Irish bookmakers Paddy Power hit the headlines last month after their latest stunt - a fake football kit. Over the past few years, the mischief makers have staged a series of PR accomplishments, each more extravagant and provocative than the last. There may be mixed opinions on their marketing methodology, but there is no denying that they drum up headlines and achieve substantial brand awareness with each campaign.
The company’s latest strategy involved Huddersfield Town, one of the Premier League’s relegation casualties at the end of last season. During July, the club revealed their new kit for the upcoming season, with one very prominent detail - a large Paddy Power sponsorship logo across the front of the shirt.
The reveal was immediately picked up by the media and fans alike, with some claiming that the shirt was ‘the worst they’d ever seen’, and others joking that the club were entering a ‘beauty pageant’, with the sash-like sponsorship logo. Huddersfield, however, weren’t deterred by the negative press, debuting the shirts in their pre-season match against Rochdale, to the horror of football fans worldwide.
A few days later (once the story had been covered in practically every football publication) the sponsor and club revealed that *shock* the shirt had been a clever marketing ploy, thought up by Paddy Power to promote their ‘Save Our Shirt’ campaign.
Not only was this an ingenious way to create marketing buzz surrounding Paddy Power’s first shirt sponsorship, it also highlighted an important message that club shirts have been taken over by sponsors, and instead should be given back to fans. Since the Save Our Shirt campaign started, other clubs such as Motherwell have also opted to go sponsorless for the season, while Man City wore sponsorless anniversary shirts for the Community Shield, both of which show the effectiveness of the campaign.
Sticking with the football theme, another daring creation involved a 100ft structure situated on the cliffs of Dover; a construction of former (but then current) England manager Roy Hodgson. The model was a nod to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, with the Hodgson structure mirroring the South American one. The thinking behind it was that since the Rio statue’s unveiling in 1931, Brazil has become the most successful footballing nation in the world. By mirroring the structure, the hope was that a Hodgson double would lead England to the same glory in the 2012 Euros.
Sadly, it was not to be, as England were beaten on penalties by Italy in the quarter final stage. Every cloud has a silver lining, though, as the football world was once again talking about Paddy Power.
Not content with only directing their sporting mischief towards football, the comedic campaign masters also tried their hand with a rugby campaign targeting the 2019 Six Nations. Specifically, the highly anticipated England v Ireland match. This time, the campaign took a political turn, owing to the recent uncertainties surrounding Brexit. Adverts were placed on the streets of Dublin and in Paddy Power stores, with statements that read: “Sorry for the last two years of pain, suffering and humiliation. Another 798 and we'll be even.” They even went as far as installing a pop-up passport office, making light of the amount of UK citizens applying for a passport from another EU country following the referendum.
Continuing with the political theme, Donald Trump’s 2016 visit to Scotland provided the perfect backdrop for Paddy Power trickery. After his infamous comments about wanting to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, it was only fitting for the then-Presidential candidate to be met with a typical Scottish welcome - a Mexican boy band.
Not even royalty can escape the wrath of the provocateurs. Back in 2013, the world waited with baited breath to see what the first child of Prince William and Kate Middleton would be called, and not one to miss out on the excitement, Paddy Power also joined in, sending a group of royal babies around London.
Not only did the adult-sized (and rather terrifying) babies visit St Mary’s hospital, where the Duke and Duchess were welcoming their first child, they also decided to do the rounds throughout London, visiting all the usual royal haunts such as Buckingham Palace, Kensington High Street and of course, the Queen’s favourite - the London tube.
No matter how controversial their ideas, there’s no denying that Paddy Power’s ‘shockvertising’ strategy works. Humour sells and is a great way to get people involved with whatever event is taking place, by interacting on social media or commenting on the buzz surrounding a campaign.