Steven J. Jackson, Ph.D.
School of Physical Education
University of Otago
All rights reserved.
Within contemporary cultural studies there has been considerable
discussion about the phenomenon of globalization and the
relationship between the global and the local (cf. Albrow and King, 1990; Hall, 1991; Hirst and Thompson; King, 1990;
Robertson, 1992). A key feature of these debates is the nature and extent to which global processes and products impact on
local cultures. In effect, there have been concerns that expanding satellite and digital technologies are contributing to the
production and transmission of televisual commodities which are having a negative effect on local patterns of everyday life.
Over the past three decades one particular global media commodity, with largely but not exclusively "American" origins, has
been the subject of intense public and scholarly debate. The specific global media commodity I am referring to is violence.
To date most concerns about media violence, both domestic
and international, have focused on movies, dramas and cartoons.
Rarely, however, is sport the subject of serious public concern with respect to media representations of violence. On the
contrary, violence within sporting contexts has become taken for granted, just another part of the entertainment commodity
being produced and sold to consumers. Indeed, violence in sport has not only become a commodity but also a form of
"aggressive marketing" (see Jackson, 1997a). Increasingly, it appears as if violence is being used as a major theme within sport
related advertising (Jackson, 1997a 1997b; 1998; Jackson and Andrews, 1998). And, while this has become an accepted
form of promotion in many countries, there are local markets within the global economy that are challenging and resisting the
trend towards violence in advertising. For example, as this paper later details, New Zealand has banned a number of sport
related advertisements over the past five years because of their excessive levels of violence.
This paper is a preliminary report on part of a larger
project concerned with the growing trend towards the use of violence in
sport related advertising both domestically and within the global economy. The study of violence in advertising is important
because: "ads are not only about selling, for they operate in a social context and have social effects. Thus, we must try to sift out
the aspects of advertising practice that have potentially negative social effects and seek to address them as precisely as
possible" (Leiss, Kline & Jally, 1990: 387). The fact that male youth in the U.S., Japan, and elsewhere are willing to kill or
severly injure innocent victims for a pair of expensive basketball shoes, while certainly not to be interpreted as being directly
caused by advertising per se, certainly suggests the need for critical analysis. Overall, I will be providing an analysis of the
intersection between sport, media, advertising and violence/aggression in order to explore the implications of a capitalist
consumer culture that appropriates violence in order to sell commodities. Specifically, I will: (a) briefly indicate the
contemporary context of media violence and the significance of sport as a site of analysis; (b) discuss the social significance of
advertising; (c) provide examples of the different ways in which sport violence is used in advertisements; (d) provide an
example of what can be referred to as a global/local disjuncture, that is, where global sporting advertisements are being
challenged within a specific foreign culture; and, (e) conclude with a few questions for future research.
Context of violence in the media
As previously mentioned over the past 30 years there has
been increasing concern directed at the media's role in producing and
representing violence. Judging by its near global focus with respect to both popular deliberations and state policy debates,
violence is arguably the media industry's primary public relations problem. Indeed, the international growth and formal
organization of anti-media violence watchdogs could justifiably be called a social movement. Critics of media violence, acting
upon highly publicized (and highly questionable) behaviorist research, charge that there are strong direct, or at least indirect,
effects of televisual violence (Huesmann and Miller, 1994). The result, they argue, are declining morals, desensitized audiences,
and ultimately escalating levels of violence in wider culture.
For the most part concerns about televisual violence have
been directed at the potential effects that, the largely, but not
exclusively, American produced cartoons (e.g., Power Rangers), movies (e.g., Natural Born Killers, Pulp Fiction), dramas
(e.g., NYPD Blue) and "real life" programs (e.g., Cops) have on audiences, especially children. Strikingly, few studies have
directly focused on the potential impact that mediated "sport" violence has on audiences (Bryant and Zillman, 1983; Goldstein,
1983; Young and Smith, 1988-89). This is surprising given the dramatic influence that sport has been suggested to have on the
development of important cultural values. Moreover, the lack of research in the area of sport when compared to other forms of
televisual violence appears conspicuous given that it is the degree of reality that appears to be a key feature of whether or not
violence is likely to be modeled or copied (Barron, 1977). Several conditions that enhance the "degree of reality" with respect
to reproducing aggression have been identified including: when an act is novel/unique, when it is realistically presented, when it
appears justified, when the model is prestigious; when the model is rewarded (or goes unpunished); when observers perceive
they will be rewarded for the same behavior; and, when the physical and social environments portrayed are similar to those
later encountered (Barron, 1977, cited in Young and Smith, 1988-89: 299-300). Arguably "sport", its value system and the
media manufactured heroes who serve as its exemplars, embody many of these features. Thus, there may be some basis for
concern given that in a relative sense, the pain and injury inflicted upon victims of sports violence has direct tangible moral, legal,
and physical consequences. [Note: this is not to suggest that other forms of "fictional" media violence do not have effects.
