Paddy Power, if you haven’t heard of them before, are an Irish bookmaker who operate in the UK and Ireland. Paddy Power are a very established name in the betting industry, with shops in over 600 locations. However, many people will mostly be familiar with Paddy Power through their social media accounts. With over 1.5 million likes on Facebook, and over 650,000 followers on Twitter, it is very unlikely that you will not have come across one of their witty posts on your timeline.
Paddy Power use their social media accounts for a mix of betting information and poking fun at others, with the latter being their main point of focus. There is no doubt that if your favourite football team lose a game at the weekend, Paddy Power will pull no punches and be quick to have a laugh at their expense. The bookmaker is also very famous for their PR stunts, which usually come with plenty of talking points and sometimes some controversy. These stunts often get a lot of attention, some good some not so good, but certainly play a part in Paddy Power’s brand image.
One of Paddy Power’s biggest PR stunts was in the lead up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup which was taking place in Brazil. The Irish betting firm posted a message of support for the England national team in preparation for the tournament:
No sooner had this message of support been tweeted until the backlash started. Had Paddy Power really chopped down trees in the Amazon rainforest just as a publicity stunt? Not exactly, however they did let people have their say on social media before revealing the truth.
One user tweeted “@paddypower did you really commission that rainforest stunt? Disgusting! I hope you all go to jail or a long time!”
Another said “Jesus, @paddypower actually did wreck a portion of the rainforest as a publicity stunt? What a clusterf*ck.”
In typical Paddy Power style they replied to one of these tweets stating “we haven’t cut down that much!”
This was quickly picked up by the press and many articles were published, criticising the organisation for this seemingly lack of awareness of a massive global issue, all to raise publicity.
The reality was, Paddy Power had not cut down parts of the Amazon rain forest. In fact, they hadn’t stepped foot in Brazil at all. This was all a 3D model that was created by the guys at Paddy Power in order to create this publicity stunt. After letting the lie go on throughout the weekend, they eventually came clean, and it turned out that they were in fact attempting to raise awareness of the issue of deforestation in this area.
Their campaign to #SaveTheRainforest rather than #ShaveTheRainforest was a welcome relief to many on social media who had first of all slammed Paddy Power for the initial tweet. This in the end was a fantastic PR move by the organisation as they created lots of conversation around the initial post that in turn raised awareness for this wider issue, and presented the organisation as one who cares, rather than one out to destroy the Amazon rainforest for a few retweets.
This of course is not the only stunt Paddy Power has done prior to a World Cup tournament. The latest edition of the competition was held in 2018 in Russia and again the organisation opted for a shocking approach to get people talking about a wider issue. This time, the issue was polar bears and the stunt was not as straightforward as the previous one.
Again, the image and footage of Paddy Power “spray-painting” the St. George’s Cross onto a Polar Bear was leaked to the press causing outrage about this lack of respect for an endangered species. However, as it always goes with Paddy Power, not all was as it initially seemed. This again was completed with the aid of technology and the help of Polar Bear Agee and owner Mark Dumas. The stunt was again an attempt to raise awareness of Polar Bears in Russia and was fairly successful yet again in causing a stir on social media.
The stunts don’t stop there, Paddy Power also enjoy taking advantage of showing the brand on the biggest stages when the whole world are watching. They don’t do this in regular ways such as advertising hoardings at these events, instead they showcase their Paddy Power lucky pants!
In the group stages of the European Championships in 2012, Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner scored against Portugal and proceeded to lower his shorts slightly and raise his jersey to show off his ‘lucky pants’ which were covered in the Paddy Power logo.
The stunt was accepted as funny by the large majority. Unfortunately, in the minority of those who found it not so funny, were the tournament organisers UEFA. They fined the footballer €100,000, which Paddy Power coughed up for, however this was a ludicrous punishment in comparison to the fine handed to the Croatian FA for racist chanting in the same week which was €80,000.
Bendtner was not the only sportsperson to don these infamous pants. In 2017, one of the biggest boxing fights in history took place between Floyd Mayweather and UFC star Conor McGregor. Paddy Power took advantage of this opportunity to show-off their pants with the world watching by getting Floyd to wear them at the weigh in for the bout. The logo on this occasion accompanied a pinstripe print that read ‘always bet on black’ and cost around £3,000 to manufacture, again showing that the betting firm don’t do things by half measures.
It’s fair to say Paddy Power are not afraid of the limelight, whether it be for the right or wrong reasons, and this brazen approach tends to work and hit its mark in majority of cases. There has been times where this close to the wire approach goes too far, such as running betting odds on the first species to be driven to extinction as a result of the BP oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico back in 2010. However, I would personally say that their approach is very effective as regardless of whether the conversation happening is good or bad, at least the conversation is happening. Making change involves making noise, and Paddy Power certainly attempt to do that with stunts like the #SaveTheRainforest. Crowning them the ‘Kings of PR’ may be a bit premature, but it is impossible to ignore them when it comes to high profile PR stunts. Their ability to go as close to the line as they possibly can without crossing must be commended and if they keep this approach, I look forward to what they come up with next.
Phelim Sweeney is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn