A major All Blacks sponsor on Thursday cancelled a campaign urging New Zealand sports fans give up sex to support their team during the World Cup, after a public backlash.
Telecom had planned to launch campaign next week, featuring slogans such as "abstain for the game", describing it as a light-hearted attempt to galvanise support for the All Blacks during the tournament, which begins next month.
But the idea of putting sex in the sin bin met widespread opposition in the World Cup host nation, with Prime Minister John Key saying it was "living proof that not every advertising dollar is worth the money it's spent on".
Former All Black skipper Brian Lochore described the campaign as "crass", while a New Zealand Herald online poll asking fans if they would forego sex generated 17,000 hits, with 92 percent responding: "No, are you kidding?".
The idea of a sex ban in predominantly rural New Zealand also reportedly generated mirth among fans the All Black's rivals South Africa, with Springboks fans posting on the Internet that they were "just happy for the sheep".
Telecom's retail Chief Executive Alan Gourdie admitted on Thursday that the company had misread the public mood and announced it had been cancelled, apologising for any offence caused.
"We designed the ‘Abstain’ campaign with the best of intentions and attempted to strike a humorous tone in order to rally even more support behind the All Blacks, but we got it wrong," he said in a statement.
"We misjudged public feeling, which in reaction to yesterday’s partial revelations in the news media was overwhelmingly negative.
"No excuses. We caused offence to some people, and for that we apologise."
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