Obviously, this is a very complex problem with many interacting factors). Within the context of advertising I would suggest that
the "symbolic" representation of violence by athletes may be just as, or even more, powerful than other mediated expressions of
violence because audiences are aware that these role models have demonstrated "real" violence on the field producing "real"
consequences (real blood, injury, suffering etc.). In fact, one could argue that it is the "real" violence on the playing field that, to
some extent, gives certain athletes (e.g., Dennis Rodman) their capital currency as symbolic violent perpetrators who can be
used in advertising in the first place.
The notion of the degree of reality may be sports' most
important factor but there are certainly others which justify it as a site
for the analysis of violence. For example, it is important to recognize sports': historically legitimated context for the expression
of a dominant physical masculinity (Messner, 1990), the halo effect surrounding sport as an arena entrusted for the transmission
of positive social values, the prominent but misguided theories concerning sports' cathartic function for the channeling of
undesireable aggressive tendencies, and, the perrenial reproduction of the war-sport-aggression trilogy.
Thus, sport in and of itself is an important site for
the study of violence. However, it is important to acknowledge that sport,
least elite, media dependent sport, has become an entertainment commodity. As such it is subject to the same market and
capitalist accumulation forces facing other "products", including the need to attract and enhance the size of their audience or
consumer base. In order to attract and maintain their audience the sport industry, in conjunction with its many corporate
alliances, has developed innovative marketing and advertising campaigns. As a result sporting contests have become
multidimensional entertainment and merchandising events, where the specific commodity being sold is increasingly difficult to
identify. Moreover, what is startling, upon close examination, are the similarities between the discourses of aggression and
violence within capitalism's armatures of advertising and marketing and those associated with sport. Consider the following
newspaper headlines which effectively illustrate how the very competition between rival athletic footwear companies is defined
by the media through discourses of "war and aggression".
"Campaign for British Knights to escalate sneaker wars" (Foltz ,1991)
"Shoe businesses' star-studded sneaker war" (Yorks, 1990).
"Reebok fights to be No. 1 again" (Foltz 1992)
"'Rivals' ads hammer Nike" (Magiera and Sloan (1991).
In effect, discourses of war, sport, and masculinity have
become the language of postmodern capitalism. This is evident in the
perspective of powerful individuals such as Nike's CEO, Phil Knight, who readily admits that he views his competition with
Reebok as "war without bullets". This point is reinforced in Nike's Principles better known as "The 10 Commandments" which,
among other things, informs its employees that: "We're on offense. All the time", "Perfect Results Count -- Not a perfect
process. Break the rules; fight the law"; "This is as much about battle as about business" (BBC documentary on Nike).
Similarly one of Nike's 1996 Atlanta Olympic campaigns depicted American athletes preparing for competition and being told:
"go as if going to war".
In light of these examples perhaps we should not be too
surpised that aggressive and violent themes and imagery are translated
into sport advertising campaigns. Thus, not only can Nike (and other companies) carefully select particular athletes known for
their aggressive styles, for example, Eric Cantona, (Dennis Rodman-Converse, Sean "Kamikaze" Kemp- Reebok) they can
utilize (exploit) the socially acceptable space of sport as an arena within which to engage in what Goldman and Papson (1996)
refer to as "Sign Wars"with their corporate opponents while simultaneously reproducing the link between sport and violence,
violence and masculinity and finally, sport and capitalism.
The social significance of advertising
Advertising has become the cornerstone of post-industrial,
postmodern, promotional culture. From the economic standpoint of
production it is estimated that advertising and associated sales activities now constitutes about 60% of some corporate budgets.
