Australian wine brand, Jacob’s Creek, recently announced the appointment of former Australian international cricketer Brett Lee as brand ambassador.
This follows Jacob’s Creek partnering with the International Cricket Council as its official wine partner for events till 2023.
We caught up with Lee to learn more about this association and also quizzed him about his use of social media and his view of trolls on the medium, whether cricketers' form is affected by too many brand endorsements, why he's a favourite for many Indian brands and more...
You have just been appointed as brand ambassador for Jacob’s Creek. What made you a perfect fit for the brand and what do we have in store?
I’ve always been a wine fan. When you become of drinking age in Australia, generally, wine isn’t first on the list, but as you get older and more mature with your tastebuds, you enjoy sitting down and having a nice glass of wine.
I’ve enjoyed having a glass of wine over the last 20 years. I can understand the different complexities of the wine, how it's made, and that’s a lot of fun. I’ve also been a ‘friend of the brand’ for the last couple of years but officially became a global brand ambassador only a few days ago. It’s the official ICC wine partner and it’s exciting.
Even though Australia is a fierce on-field rival for the Indian cricket team, you've been signed on by several Indian brands as an ambassador. What do you believe makes you an attractive proposition for Indian brands?
First and foremost, it’s respect for the country. I’ve been going to India for more than 20 years now, since the age of 17. I love the culture, the people, the food and take a keen interest in the beautiful country. That’s why I’m pretty well accepted there.
In India, when the Indian team is losing, a lot of the viewers overreact and tend to believe the performance of the players would be down because they're interested in making money through advertising. Is this something that happens in Australia too?
I don’t think so. When you play cricket, you are a cricketer. When I looked at things – I always focus purely on the ground and the game of cricket. When I focused on what I did on ground, off the field activities would take care of itself. If you’re not taking wickets, you aren’t going to be a brand ambassador at the top of the tree. So, you got to make sure that the cricket is good and healthy.
Sometimes, people do get the balance wrong. There are sportspeople (not just cricketers) around the world that take the ambassador role (and many of them) before the hard work of the sport.
My advice is - focus on the sport and do well, the rest will take care of itself.
Your use of social media - do you use different mediums differently? Do you use it a lot to interact with your fans? Or is it more so to promote brand endorsements?
It’s a balance of the two. When one needs to get a story out in the public, the quickest and easiest way is social media. It’s the way the world has gone and the way we get up to date fast. To think that you can advertise on your own social media channels and have a say in what you do – that’s important. It’s wonderful that you can build a following.
But on social media, people don’t want to see just ‘brand, brand, brand’, they want to see you as a person as well.
Trolling is an issue that does bother athletes with some opting to quit because of it. Did it ever bother you during your career?
Someone’s comments are a way to express their frustration or their delight. You take the good with the bad and I tend not to read too much into it.
It’s the mindset of the person reading them. If you can’t take the criticism, whether it’s true or false, then you shouldn’t be on social media.
Have you come across any brand endorsement deals that you turned down? If yes, which ones?
Yes, there have been. They are as recent as last week, but I don’t want to name the category or the brand. When I don’t believe in a category, I don’t promote it. To promote something successfully, you have to love it and believe in it. People can see through you when you’re not telling the truth.
Through UnIndian you've also had an acting stint. What was that experience like? Any other acting assignments coming up?
UnIndian was a fun experience and films is one category that I get offered a lot, with several different opportunities every year. To do films, you need to be away from home for three or four months, and with me already working in India with Star Sports, I don’t have that kind of time.
I enjoyed becoming an actor with UnIndian, but I’d say I was an actor every time I entered the cricket field. I was essentially doing things that people would see on the cricket field but I was very different off the field. I am quite relaxed and not aggressive and I like having fun.
Any dream brands that you would want to work with?
I’m working with them! Why would I never want to work with a brand like Jacob’s Creek, which is an iconic Australian brand? I consider myself fortunate to be aligned with this clean brand.
If you had to define the brand 'Brett Lee' in a sentence, what would it be?
I would like to think I’m genuine because I don’t allow myself to endorse something I don’t believe in. I’d like to believe I’m fun as well. I hope that I’m a strong brand too, one that can cut and reach through to the particular markets.
I’ve built 20-25 years of trust and I know one can lose that overnight. So, I know that I have to be careful with how I conduct myself.
Finally, we can't let you go without answering this one - which team will win the T20 Men's World Cup?
I’ve put India down as firm favourites. Even though they lost by 10 wickets against Pakistan, I believe they have a very strong side. And of course, Australia too!