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'The Missile' misses ad's mark

Not only do athletes like swimmer James Magnussen carry the country on their shoulders, they also have their sponsor's image to maintain.

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AUSTRALIA's largest bank is standing by James ''the Missile'' Magnussen and its ad campaign that serves as an unfortunate reminder of the swimmer's shortcomings in London.

In the Commonwealth Bank ads, the letters ''C'', ''A'' and ''N'' run after Magnussen, praising him before the letter ''T'' joins them and starts raising his doubts.

The ads were still getting some play on Channel Nine, despite Magnussen missing out on a medal with his swimming compatriots in the 4x100m freestyle relay yesterday, a race where the foursome were raging favourites.

<em>Illustration: Cathy Wilcox</em>

Illustration: Cathy Wilcox

The Commonwealth Bank's chief marketing officer, Andy Lark, said he had ''absolutely'' no intention of changing or dumping the ad but that more ads featuring its other ''ambassadors'' would appear soon.

''We would not judge him on one event. It wouldn't be fair and it is not about that,'' Mr Lark said.

But the awkward juxtaposition has not gone unnoticed. ''The T has been vindicated!'' one wag wrote next to the ad on the bank's YouTube page.

But despite him misfiring, sponsorship experts said that Magnussen - still one of the fastest men in the water - remains a bankable star.

''I certainly don't think brands or the public would be walking away just because they [Olympic athletes] had an off night,'' said Lynne Anderson, the Australia and New Zealand managing director of sponsorship analysts Repucom International.

''While we love an underdog story like the women's [relay team], we also know that we are not going to win every time.''

Mr Lark said the ads would continue to run around Magnussen's races but that the bank would start ''rotating other ads starring athletes'', such as the hockey player Jodie Schulz and the javelin thrower Kim Mickle.

''The campaign is not about one swimmer,'' he said. ''It is about promoting the kind of attitude of these athletes.''

The Olympics has unleashed an orgy of ads for corporate Australia, with Telstra, Coles, McDonald's and Qantas all putting to air tailor-made ads for the Games.

The general manager of Sweeney Research, Chris Styring, said success on the field or in the pool was only one of several things a sponsor would look at before signing an athlete, such as their behaviour when they were not competing.