In the United States, for example, total advertising is estimated at about $125 billion per year which translates into about 4% of
the total Gross National Product (Harms and Kellner, 1991). And, demonstrating the overall economic significance, as well as
the need to examine production and consumption in tandem rather than in isolation, the cost of advertising is in most cases
passed on to consumers. This occurs both directly through higher prices and indirectly through the tax deductions that
corporations receive. Despite these economic implications it is important to understand some of the broader social changes that
have occurred in advertising particularly the relationship between consumers and the commodities they buy.
Historically, as our relationship with objects or commodities
has shifted from 'use' value to 'exchange' value to 'surplus' value
and now 'sign or symbolic' value, the role of advertising has also changed. Once serving to simply create awareness about
product/commodity availability and function, advertising, as part of our mediated, image-based, culture plays a symbolic role
where: "individuals depend on it for meaning - a source of social information embedded in commodities that mediate
interpersonal relations and personal identity" (Harms and Kellner, 1991: 45). Evidence of the cultural significance of advertising
is demonstrated by the fact that some advertisements cost more to produce than the television programs they support. Even
more significant are the vast number of television programs whose sole focus is advertisements (e.g., World's Funniest
Commercials, World's Naughtiest commercials, Carrot on Commercials). Such is the pervasiveness and transparency of
advertising within contemporary popular culture that it is taken for granted and often indistinguishable from other media
consumption. As Robert Goldman in his book Reading Ads Socially (1992:1) notes: "Advertisements saturate our everyday
lives...Yet, because ads are so pervasive and our reading of them so routine, we tend to take for granted the deep social
assumptions embedded in advertisments. We do not ordinarily recognize advertising as a sphere of ideology".
Conceptualizing advertising as a sphere of ideology provides
us with a more powerful framework for analyzing the links
between particular social problems and the discourses that represent, reproduce, and resist them. Indeed we can think about
ads as ideological discourses that: (1) socially and culturally construct our world; (2) disguise and suppress inequalities,
injustices, irrationalities and contradictions; (3) promote a normative vision of our world and our relationships; and, (4) reflect
the logic of capital (Goldman & Papson, 1996: 18). The problem within contemporary advertising, according to Goldman and
Papson (1996), is that:
At every turn, the pressure is on to find fresher, more desireable, and more spectacular
images to enhance the value of products...As sign value competitions intensify, advertisers
invent new strategies and push into fresh cultural territory, looking for "uncut" and
'untouched' signs. Under such circumstances no meaning system is sacred, because the
realm of culture has been turned into a giant mine (v-vi).
Arguably, one of the advertising industry's new strategies
is the appropriation and exploitation of the cultural terrain of violence.
Thus, in the "sneaker" wars, where it was once the bigger the sport celebrity the greater the sign value, the times have changed.
A few very dominant celebrities: Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson and Shaquille O'Neal have forced advertisers to find new
avenues: enter Denis Rodman, Eric Cantona and others who offer something different: something differentiating, an aggressive,
controversial image. What follows here is a brief outline of some of the ways in which violence is being commodified within
contemporary sport along with a preliminary outline of some of the types of sport-violence advertising. This is followed with an
examination of disjunctures, that is, cases where violence in sport related advertising is being challenged and resisted in one
particular market in the global economy.
Types of Sports Violence Advertising
There are several ways in which violence is used to sell
sport and sport related products. For example, violent and aggressive
images are used to promote various sports. One only needs to look at the promotional campaigns for title fights in boxing and
upcoming National Football League (N.F.L.) or National Hockey League (N.H.L.) games to see how this is played out. This
problem is also evident in recent international sport promotions. For example, in 1996, the Super League of Rugby League in
Australasia featured an advertisement depicting images of colliding sexualized, hypermasculine male bodies underscored by the
music "When Two Tribes Go to War" (originally sung by "Frankie Goes to Hollywood"). Drawing upon another Australasian
example, violence is often used not only to promote sport generally, but also specific events. Australia, for example, features an
annual series of rugby league matches between players from Queensland and New South Wales referred to the "State of
Origin" competition. The three game series features professional players from various teams around Australia returning to, and
competing for, their home state. Historically the matches have been extremely violent affairs both on and off the field (Yeates,
1992a; 1992b; 1995). In at least one instance the pre-game build up featured the best fights from previous years on the
stadium's big screen. Moreover, for several years the series has been advertised as the: "State of Origin, State of Conflict, State
Evidence of violence in the promotion of sport can also
be seen in the naming of teams and the sites where they play. For
example, team names like Raiders, Vikings, Trojans and Spartans all connote an aggressive, military image. Even sport teams
whose mascots or logos are not inherently violent appear to be attempting to represent themselves as being intimidating. For
example, the Detroit Tigers have sharpened the teeth on their logo. And, even the N.H.L.'s, Disney-owned, Anaheim franchise
has tried to make its "Mighty Duck" into an aggressive figure. Notably, at least one professional sport franchise owner is taking
a proactive lead in challenging the promotion of violence. The N.B.A.'s Washington franchise, once known as the "Bullets" is
now known as the "Wizards", a change purportedly linked to concerns about excessive violent crimine in the nation's capital.
