Online gaming powerhouse Paddy Power does it again and fools the Premier League with its latest mischievous marketing campaign.
Huddersfield Town may have been relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2018-19 season but they literally became the talk of the town when the club launched its new kit design for this season.
It featured a sash, befitting of a Miss World contest, branding the name of the Irish bookmaking giant Paddy Power. Every sports news website covered the story in great detail and social media went into meltdown over the kit.
Little did we know at the time and this was exactly the response Paddy Power and Huddersfield had hoped for.
The epidemic of gambling companies sponsoring football clubs
"Another example of a historic club selling out" was the headline in the Daily Mail. This was a reference to the vast number of football clubs that have jumped in bed with gambling companies over the past decade. At the start of the 2019-20 Premier League season more than half of the clubs will have the name of an online betting site or casino plastered across their shirts.
These include Norwich City who has teamed up with Dafabet, Newcastle United with Fun88 and Everton joined with SportPesa.
It is even more dramatic in the Championship with 17 of the 24 clubs parading logos from such companies. While many fans are aghast when their club partners with these firms, the money on the table is hard to resist. According to research conducted by The Guardian, gambling companies have contributed a staggering £350 million through sponsorship, and it shows no sign of slowing down just yet.
All the big football clubs sell thousands upon thousands of replica shirts every season. Fans wear them with pride to show their support of the club they love. Yet, there has been a growing number who have bemoaned the fact that they are walking advertisements for this or that gambling company.
It is claimed in certain quarters that football clubs are not acting responsibly in taking this easy money. Although difficult to prove conclusively, could these partnerships be a factor in the rise in underage gambling and mental health issues resulting from a gambling addiction?
The "Save Our Shirt" campaign
A few days after the launch of sash kit, Paddy Power announced it was "un-sponsoring" Huddersfield Town and "returning the shirt to the fans". The marketing masterpiece began to reveal itself. The fake shirt had been an elaborate hoax concocted by Paddy Power, Huddersfield Town and Octagon, one of the world's leading sports marketing companies, as part of the "Save Our Shirt" campaign.
Huddersfield could have simply launched their new logo-free strip and spoke about this new campaign but it would not have gotten anywhere near the same level of coverage. Paddy Power has a reputation for pushing the boundaries with its marketing campaigns as was highlighted in the "Shave the Rainforest" campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. This is what made this latest PR stunt so believable (and effective) because Paddy Power is known for going over the top.
The message was plain and simple: too many clubs were not thinking of their fans and the potential effects that promoting betting companies could have upon some of them. Huddersfield launched their unbranded shirt - a throwback to the good old days when the jersey was pure and untarnished - however, the debate on the issue of gambling companies sponsoring football teams had well and truly been ignited. This was the goal of the "Save Our Shirt" campaign. It wanted to raise awareness on this issue in the most explosive manner possible.
The fake shirt was used when Huddersfield played a pre-season friendly against Rochdale. This caused the F.A. to step in and charge the club with breaking kit and advertising rules due to the excessive size of the sash blasting out Paddy Power's name. Again, in the world of marketing, this reaction by the Football Association was priceless. It kept the topic alive as it gained more coverage from all the big news networks. As a note, the now infamous kit has been auctioned and it raised more than £30,000 for local charities.
Other clubs join Huddersfield Town
Paddy Power hasn't stopped with just the Terriers. It has now agreed to un-sponsor the shirts of Southend United, Newport County, Macclesfield Town and Scottish Premier League side Motherwell.
This will no doubt please the loyal fans but some cynics have questioned Paddy Power's motives for this campaign, citing it as a means for this particular bookmaker to gain more exposure to promote its own business.
The head of Octagon rejected these theories by stating that all brands need to act responsibly and do things in an appropriate manner. Paddy Power is leading by example, the question is, how many others will follow?Last update: 30-09-2019
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