Strangest Advertising Stunts by Betting Companies (Mostly Paddy Power)
Publicity is something that just about all companies try to acquire, as much of it as they can get. Whether that’s good or bad publicity doesn’t often make much difference, because at the end of the day, the main focus of this is to get people talking about their brand. Betting companies are also responsible for coming up with a variety of advertising campaigns, big stunts and activities to generate interest and talk about their online sites. This has led to some bizarre and interesting advertising stunts to come to the fore.
And this is precisely what we’re going to be looking at today – the strangest advertising stunts pulled by betting companies. The likelihood is that you will already be aware of some of these, and there is no doubt that companies such as Paddy Power will feature quite heavily, considering this brand is frequently being pulled up for offensive advertisements and off-the-path campaigns. Only recently did it have an advertisement banned for promoting gambling over family life. Of course, there will be other companies included in this collection too, so let’s take a look at some of the strangest to have occurred.
Paddy Power and Nicklas Bendtner’s Pants
They always say that sex sells, and clearly Paddy Power was looking to lure some people in by putting branded pants on to former footballer Nicklas Bendtner. The Danish player, who once claimed that he was as much of a powerhouse on the pitch as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo while playing for Arsenal, was cheered on by former boss Arsene Wenger as one of the team’s best. And sure enough Bendtner was good, but his off-pitch lifestyle ended up taking over, with the player attending multiple late-night parties (one of which saw him with his trousers down to his ankles in 2009).
Yet it was in the Euro 2012 competition that Bendtner was part of a publicity stunt for a gambling brand. While playing for his home country of Denmark in a game against Portugal, he managed to score two goals during the group stage match. And upon doing so, he dropped his football shorts in a supposed celebration to display a pair of green Paddy Power-emblazoned underpants. The stunt saw him banned for a single game and fined €100,000 by UEFA, although this was covered by the betting company when it received its own fair share of publicity once it occurred on the pitch.
Portugal managed to win that match 3-2 in the end, but much of the focus during and after the game was on Bendtner’s boxers. The footballer said that they were “just a pair of lucky boxer shorts”, but clearly UEFA didn’t see the funny side of things. Paddy Power said that it was “appalled” by the severity of the fine that was handed out to him for displaying the boxers. Later on, the betting company commented that he “should not suffer as a result of UEFA’s double standards”, although this particular stunt by the player was quite light in comparison to some of his other outings.
Greenland, a Pair of Dice and a Free Bet
There is little doubt that the gambling world is quite saturated with companies all wanting to be known as the biggest and the best. This can make it quite tough for new brands to get the recognition that they want, as the bigger companies tend to take up a lot of the advertising space. Yet the Gnuf website wasn’t about to let this stand in the way. Wanting to ensure everyone was able to take notice of it, the company splashed out on quite the advertising campaign.
This saw it fly two huge dice up one side of a mountain in Greenland via helicopter. The dice were then released from the top and allowed to roll down. Bettors were then challenged to sign up for an account at the new Gnuf sportsbook and receive a free bet on the outcome of the dice once they had stopped rolling down the mountain.
The campaign, which was entitled as “The World’s Greatest Dice Roll”, was thought up by Acne, a Swedish ad agency. It was aired in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand in 2007. The dice involved were each more than two metres tall and weighed half a ton, and users were able to watch their decent down the mountain in Nuuk, with the results of the roll being promised to be revealed in October of that year.
The video for the dice drop can still be seen on YouTube today, although there is little that can be said for the Gnuf platform. It has since closed down after being labelled “the roguest of the rogues”, having been highlighted as one that didn’t follow through with payments for both players and affiliates, having poor customer support and a history of highly unethical behaviour!
An Octopus That Breaks Down?
Betfair is already one of the best-known gambling brands in the world, and perhaps a stunt in 2014 led to it becoming even more appreciated. Several years ago, people were becoming amazed by a real-life octopus called Paul, who was accurately predicting the results at the 2010 World Cup. And Betfair saw an opportunity to cash-in on the popularity and worldwide acclaim of Paul by crafting a giant replica octopus. It was constructed and placed on the back of a lorry to be sent to its final destination for the publicity stunt in question.
Unfortunately, that destination was never reached and ultimately never became known, because the lorry carrying the octopus broke down enroute. And it didn’t just break down anywhere – but in the centre of Oxford Circus in London, one of the busiest and most photographed locations in the world. Breaking down at any time of day is never good, but this lorry stopped moving at 9am, right in the middle of rush hour traffic. Chaos was caused for other commuters, with Transport for London having to advise people to find other ways to get to their destinations.
Betfair stated that it was sorry for “any inconvenience” that the lorry and octopus replica caused. But one thing came of it – everyone was talking about both the breakdown and Betfair. A win for the betting company, without a doubt.
Paddy Power Gives the Amazon ‘a Brazilian’
Here we are with the second of Paddy Power’s PR stunts, and this one relates to the Amazon rainforest. Known as the world’s largest rainforest (and one that has for years been reduced by humans culling its trees), it became the centre of an advertising campaign for the bookmaker in 2014. In June of that year, it Tweeted out a photo of a bird’s eye view of the rainforest, which had had a message carved into it that read “C’mon England PP”, working as a good luck message for the England football team in the World Cup that year.