Finally, aside from team names, notions of violence also appear in the stadiums, arenas and ballparks where sporting events
take place. For example, the Houston Astrodome and New Zealand's Carisbrook stadium are both referred to as the "House
Specifically in relation to the media there are now a
vast number of promotional videos on the market that contribute to the
commodification advertisment of violence. In Canada, former N.H.L. coach, now commentator, Don Cherry, produces an
annual video entitled: "Rock'em Sock'em", which features amongst, other things, the best hockey fights of the year. The N.F.L.
offers its "Crunch Course" video which is described as: "42 hard-hitting minutes of the NFL's outstanding defenders, past and
present, who have elevated the art of punishing ball carriers into a science". Even sport-related video games have incorporated
violence into their themes. For example, there is one game called "Blades of Steel"which allows players to hit a button in order
to start a fight within the game. In combination, these examples reveal how violence is being commodified into the
sport-media-advertising complex. As a consequence "the lines become blurred between the beauty of sporting excellence and
the beast of violence" (Jackson, 1993: 11). At this point I will describe and discuss examples of television and print
advertisements which utilize violent and aggressive images. Numerous strategies for incorporating violence into advertising
campaigns have been identified (see Jackson, 1997). For illustrative purposes I have selected three types: Humour,
Justification, Appropriation, and Masculinity. In each case a brief description of the ad is presented along with how it represents
and/or connotes violence.
Humour: Wilson Sporting Goods
The setting for the ad is a desert in ancient times. A
towering male warrior figure confronts a crowd of spectators with "Art
scowering dogs? Is there not one amongst you who is man enough to challenge me"? A young boy slowly emerges from the
crowd to face the mammoth of a man. Upon seeing the boy, the colossal figure laughs with a deep bellow. The boy takes out a
slingshot-like instrument and throws a rock which lands directly in the giant's mouth, choking and presumably killing him. The
boy then retrieves the rock which features a large engraved "W". A voice over begins which states: "It takes the right
This advertisment employs humour and expresses a moral
justification for violence. First, the audience is able to laugh at the
young boy's display of incredible accuracy using such an ancient weapon along with the insinuation that his deadly projectile, in
this case a rock, would carry an advertising logo during ancient times. And, second, the violent actions of the young boy appear
to be justified on moral grounds because the audience is led to believe that this is a triumph of Davey over Goliath, good versus
Appropriation: AMP Insurance
This New Zealand produced ad is shot almost completely
in black in white, using only sound and text. In the background we
hear the New Zealand All Black "haka", a type of pre-game battle chant, indigeneous to Maori culture, that serves as a
challenge opponents. Though the ceremony is accompanied by synchronized body movements and facial expressions, in this
case we can only hear the intimidating lyrics that have become a trademark of New Zealand's national rugby team when it
competes against other nations. As we listen to the haka a sequence of text appears on the screen that reads: "A message to the
Japanese rugby team"...."Maybe you should take out some insurance".....and then it concludes with "AMP, Insurance for the
living". Though there is no visual representation of violence in this case, there is an implied symbolic type of aggression. The
sound of the haka, given its historical meaning, signifies a pre-battle warning to the enemy or, in this case, opponent. The text
employed serves to reinforce the notion of risk and the potential threat of physical danger. This advertisement is open to critique
on a number of levels. For example, one could question the culturally insensitive appropriation and commodification of a sacred
fixture of Maori culture. Indeed, over the past few years there have been a number of debates in New Zealand about the role
of the haka in promoting violence in youth rugby as well as its appropriate future within the realm of the global,
sport-entertainment industry. The ad could also be challenged because it is constructed so as to pose a threat to members of
the Japanese national rugby team in anticipation of a forthcoming match against the New Zealand All Blacks. With respect to
the current analysis, the commercial clearly underscores the violence inherent in rugby and that participants, particularly those
who dare challenge the All Blacks, are at risk of serious injury.
