Being a brand that’s made its name in breaking the rules can make you stand out from the crowd but also means you need to work really hard to find new ways to shock and surprise. So is their new campaign a calculated gamble or an own goal?
Paddy Power entered the world of football shirt sponsorship this week and surprise, surprise they’ve caused quite a stir with the launch of the new Huddersfield Town kit. Amongst the mountains of new brightly coloured polyester, this launch has generated more interest than any other, and once again it proves that there’s always a fresh new spin on even the most traditional of marketing ploys.
The official kit launch photography shows the shirt emblazoned with a massive sash style Paddy Power logo that takes up a considerable chunk of the design. The players struck the traditional poses and supporting press release and supporting quotes were as straight as a Kevin De Bruyne pass. The immediate reaction on Football Shirt Culture, the kit geek site was a mixture of rage and amusement, many people pointing out it was obviously a hoax while others thought Paddy Power was making a mockery of the beautiful game. Many asked if the FA would allow it and others thought Huddersfield fans would be up in arms.
The choice of club was an interesting one…
The Terriers have had a torrid time as of late; relegated after finishing bottom of the Premier League they now find themselves back in the Championship so to be thrust back into the spotlight over something controversial was itself a big gamble.
It was also a gamble for Paddy Power as their campaign launches against the backdrop of a change in the ways bookmakers market themselves. Gambling on football is worth an estimated £1.4bn a year in the UK and increased pressures on the gambling industry has resulted in the launch of a new campaign ‘Whistle to whistle’ which being brought in that will prevent any advertising during the 90 mins of a game. The sector coming together to launch this initiative is seen as a positive thing that will tackle the issue of problem gambling, but with more and more clubs having betting brand logos on their shirts, it’ll be interesting to see if it has an impact.
Huddersfield have kept an admirably straight face throughout the proceedings, advertising the kits for sale on their site and wearing them in a pre-season friendly. This resulted in a warning from the FA that the shirt breached their guidelines and they were at risk of substantial fines. Naturally, this was precisely the reaction Paddy Power wanted so they’ve played it beautifully, saving the final killer pass to the last minute.
So what’s really going on?
It has now emerged that they have been playing the long game and this was an incredibly elaborate way to promote their ‘Save our shirts’ campaign. Instead of having their logo on the new shirts they’ve actually sponsored Huddersfield not to have their logo on their shirts and retain the clean and classic look… the way shirts should be. Confused? It seems Umbro, the manufacturer, and the club had bought into Paddy Power’s idea, and the campaign was presented seamlessly, pushing all the right emotional buttons at the right times.
Whether the FA were in on this is unclear, but their intervention helped push the narrative of the story and reinforced Paddy Power’s apparent reluctance to follow the rules. From outrage to surprise and admiration in just a few short days is something we’d all like to achieve and I would imagine those original shirts will be auctioned for charity…everyone’s a winner.
The campaign has certainly been a game-changer, Motherwell have already signed up and it will be interesting to see if other clubs follow suit.