds barred. This sculpture was used as a photo illustration in Fairfax publications. Shakespeare’s depiction of the two media moguls reveals the causes of the super league war, a struggle for control over content between two media empires. There’s almost a sense that rugby league had grown to the point that it would now become – it attracted the attention of the media moguls who then proceeded to tear it apart.
In 1997 with the end of the super league war and the creation of the National Rugby League a new trophy was commissioned for rugby league’s incoming sponsor, Telstra, which was known as the Telstra Premiership Trophy. It again – and this is the current trophy the rugby league has and it again used The Gladiators. I don’t think either the Optus Cup or the Telstra Cup have succeeded in getting the marriage of their brand with football in the same way that the Winfield Cup did.
In 2008, 26 years after the creation of the Winfield Cup which was the centenary year of Australian Rugby League The Gladiators image was still seen as the ideal icon for the game. In preparation for the 2008 celebrations the image was selected as the central motif for the National Rugby League’s centenary television advertisement which you can – if you’re interested you can view it on YouTube. In a bizarre twist Provan and Summons, both in their 70s, were brought together for a photo shoot for the commercial. The two retired players were covered in a mixture of cocoa and Vaseline, recreating the mud of the 1963 grand final and then re-enacted the post match embrace for the cameras except this time I don’t think Arthur Summons told Norm Provan to get stuffed. National Rugby League marketing manager, Paul Kind, explained that the reasoning behind the re-enactment is that it is the most recognisable image in our game, the photograph represents a lot of great values of the game, it’s a symbol of mateship and camaraderie. Always the mateship.
So when you peel back the layers of interpretation on The Gladiators or in this case scrape back the mud you find a symbol which captures many strands of rugby league history. There is the historical moment of a grand final victory in 1963 and the specific circumstances surrounding that match and its aftermath. There is the transformation of the image from snapshot into myth. Finally there is the use of the image in marketing campaigns promoting the game.
Through tobacco sponsorship rugby league gained significant financial backing which helped it expand. Rothmans gained a vehicle which made its brand synonymous with rugby league which helped it to ensure its market dominance but I think the paradox of the problem is captured very well by this Prior cartoon, rugby league in a sense became addicted to the money and it found it very difficult to kick the habit.
The success of the ‘80s ended in the super league war and saw the game become almost unrecognisable. Not only did rugby league become implicated in promoting a harmful product, they also compromised their integrity by walking away from years of tradition associated with the Giltinan Shield. You cannot help but be struck by the irony that The Gladiators photo captures a moment of an allegation of cheating and corruption that was presented as a picture of mateship. This was what they used to sell cigarettes.
A: Thanks, Guy, that was terrific. That was a really fantastic trip down memory lane for me and a really good analysis of the insidious nature of the way tobacco marketers got their fingers on me. Now we do have some time for questions or any comments as well? Oh probably not a question to me, maybe a question to Guy, yeah.
Au: <inaudible> 29:05?
G: No, they acquired the copyright from Fairfax and – I’m not exactly sure of the details but yes, they recognised it as hot property and they – and the NRL does police their copyright and how that image is used today.
Au: So the sports replaced tobacco with alcohol and more recently gambling so it’s the same story repeated in these two fields of sponsorship.
G: Definitely, I think it’s – you can’t help but see Victoria Bitter across the State of Origin players and those very irritating gambling ads which flash across the screen and I think in the same way as the evidence accumulates as to how destructive these things are in Australian society, those things will hopefully also eventually not be allowed to advertise but it might take a bit longer.
A: Alright, well thanks, Guy, that was fantastic and the good news is I gave up smoking ages ago. Look, my very good friends in the events team wouldn’t let me out of the room unless I spruiked a few of their upcoming events, and on the 11th of April we’ve got the On War lecture, historian Aaron Pegrum discusses the disastrous first battle of Bullecourt. 12th of April we’ve got our National Folk Festival concert with the Rheingans sisters, and on the 3rd of April, also in conjunction with the National Folk Festival, we’ve got the Library’s folklorist, Rob Willis talking with the members of the Flying Emus so that should be fantastic. I’d also like to draw your attention to the next exhibition here at the Library which is the Melodrama in Meiji Japan exhibition which starts on the 24th of June so that’ll be fantastic. So thanks again, do divert yourself on your way out through the National Library bookshop and I hope to see you again at the next event. Thank you.
End of recording