Masculinity: Champion and Russell Sportswear
As final examples of the use of violence in advertising
I draw upon two print ads, one for Champion sportswear, the other for
Russell sportswear. Both ads have appeared widely in popular sports magazines, including Sports Illustrated. The two ads are
very similar in that they use shots of a football player sitting on the bench. The Champions ad shows a close up of a Chicago
Bears player wearing a practice jersey. The reader cannot see the player's face because the focus is on the heavily taped,
wrapped, and soiled hands clearly indicating that the training session was either in progress or recently completed. The
accompanying text for the ad states: "It can't be explained with X's and O's. You just take the hits and come back for more.
And when practice ends, you'll be wearing the dirtiest jersey like a badge of honor".
The second advertisement, for Russell athletic wear, shows
an aggressive looking football player, sitting on the bench wearing
tape and bandages almost identical to the previous Champion ad. The text in large, bold letters on the top of the full page photo
simply states: "Dressed to Kill". These two ads can be read as reproducing the notion that football is violent, that the sport
demands the use of physical aggression and that risk and injury are an inevitable part of the game. To this extent, the ads
reproduce dominant notions of masculinity that link male culture, physicality and warfare (for example, the Champion ad's
reference to a "badge of honor"). The Russell ad is particularly direct. Using "Dressed to Kill" as its slogan, the ad signifies that
a football player, as an elite, sport-armoured athlete, is a dangerous weapon (Messner, 1990).
Overall, these examples demonstrate several types of sport
related advertising which naturalize and reproduce a dominant
hegemonic masculinity and violence in sport. There are, of course, other ways in which violence has been articulated to
mediated sport, for example, through trivialization, glorification, gratuitous exploitation, failing to sanction, or through strategic
redefinition (Jackson, 1993). Nevertheless, regardless of how it is presented, almost without fail, advertisements which use
violence confirm a dominant image of masculinity, effectively marginalizing other masculinities and also the place of women.
Furthermore, the use of violence in sport-related advertising confirms the suspicions of some critics that the culture industries
are desperately seeking new cultural terrain from which to draw images and ideas which can attract, and in some cases shock,
potential consumers (Goldman and Papson, 1996). Yet, consumers do not always accept these new strategies and this is best
illustrated by use of examples which show how violence in advertising is being challenged and resisted within the global
economy. Here, I briefly discuss two examples of recent advertisements that were challenged, through official broadcasting
policy, in New Zealand.
Sport, Violence and Advertising in the Global Economy
As noted at the outset of the paper there have been increasing
concerns about the impact of globalization and the potential
negative effects of global commodities on local culture. One of the global commodities which has been the subject of immense
debate is mediated violence. Media critics, both domestic and international, have warned of the negative impact of violence in
movies, cartoons, and other television programs. Curiously, neither sport, nor advertising have received much attention in
debates about violence. However, in New Zealand, which has quickly gained a reputation for upholding one of, if not, the most
conservative (and arguably hypocritical and contradictory) state broadcast policies with respect to mediated violence (Weaver,
1996) advertising has become a focal point of concern. Strikingly, though violence in sport per se, is rarely the subject of
attack, the violence in sport shoe advertising has become something of a phenomenon. In the past five years, no less than six
sport related ads have either been officially banned and/or, voluntarily withdrawn, due to rulings citing the issue of violence.
Arguably, the banning of these "globally" produced violent commodities can serve as an important site for the analysis of what
can be referred to as a global/local disjuncture. Herein, I use the term disjuncture to represent points of incongruency, conflict
and resistance when global processes and products encounter local cultures.
