June 10, 2014 -- Commuters in Melbourne, Australia got a surprise this morning when they spotted a giant Jesus hot-air balloon emerging from the clouds.
The Jesus was seen wearing an Australian soccer jersey donning the Sportsbet logo with the slogan #KEEPTHEFAITH.
Sportsbet, an Australian online gambling website, said its 151-foot tall replica of Brazil’s famous landmark will give a dose of intervention for the Australia national association football team this week.
The marketing campaign outraged some politicians and business executives.
Rev Costello, the chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, told Yahoo! Australia that the stunt was an overreach and against the principles Jesus stood.
"One of the great statues in Rio is Jesus, and Brazil is a Catholic nation that takes its faith seriously and its football fanatically," Costello said.
"You don't exploit those things that are sacred to people simply for your own advertising reach and I think that soccer as a world game should be sensitive to that and certainly express their disdain for these types of advertisements."
Sportsbet spokesman Matthew Campbell told Yahoo! Australia that the balloon, which stands 53 feet taller than the real status on top of Rio’s Corcovado Mountain, is less about gambling than about supporting the Socceroos.
This is not the first time that the gambling company has stirred up controversy over marketing campaigns. Last year, Sportsbet promoted a rugby clash between Australia and Britain with a giant sign sprayed on a paddock near the Melbourne Airport depicting the two countries’ lion and wallaby mascots copulating, accompanied by a slogan #ROOTINGFOROZ.
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