This article is about being authentic in both our life and Christian faith. The motivation was from watching a very poor bit of marketing.
Last week, I watched in tears as professional surfer Mick Fanning was attacked by a shark in the final of the WSL tour event in South Africa. Now Mick is a legend of the sport and an authentic guy. He has won world championships and been a role model in his sport for many years. His heartfelt thanks to all who supported him after the incident showed his authentic heart for both people and the sport he loves. There is none better than Fanning.
BUT when the orchestrated media conference appeared several days later it left me feeling ill. The public relation boffins wacked a can of the sponsors drink in his hand and placed sponsored products behind so their product could be the focus, not Fanning's emotional near-death account.
Don't get me wrong: Mick Fanning... authentic, legend, brilliant.
The public relations team that went overboard to plug their product, knowing it was all about $ales, not Mick's incident.... Wipe-out!
Even in marketing terms this is poor form. In today's climate we are naturally sceptical of product placements in movies, sporting events etc. Think of how your antennas go up when a politician starts to talk.
Just do it
I used to work for Nike. Nike knew the focus should be on the athlete. To be authentic meant not covering sponsored athletes with massive logos. In fact, they deliberately made the logo smaller on all their products. Contrast that marketing approach with the PR "expert" that put drink cans in athlete's hands and cover their backdrop with logos as the athlete gives a heartfelt and authentic account of a life changing event. (Check out this sarcastic link, love the music that highlights the contrast of authentic and orchestrated https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQaevgE5Jms ). It is like a women's magazine getting photos from the actual birth of Prince George and then wrapping him up in a sponsor's towel post birth. It just cheapens the brand.
It is the same for our faith. It has to be an authentic part of who we are, not a sales pitch. I can remember reading the autobiography of American running champion Alberto Salazar. He is a man of faith and spends a large part of his book wrestling with how his faith shapes his life. But even Alberto cringes at one of his old training partners approach, commenting that he would mention Jesus in a non-authentic sales pitch way. He would twist every conversation around, to try and make it fit into a "turn or burn" altar call. Alberto said he just avoided eye contact with the guy, in fear of him. The point is not this guy's passion for Christ, but the non-authentic way he shares it.
In the brilliant "Introducing God" (http://www.introducinggod.org/) course, the comment is made that if a non-Christian mentions some area of faith and you, in a non-authentic fashion shoot them down with both barrels with heavy critical arguments, then they learn one thing: not to mention that topic again with you. The door is shut. You are labelled as "not a safe person" to talk to. However, if you are motivated by a love for God and people, listen and express your view in a caring way then you have given an authentic faith answer. The whole course is based around being authentic in your faith. The Christian faith is not about covering yourself in WWJD logos so you can give the turn or burn sermon to anyone that looks at them (WWJD irony intended).
I struggle to understand why a PR "expert" would want to cash in on Fanning's deeply emotional experience. What next? Sponsors buying space on the coffins of dead celebrities? Or Christians talking about the love of Jesus but not showing it?
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html