In order to understand the global/local disjunctures with
respect to violence in sport advertising in New Zealand it is important
to have some understanding of the nation's contemporary mediascape. Following deregulation in 1988, there was increasing
pressure on state owned media industries, including television, to fulfill two mandates (Butterworth, 1989). The first was to be
commercially viable and return a profit to the government. The second was to play a key role in cultivating and protecting New
Zealand culture and identity. Significantly, the task of balancing these two, seemingly oppositional roles, was becoming
increasingly difficult given that deregulation opened the doors to foreign ownership, more television networks and, in turn, more
air time to fill (Spicer, Powell and Emanuel, 1996). One consequence of these changes was the fact that more programming
had to be imported. And, with importation there were concerns about the quantity and quality of New Zealand television (Bell,
1996; Lealand, 1991). Judging by the amount of media coverage it has received, clearly one of the main concerns was the level
of violence on television.
In order to monitor the quality of foreign and domestic
television programming, New Zealand established several regulatory
bodies. These included the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). While
the BSA handled general television programming, the ASA dealt specifically with advertising policy. Given that the ASA
consisted of a self-regulatory body of advertising related groups it was clear that an independent monitoring agency needed to
be established. Consequently, in March 1988, the ASA established the Advertising Standards Complaints Board (ASCB). The
ASCB consists of 4 members of the public (including a voting chairperson) and 4 representatives of the media and/or
advertising agencies. It has three main functions: (1) To adjudicate on complaints received about advertisements which may be
in breach of the Codes of Practice; (2) To advise the ASA on interpretation of the Codes and possible improvements to the
Codes; and, (3) To report to the ASA on any aspect of advertising which is causing a problem. Next, prior to examining
specific cases studies of global/local disjuncture I briefly outline the local process and codes involved in getting television
advertisments to air.
All televised advertisements in New Zealand must be approved
by the Television Commercials Approvals Bureau (TVCAB)
which provides guidance and a rating system for various advertisements. However, even if an ad makes it to air, any member of
the public can submit a complaint if they feel that any of the established codes of advertising practice have been breached.
Once a complaint has been made to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board, all interested parties are allowed to make
submissions and the board, based on the existing codes, renders a decision.
Notably, there are several codes which refer, either generally
or specifically, to violence. Two of the key codes of ethics which
are often cited in cases complaints against violence are #4 Decency and #5 Honesty. The code for Decency states:
"Advertisements shall not contain statements or visual presentations which clearly offend against prevailing standards of decency
or cause undue offence to the community or to a significant section of the community" ((Advertising Codes of Practice,
1995:14). The code for Honesty states: "Advertisements must be framed so as not to abuse the trust of the consumer or
exploit his/her lack of experience or knowledge" and, more specifically, "Advertisments must not contain anything which lends
support to acts of violence" (1995: 14). From the cases examined to date, a key factor in the decision making process appears
to be whether the ASCB decides that an ad will be offensive to a significant section of the community. At this point I will
draw upon two specific case studies which illustrate how violence in advertising can be located within discussions about a
global/local disjuncture. In both cases, I will provide a description of the advertisement, the basis of the complaint made, the
defense offered and the final ruling of the ASCB.
Case Study 1: Lynx Footwear (Pit-bull terrier)
This 1994 ad begins with a shot of a Pit bull terrier
snarling angrily and rushing at the camera which is positioned to represent
the audience. Suddenly, the dog is confronted by a Lynx shoe which is animated in the form of a lynx cat. At the sight of the
lynx cat the dog retreats and runs off whimpering, with a text slogan appearing stating that: "The Cat Wins in the End". The
Complainant in this case felt that the ad violated Rule 7 that prohibits playing on fear and lending support to acts of violence
(Advertising Standards Complaints Board, Complaint: 94/133, 1994).
In its defense the advertiser argued that it had sent
in a script to the TVCAB for approval and was given permission to air the
commercial in late evening slots. The ad, developed by the Rodger Richmond and Associations agency, was trialed in Australia
using focus groups who were said to have found it different and humorous given that there is twist on the "cat" scaring the "dog".
The media placement agency, Foote, Cone and Belding Ltd said: "The commercial was produced in Australia for use in
Australia and New Zealand." They also argued that: "Considering Australia and New Zealand's similar population
demographics, we believe this result would prevail in New Zealand also".
