Trailblazers. Paddy Power - How a bookmaker put the humour back into advertising.


by Magnus Shaw

For the advertising sector The Olympic Games are less about running, jumping and cycling - and more about the infamous copyright clampdown on certain words and branding devices. Those tussles have been well-covered on Creativepool and elsewhere, with tales of small businesses being stomped on for associating themselves with the Games. Apparently, that honour is reserved for those renowned promoters of fitness and good health: Coke, McDonald's and Dow Chemicals.

So it's pleasing to note one major advertiser is doing an excellent job of swerving the draconian rules. We should have known Paddy Power would see these restrictions as a bull sees a red hanky. After all, the bookmaker has never been keen on convention.

Eggs and spoons

Today, Paddy Power launched a billboard campaign, telling the country they are an official sponsor of the largest athletics in London this summer. Surely this is forbidden? Not at all, because Paddy Power is behind the first 200m egg-and-spoon race to be held in the city of London, France (between Dijon and Lyon).

This prestigious event features twelve top athletes competing to be first over the line with their cutlery. With admirable cheek, a spokesperson for Paddy Power said, "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!"

Roy The Redeemer

Of course, before all this Olympic fandango, there was all that football fuss. Unfortunately advertisers' response to the Euro 2012 competition was somewhat lacklustre (Mars's suggestion their choccy would enable punters to save goals proved sadly inaccurate).

Happily Paddy Power was the exception. They took the opportunity to build "Roy the Redeemer", a clone of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, only depicting Roy Hodgson rather than Jesus. They hoped it would provide "divine intervention" as it stood 108 feet high and 96 feet wide on the white cliffs above Dover. Despite its eight tons of luck giving power, England crashed out of the competition - but at least it was another triumph for the Paddy Power marketing team.

Lucky Pants

The David Haye versus Dereck Chisora fight wasn't recognised by any British sporting body, but it was identified as another prime marketing opportunity by Paddy Power. Somehow the bookies persuaded Chisora to wear "lucky Paddy Power underpants" at the Saturday night weigh-in (money probably had something to do with it). On the night they didn't actually convey much luck. However, when the underwear of fortune was spotted on Danish footballer Nicklas Bendtner it was more successful. Indeed, it appeared as part of his goal celebration at Euro 2012.

Talking Tenners

Paddy Power aren't averse to a bit of digital levity either. While the Euro football tournament was running, anyone downloading their app to an iPhone or Android device could bring The Queen's face on a £10 pound note to life. Holding the phone over the monarch's face would prompt Her Majesty to discuss that day's competition gossip. The content was randomised and refreshed daily during the three-week tournament, ensuring punters saw and heard something new each time they used the app.

Buckingham Palace and The Bank of England declined to comment.

Ladies Day

Horse racing isn't immune from the Paddy Power approach. For this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup, the mischievous turf accountant infiltrated "Ladies" Day, making the event "even more exciting by adding some beautiful transgendered ladies" and inviting punters to "spot the stallions from the mares". Predictably, and presumably intentionally, this campaign stirred up a storm of controversy. Transgender support groups objected to the flippant approach and broadcasters, fearing a backlash, pulled the supporting ad.

The company said the ad was just "mild-mannered fun" and continued to enjoy the attention generated by their latest shenanigans.

Paddy Power have occasionally gone too far and their "Tranquillise A Chav" campaign was as tasteless as it was unnecessary. However, on the whole, I'd say Paddy Power and their creative agencies are simply playing with the media, pushing a few boundaries, appealing to the naughty kid in us all and having a lot of fun in the process. We're all touched by the anxiety and stress slicing through the country right now, which is why it's so refreshing to find an advertiser refusing to take itself too seriously. Paddy Power is to marketing what Viz Comic is to publishing - simultaneously mocking and celebrating the form.

I don't gamble, but I'm certainly enjoying this firm's tongue-in-cheek campaigns. More power to them.

STOP PRESS: Court action now being taken over the Paddy Power London Games campaign. Read more here.


Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, blogger and consultant.

Visit Magnus Shaw's website
"ADVICE" a collection of Magnus Shaw's columns is now available as a Kindle book.


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