Vodafone sorry over streaking sponsorship

VODAFONE Group apologised yesterday for unwittingly encouraging two streakers to run into the middle of a Tri-nations rugby match wearing nothing but the phone company's logo.

Vodafone, sponsor of the Australian Wallabies rugby team, said it sanctioned plans for a cheeky public relations stunt ahead of Saturday's Bledisloe Cup match against New Zealand. But the company said it did not know the two men would do anything illegal.

Vodafone’s Australian managing director Grahame Maher said he took a call from “a guy called Brett” last week who asked if the company would back a publicity stunt, but did not give details.

“This is not what we wanted to happen, this is not the outcome we expected,” said Maher, who is well known for his publicity stunts.

“I'm apologising for my part in it, which was taking the call and encouraging him to do something.”

The streakers ran on to the field at the Olympic stadium, which is sponsored by dominant Australian telecom company Telstra Corp Ltd, and disrupted play until they were caught by security.

Both had the Vodafone logo and the brand-name of a new mobile product painted on their bodies.

The streakers crashed the game just as a New Zealand player was preparing to take a crucial penalty kick, which he missed when play resumed. Australia won 16-14 to retain the Bledisloe Cup.

A police spokeswoman said one man was charged with obscene exposure and bailed to appear in court on August 22. The second man was issued with an infringement notice. Police were investigating further but refused to say whether any action would be taken against Vodafone.

The Australia Rugby Union (ARU) distanced Vodafone from the prank and accused the “real culprits” of irresponsible behaviour.

“In this instance there has been an error of judgment in relation to a promotion and we have accepted an apology in that regard,” an ARU official said in a statement.

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