In reaching its decision the Advertising Complaints Board
ruled that "images of a dog attacking a camera/shoe/cat were not
acceptable"..... because...."use of such scenes was purely gratuitous". Also, "The Board did not agree with the advertiser's
comments that tracking studies in Australia were applicable to the New Zealand public's perception of the advertisement". "The
Board was of the opinion that this advertisement would offend a significant section of the community particularly given the
documented violence of some dogs". Thus, the Lynx shoe ad was banned because the violence represented was defined as
gratuitous. However, it is important to acknowledge two other important features of the ASCB's decision. First, the Board
made it clear that ads developed for the Australian market cannot automatically be assumed to be acceptable in New Zealand,
thus highlighting the notion of a global/local disjuncture. And, second the ASCB specifically refers to the "documented violence
of some dogs" a point which reforces the significance of "context" in reaching decisions. Notably, the issue of dog attacks had
gained quite a profile in both domestic and international news in 1994.
Case Study 2: Lynx Shoes (Canary)
Another 1994 Lynx shoe advertisement was also removed
from New Zealand television screens although it was not officially
banned per se. The advertisement featured a man in Lynx shoes standing on a sidewalk under a tree. As he stands we can hear
a canary singing. After looking around, the man uses his powerful Lynx shoes to jump into the tree. The scene ends with silence
and feathers falling to the ground.
The complainant in this case was the Society for the Protection
of Cruelty to animals (SPCA) which argued that the ad did not
"promote a healthy respect for the treatment of animals" (Advertising Standards Complaints Board, Complaint:
94/149, 1994). However, unlike the previous Lynx case, this particular advertisement was voluntarily recalled by the
company prior to a full hearing by the ASCB. In this case the Chairman of ASC Board cited a letter from Foote, Crone and
Belding Ltd., (the Lynx Ad placement firm) stating that the advertiser had instructed them to withdraw the "canary" Lynx
advertisement. Though we do not know for sure, it is most likely that Lynx, Inc. came to the realization that the codes in New
Zealand were definitely different than Australia. Having already had one ad banned they probably sensed that the second ad
would meet with the same fate and voluntarily withdrawing it could prevent any additional unwanted negative publicity.
Compared to many advertisements that appear on New Zealand television, the Lynx commercials seem quite innocent and
humorous. Obviously there is something about the "local" context of New Zealand's mediascape that is influencing the decision
to bad these ads. Next, I consider some of the potential contradictions involved in the local banning of global sport
On the one hand New Zealand could be applauded for assuming
a very proactive role in restricting mediated violence in its
multitude of manifestations. However, it is important to recognize that New Zealand's mediascape does not exist in a social
vacuum and that there are likely to be local hegemonies influencing the decisions to accept and restrict particular types of global
mediated commodities. Here, I identify several potential contradictions in local broadcast policies and decisions regarding
First, as previously mentioned media critics in New Zealand
often attack the violence in "fictional" portrayals as in cartoons,
movies and, as in this case, sport related advertisements. For example, media activists were successful in banning the popular
American action adventure cartoon "Power Rangers" from New Zealand television screens. Yet, rarely do these same critics
challenge the "real" violence within popular local sports such as rugby union and rugby league. The glorification of sports heroes
engaging in violent and aggressive behaviour should warrant at least as much, and arguably much more, attention than cartoons,
films and movies. Thus, while the concern about violence in sport-related advertisements which feature popular sport heroes
certainly appears warranted, we should not ignore the violence within the very sports which make these individuals heroes in the
Second, there appears to be some evidence to suggest that
"global", largely "American" mediated commodities are perceived
and labelled as being more violent than similar domestic products, thus demonstrating a local bias. No doubt it is possible that
New Zealand media commodities: films, sport and advertisements, are indeed less violent than those imported and certainly one
would expect this given the strict codes being enforced. However, this is clearly not always the case and there are several
examples from movies (Once We're Warriors, Heavenly Creatures), action adventure programs (Xena and Hercules, while
"American" in origin, are produced in New Zealand), sport (rugby union and rugby league) and even advertisements (there are
a number of locally produced advertisements which are, arguably, just as violent as some of the global ads currently being
Third, contradictions are also evident within the Television
Commercials Approvals Bureau (TVCAB) and the Advertising
Standards Complaints Board (ASCB) in terms of the enforcement of their policies. For example, though I have not discussed it
in detail within this paper, there is a case where the TVCAB and ASCB prohibited a Reebok shoe commercial from television
but approved it for screening in local movie theatres. Their justification, was simply that there are two different sets of rules for
screening advertisements in television and movie cinemas. While this is certainly true, the reasons behind the policy are not
clearly outlined. Likewise, there appears to be some contradiction in banning the likes of the Lynx shoe commercials on the
basis of violence while allowing trailers or promos for extremely violent movies to be shown.