Upon being viewed around the world, people went crazy. There was an instant backlash against Paddy Power, as people automatically assumed that the company had felled multiple trees so as to be able to carve the message into the rainforest. Calls were made for executives at the bookmaker to be killed and cut down just like the trees they had supposedly ripped up from the ground. This, of course, led to Paddy Power releasing an official statement that made people aware it had not actually cut down trees in the Amazon rainforest.
Paddy Power went even further by saying that while the images were faked, it was actually trying to also raise awareness about the deforestation taking place in the Amazon every day. It just said that it was trying to incorporate its “own little mischievous twist” into the picture in doing so. “Not a single tree was harmed in the Amazon”, said Josh Powell on the Paddy Power blog. Alongside a statement about quoting “shocking” figures from Greenpeace regarding the deforestation of the Amazon, Paddy Power released a new aerial view featuring a new message. That message? “We didn’t give the Amazon a Brazilian”.
Of course, again, this got people talking about Paddy Power, which is precisely what the company hoped would happen. Not only that, but Greenpeace proceeded to publicly thank the bookie for raising awareness of deforestation in the Amazon.
The Grim Reaper and David Moyes
David Moyes is well-known in the football world as both a former player and a current coach. He manages the West Ham United team at the moment, and previously operated in such a position for Preston North End, Everton, Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland. The Scottish coach’s tenure as manager of Everton ran from 2002 up to 2013, and it was after this that he moved to Manchester United, but only lasted there for one year. He was consistently critiqued while head of the Manchester team, thanks to what was described as a defeatist attitude. Moyes referred to the team’s biggest rivals Liverpool as “favourites” when they came to Old Trafford. He also said that Man U was “aspiring” to be the same level as Manchester City.
Knowing that his time as manager of Manchester United was coming to a close at the end of the 2013-14 season, Paddy Power opted to utilise another of its unusual stunts. Someone was hired by the bookie to dress up in a Grim Reaper costume (complete with Paddy Power shirt) and attend Goodison Park for the team’s game against Moyes’ former club Everton. He was placed within close proximity of where Moyes was, hinting that he was coming to take him away as the Man U manager for the poor job he’d been doing.
Unfortunately, the Grim Reaper was ejected from the stadium midway through the first half of the match against Everton. Yet it was quite the moment for fans to witness during the game, and it certainly brought more attention to the Paddy Power brand, too.
‘In Case of Emergency’
Paddy Power is rounding out the list here as well, with its ‘In Case of Emergency’ statue from 2014. It all came about in relation to the Manchester United team, who were seen to many victories by well-known manager Sir Alex Ferguson. While he had had quite a middling career as a professional footballer himself, there is no denying that when he turned his attention to management, the Old Trafford team benefitted immensely from his wisdom. Ferguson left as Manchester United manager in 2013, being replaced by the aforementioned David Moyes. While being hand-picked by Ferguson for the role, many people didn’t see it as a good replacement, and that showed on how well the team did during the 2013-14 season.
The former manager had implored United’s fans to support Moyes in his new role as the team’s manager, but it didn’t take long for them to turn on him following a poor start. And of course, Paddy Power leapt into action when this occurred. Never one to shy away from getting its name in the newspapers and other media, the bookmaker installed its own box outside Old Trafford, which featured a statue looking remarkably like Alex Ferguson inside. On the box were the words, “In Case of Emergency Break Glass”.
Clearly, people were impressed and found it to be amusing, considering how terribly the management of Man U had been going since Moyes took over the reins. As it happens, the glass of the box was never broken, but this didn’t stop the manager of Man United from resigning and being replaced by Ryan Giggs as caretaker until the end of that season. Perhaps some fans were hoping that Ferguson would return and pick up where he left off prior to the assignment of Moyes. Instead, Dutch coach Louis van Gaal was appointed as the new manager on a three-year contract and Giggs became his assistant as a result, announcing his own retirement as a player in the process.
‘Seen A Stadium Big Enough For A Euros Game?’
OK, well maybe this page should be called the strangest advertising stunts by Paddy Power. The next and most recent example of the Paddy Power marketing team sense of humour came during the woman’s Euro 2020 tournament.
The showpiece event held in England had come under fire for selecting largely uninspiring stadiums at a time when the woman’s game is exploding in popularity. The most bizarre venue chosen was Man City’s academy that seats just 5000 people vs the Etihad, literally next door, that seats 55,000. The fact that most of the space in the academy stadium are in standing terraces and this is not allowed by UEFA seems to make the selection even more strange, despite organisers defending the decision.
Paddy Power, as usual, were quick to take advantage. During a Euros match at the Man City academy between Belgium and Iceland they flew a 25 foot balloon in the shape of an arrow behind the stand pointing to the Etihad. The balloon stated in large writing “Anyone seen a stadium big enough to host a Euros game?”.
Most people reacted well to the joke seeing Paddy’s point that it was an ‘unacceptably low-key and unambitious stadium’. As standard the marketing team were able to use the press attention to get in some more humous jibes, adding:
“The fear of empty seats really shouldn’t put the footballing bosses off being more ambitious in their stadium selection – we’re all used to a half empty Etihad most weeks anyway!”