It’s often said that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and Paddy Power is one company that is keen to exploit this fact. The bookmaker uses deliberately controversial campaigns to maximise the return on investment from its (relatively) low PR budget. With that in mind, here are our favourite Paddy Power PR ploys (in no particular order):
1. The Imogen Thomas Affair
When Ryan Giggs was revealed in the House of Commons as the footballer who had an affair with former Big Brother housemate and brunette bombshell Imogen Thomas, Paddy Power was already preparing to release a PR campaign.
As the news broke Thomas was on a photoshoot. Thanks to an industry-wide boycott the images weren't published in the UK’s newspapers. Yet the publicity generated for Paddy Power was invaluable.
2. Betting and Big Babies
With the world awaiting the imminent arrival of the newest member of the British monarchy, Paddy Power leaped in front of the cameras to grab a moment in the limelight. For this time-sensitive campaign, the bookmakers’ PR budget extended to four giant baby costumes and perhaps a taxi fare for four full-grown adult men.
Showcasing Paddy Power’s novelty betting, the men were photographed at top tourist spots across London. They were fitted out in nappies, masks, and crowns in a bid to generate bets on the newborn baby’s hair colour.
Not only did the stunt encourage punters to place bets, but it also bolstered Paddy Power’s brand with nationwide newspaper coverage.
3. Sledging with Captain Cook
In the summer of 2013, to capitalise on burgeoning public interest in cricket's forthcoming Ashes series, Paddy Power started some serious ‘sledging'.
The Irish-based bookmaker projected a mocked-up image of England's cricket captain, Alistair Cook, wearing a Royal navy hat on to the Oval test venue in Kennington, London prior to the test match.
The taunting image was accompanied by the caption “Captain Cook: Civilising Aussies since 1770”, openly referencing Australia’s (sensitive) history as a former British penal colony.
Coupled with a provocative social media campaign encouraging supporters to keep the #AussieBashing hashtag trending, the campaign caused a storm on Twitter – and sustained publicity for Paddy Power.
4. Sky High
Paddy Power showcased its PR prowess once again when it took to the skies as part of a campaign to generate interest (and, you guessed it, controversy) around the 2012 US Ryder Cup.
European golf fans were invited to submit messages on Twitter. Paddy Power ‘transcribed' them, using planes to write the provocative messages, in smoke, in the sky above the golf course. The messages could be seen for over 20 miles.
Having been embroiled in controversy himself just two years earlier, Tiger Woods was once again the centre of unwanted attention after a fan’s “Seen Tiger?” tweet appeared, quite literally, in sky-high letters.
5. Why Did the Granny Cross the Road?
In 2002 Paddy Power produced the advert that received most complaints in the UK. A seemingly innocuous image of two elderly women making their way across a zebra crossing, with a car approaching in the background. It was accompanied by the tagline “Let’s make things more interesting” alongside betting odds.
Paddy Power claimed that the odds related to who would get to the other side of the road first, rather than the more controversial alternative, that the women were targets for the motorist.
6. The Oo-La-La-Lympics
Paddy Power’s PR was in full swing during the 2012 London Olympics, but not quite as you might expect. The company was not an official sponsor of the summer games, but instead decided to promote its sponsorship of an athletics event being held in une petite ville in France…that also happened to go by the name of London.
The bookmakers’ cheeky PR stunt was soon threatened by Locog, the official Olympic organising committee, but not before Paddy Power’s threat to undertake legal action brought them more coverage.
7. A Cheeky Exposé
During football's Euro 2012 tournament, Paddy Power took the opportunity to sponsor Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner to don a pair of branded underpants.
The betting firm’s logo was revealed to fans when Bendtner flashed it during his goal celebrations in a match against Portugal.
Bendtner received a fine for his efforts, but Paddy Power received yet more column inches when they promised to pay it.
8. A New Ride
With horse racing and betting often going hand in hand, Paddy Power were keen to pursue some mischief and mayhem ahead of the 2012 Cheltenham meet.
Opting to undertake a covert mission under the cover of darkness, the team added a temporary update to the Uffington Horse, a 3,000-year-old football-pitch sized horse carving that has stood proud on the Oxfordshire hillside for generations.
The PR prank was revealed at sunrise when the horse and its temporary companion (bearing the recognisable ‘PP’ initials on his riding hat) – stirred up positive and negative reactions in equal measure across the world’s media.
9. Record Breakers
Another year, another Cheltenham meet… Two years prior to the Uffington Horse incident, the Irish bookmakers were keeping it simple, but still making headlines. A Paddy Power sign was erected next to the Cheltenham Gold Cup grounds, and stood a whopping 50ft high.
At the time, it was the biggest free-standing advertising board in the world and towered 5ft higher than the Hollywood sign that served as the campaign’s source of inspiration.
10. A Ban is as Valuable as a Big Budget
Last, but by no means the least controversial on our list is Paddy Power's riotous ‘anti-chav’ campaign, a promotion produced for television ahead of the 2012 Cheltenham Festival.
The campaign was devised in response to an inflammatory Facebook comment, in which the poster declared that they “Hope the chavs don't ruin Cheltenham like they did Ascot.”
Paddy Power answered with an advertisement that featured a sniper picking out apparently “chavvy” members of the festival crowd.
Unsurprisingly, the ad didn’t receive much in the way of air time, but the controversy surrounding the campaign saw Paddy Power receive yet more media and public attention, proving that modest budgets can generate publicity.
With all these stunts in mind, you may want to head over to the Paddy Power website itself and have a cheeky play around at their casino.