As a fourth, though certainly not final example of a contradiciton
in local broadcasting censorship regulations, I note that one of
the major criteria used by the ASCB to determine the suitability of an ad is whether or not it would be offensive to "a
significant section of the community". Yet it is difficult to imagine how they are able to determine this particularly in cases
where a single complaint is laid and given the basic constitution of the Board itself. That is, how can a group of eight individuals
truly represent and judge the sensitivities of "a significant section of the community"? Consider for example, the case of a
British Knights Dymacel basketball shoe ad which featured N.B.A. star Derek Coleman (ASCB Case: #96/106, 1993).
Without going into too much detail, the complainant in the case argued that the advertisement promoted anti-gay sentiments and
appeared to provide a very good justification. However, in his ruling, the ASCB Chairman asserted that "I am confident that
[the complainants] sensitivities are not shared by a significant section of the community". Further analysis of this case is
necessary particularly in relation to board members' basis for determing what might, or might not, be offensive to a significant
section of the community. Likewise, there is a need to determine the nature and extent to which "global" media products are
defined as threats in order to protect and serve "local" political agendas.
Advertising, as a privileged form of discourse, provides
a cultural kaleidascope through which we can examine social relations,
the construction and confirmation of identities and the appropriation of increasingly shocking and controversial themes, through
which the logic and power relations of capitalism are negotiated and reproduced. Arguably, the study of violence in
sport-related advertising can inform us about existing power relations, the social construction of masculinity and the nature of
The use of violence in advertising may be a phase that
the industry is going through but given that advertising draws upon
cultural themes and artefacts constitutive of everyday life, it should not be trivialized or ignored. Nor, should we overlook the
contradictory framework within which violence is reproduced through mediated sport, including advertising. On the one hand
the media may use voilence in sport as a means of attracting audiences who are then sold to advertisers. At the same time
particular institutional segments of the media may criticize violence which, in fact, they themselves are producing. And, to further
highlight the complexity and incestuous nature of the sport, media, advertising relationship it is important to recognize that the
media are supported by advertisers who have an increasingly central role in owning the sporting events, stadiums, players and
networks through which their products are represented and circulated. As such advertising reveals that violence can be
"contained within a strategic, yet contradictory framework" (Jackson, 1993: 11). Furthermore, highlighting the need for media
critics to pay attention to contemporary advertising, Goldman and Papson (1996: v) note that:
In the world of parity goods, if the sign doesn't stand out, neither will the product. Battles
in the cola wars, the phone wars, credit car wars, and so on, have become less about the
products themselves than about their signifying imagery. The weapons of choice in the
contemporary sign wars are aesthetic differentiation and aesthetic attack.
If there is any truth to the aesthetic argument put forth
by Goldman and Papson then we need to give some careful
consideration to the extent to which the blurring of the fantasy of sport as it becomes more of an entertainment commodity, and
the reality of Hollywood and Madison Avenue, as their technologies facilitate the further exploitation of cultural artefacts that
constitute part of our personal memory and collective sense of history. Hopefully, this admittedly preliminary analysis will
encourage additional studies in the future. As a starting point, I close the paper with a few research questions which hopefully
stimulate further research in this area.
Future Research Questions:
1. Historically, at what point, and as a consequence of
what social forces, did contemporary advertising begin to appropriate
violence as a means of selling commodities?
2. To what extent does the need to use violence to sell
commodities impact on: (a) consumers/the audience; and, (b) cultural
values both within and outside of sport.
3. To what extent is the culture of violence articulated
to the ideology of postmodern capitalism in order to legitimize its strategy
for efficiency, productivity, and profit.
4. How is the culture of commodified violence articulated to various identities: national, gender, racial/ethnic etc.?
5. What is the basis of disjuncture with respect to the
violence in sport related advertising within the global economy? In
particular: (a) how are "American" companies able to use their exaggerated portrayals of authentic American culture and
identity (e.g., through violent images of African American athletes) to appeal to foreign markets; and, alternatively, (b) what are
the politics and contradictions of local broadcasting codes that censor/ban global (American) violent products?
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