Last week the CEO of bookmaker Paddy Power, Patrick Kennedy, announced that he’ll be standing down in April 2015 after 10 years in charge. To commemorate this, and following on from the recent Oscar Pistorius debacle, here’s a countdown of the top 5 Paddy Power media stunts and why they’re so great:
#5: Roy the Redeemer
What: A huge 108 foot structure of the England football manager was assembled on the White Cliffs of Dover during Euro 2012, where England’s opening game was against France. The structure itself could be seen from the neighbouring country.
Why: This has arguably been Paddy Power’s strangest stunt to date, yet created a huge amount of traction in the national press during the tournament. Maybe the marketing team now wish that they’d saved this one to promote the brand during the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, but it went down a treat nevertheless.
#4: Sir Alex Ferguson Returns
What: After Manchester United’s first season without Sir Alex Ferguson looked like it was heading for certain failure in January of this year, Paddy Power offered Fergie back to the club. They created a waxwork model of the ex-manager with the slogan “In case of emergency break glass” and placed it outside Old Trafford.
Why: This stunt goes to show how Paddy Power can understand the public Zeitgeist and create an innovative and headline-grabbing piece of marketing. It cost a minimal amount but received a priceless amount of amplification through social media.
#3: London 2012 Official Sponsors
What: During London 2012 Paddy Power ran an outdoor campaign in and around major London terminals stating that it was “The official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London this year”. The London in question wasn’t the English capital, but instead a town in France called London where an annual egg and spoon race is held.
Why: The 2012 Olympics had very strict rules that restricted non-sponsors from associating themselves with the Games, and Paddy Power was threatened with legal action if it refused to take down the campaign. It held out, and LOCOG eventually dropped its case, allowing the adverts to continue their run. In retort, Paddy Power commented that “It’s an honour to support the biggest athletics event in London this year. We’re looking forward to a competitive and fun event where our athletes can wear, eat and drink whatever they want!”.
#2: Lucky Underwear
What: Nicklas Bendtner pulled down his shorts during a Euro 2012 game after scoring for his native Denmark in a game against Portugal. His underwear was green and branded with Paddy Power lettering.
Why: Bendtner was fined a whopping £80,000 for the stunt. Paddy Power called the fine a “hysterical and deeply cynical move by the UEFA Pants Police” and that the governing body was demanding such a high amount in order to satisfy the demands of its sponsors. Paddy Power refused to let Bendtner pay the fine and offered up the £80,000 itself.
#1: The Cleeve Hill Hollywood Sign
What: Paddy Power erected what was the world’s largest free standing advertising board on a hill behind Cheltenham racecourse during the 2010 festival. The letters were larger than the actual Hollywood sign and Paddy Power wasn’t a sponsor of the event
Why: Rival bookmakers that paid to sponsor the festival were furious, as well as Cheltenham’s organisers. Channel 4 refused to broadcast wide, panoramic-style shots of the racecourse so as to not give Paddy Power free publicity during Gold Cup week. This stunt was simply one that people could not avoid. The sign has since been seen in other locations, but court orders have meant that it’s been taken down hastily.
Regarding complaints, Paddy Power’s global marketing director once said that “The complaints are never from your own consumers… and actually if we don’t get complaints we’re quite disappointed.” The advertiser realises that the initial investment in a piece of outdoor or experiential advertising only needs to be small, but if the idea is good, it can attract attention of the national press and users online across the globe.
Everybody seems to hate Paddy Power, yet everybody seems to love Paddy Power at the same time. Whichever camp you’re in, let’s hope that the next CEO doesn’t extinguish its flame of risk and creativity.