Paddy Power was formed way back in 1988 as the merger of 40 betting shops belonging to three different men – Stewart Kenny, David Power and John Corcoran. Right from the start, those tasked with growing Paddy Power’s business understood the importance of separating themselves out from the competition. Initially, this meant picking a strong name and using green throughout their branding but quickly turned into an advertising strategy that relied on stunts, provocative betting markets and humour to ensure as many people as possible had heard about Paddy Power.
Over the years Paddy Power have found ways to insert themselves into the story in the worlds of sports, politics and current affairs. Although they have occasionally crossed the line, Paddy Power’s irreverent approach to branding has seen them catch attention and no doubt been an important factor in their considerable growth. Adopting the line that no publicity is bad publicity, they have gained a great deal of free, or very cheap, exposure through some truly outrageous stunts. Here are some of the best (or worst depending on your point of view!
Football is the biggest, most popular sport in the world so it makes perfect sense that Paddy Power would take advantage of the beautiful game by grabbing some of the attention from the Premier League, Champions League and even the World Cup.
Nicklas Bendtner – Lucky Pants
As you’ll come to see, there is a recurring theme of Paddy Power using lucky green pants throughout their publicity stunts. An unforgettable example of this was when Nicklas Bendtner celebrated scoring against Portugal in Euro 2012 by lowering his shorts and revealing a pair of green and white pants with Paddy Power emblazoned across the top.
Bendtner was always a better footballer in his own mind than he was on the pitch and his levels of self-confidence were a thing of legend. It was no surprise that he would take on this sort of stunt therefore. What was a surprise was that the Danish striker was fined €100,000 by UEFA for his part in the act, some €20,000 less than the Croatian FA were fined for their fans’ racist chanting on the very same day.
Paddy Power picked up the bill for Bendtner and were splashing the cash on those green pants again a few years later when Floyd Mayweather wore nothing but a similar pair of briefs for his weigh-in ahead of his money spinning fight against Conor McGregor. He also signed a number of replica pants to be given out as prizes but insisted that only the best would do for him with the real things reportedly costing £3,000.
Rhodri Giggs – Loyalty Is Dead
Ryan Giggs was one of those footballers it was difficult to dislike even for fans of rival teams. There was something about the way he glided down the left wing for Manchester United that you couldn’t not enjoy and he didn’t have the same public image of a self-entitled footballer that many of his peers at Old Trafford had. That public image took a battering when it emerged that he had been having a long-standing affair with his brother’s wife. Oops.
The feud between the Giggs brothers and the fall-out of the affair sporadically made headlines for years after the original story broke in 2011. Indeed, the joke was missed by nobody when Paddy Power revealed Paddy’s Reward Club, a loyalty scheme backed by Rhodri Giggs.
In the simply brilliant television advert, Rhodri describes how he is loyal to a number of things. These included his gym (in which he was filmed boxing), his national team of Wales (whilst his brother was the manager at the time of recording, Ryan was famous for mysteriously getting injuries for many of his nations’ friendly games during his playing days); and his local pub (which featured a poster for a beer called ‘Wandering Cock’ and where he refused a pint of bitter by telling the barmaid “not any more Pam”). “Loyalty”, Rhodri sums up, “gets you nowhere. Live for rewards instead.” We all laughed but we rather suspect Ryan didn’t see the funny side.
Huddersfield Town – Save Our Shirt
Huddersfield Town had just been relegated from the Premier League when pictures of their new shirt sponsor were revealed in a preseason friendly. The Terriers’ famous blue and white stripes were covered by a huge white sash that ran diagonally from the left shoulder down to the right hip with PADDY POWER written in huge letters.
The fallout from this new sponsor was predictably vociferous. Pundits, journalists and half of Twitter suggested that Paddy Power had ruined the shirt and it sparked a wider debate about the number of clubs who are sponsored by betting companies.
Mischievously and rather ingeniously, this was the plan all along. In a press release subtitled “Sure we were only kidding”, Paddy Power announced that far from employing a huge sash, their name would not feature on the front of the Huddersfield kit at all for the upcoming season. Moreover, the stunt was designed to drum up the maximum publicity for Paddy Power’s ‘Save Our Shirt’ campaign in which they challenged other bookies to follow their lead and leave shirts blank.
David Moyes – Emergency Alex Ferguson & the Anfield Statue
So there’s a statue of David Moyes outside Anfield pic.twitter.com/siiTiEwcdX
— Nathan Murphy (@nathanmurf) April 27, 2014
When Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester United, his message to the United fans was that their job was to get behind the new manager, David Moyes. Hopes were high that Moyes would build a new dynasty at Old Trafford but results were initially poor, signings uninspired and Moyes soon appeared out of his depth.
Murmurings of discontent soon gave way to Man Utd fans calling for Moyes to be sacked. To take advantage of the trouble at the club, Paddy Power installed an ‘Emergency Alex Ferguson’ outside of Old Trafford. They put a waxwork model of Sir Alex in a glass box with a sign saying, “In case of Emergency at Old Trafford, Break Glass” and posted it on their Twitter account.
It didn’t get any easier for the beleaguered Moyes who was soon relieved of his duties. That didn’t stop Paddy Power though. They decided to celebrate the news with Liverpool fans who, they reasoned, would be happiest with the job Moyes did at Man Utd, by unveiling a statue of the Scot outside of Anfield.
Roy Hodgson – Roy the Redeemer
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) June 7, 2012
In 2012, Paddy Power were pushing their ‘We Hear You’ campaign in which they took suggestions from social media users. One Paddy Power follower suggested that England would need some sort of divine intervention if they were to have any chance of success in the upcoming Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine. This got minds whirring in the Paddy Power offices.
The result was a 108-foot high, 96 foot wide, eight ton statute which was a replica of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro but with Roy Hodgson’s face and a green and white Paddy Power football. It took over two months for the statue to be created and installed near the White Cliffs of Dover but ultimately didn’t give England the good fortune they needed.
2014 World Cup – Shave the Rainforest & Steven Hawking
Paddy Power’s stunts have not always gone down well but increasingly they have taken more of a socially responsible stance and incorporated it into their advertising (more on this later). A belief that the rampant deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest was a major issue was the spark for a stunt ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Typically with Paddy Power, the idea was to whip up a storm in the media before revealing that it was all just a practical joke. Thus, they leaked photos which appeared to show that they had paid to have trees cut down in part of the Amazon to spell out the message, “C’MON ENGLAND PP” apparently to send out a message of positivity to the England squad as they arrived in Brazil.
The outburst from people who should really have known better by now was fierce and Paddy Power deliberately fanned the flames before they extinguished the fire with a press release in which they pledged their support for anti-deforestation charities with the line “We didn’t give the Amazon a Brazilian.”
The 2014 World Cup was too big a tournament for Paddy Power to hang their hat on just one pre-tournament stunt. They also made a surprising signing with Professor Steven Hawking employed to ‘solve the mystery of how England can succeed in Brazil.’A video of Professor Hawking titled ‘Talking Hawking’ was released in which he came up with a formula which analysed key factors from all of England’s 45 World Cup matches before Brazil 2014 to come up with the ‘optimal conditions for England success’ and ‘how to win a penalty shootout’. Would you believe that it did not work?
Horse racing and betting have gone hand in hand for centuries. Even in the modern world of online betting, horse racing remains a hugely important market for bookies such as Paddy Power. That is especially true of the biggest meetings of the flat and jumps calendar, events which have not escaped Paddy Power’s stunts.
Cheltenham Festival – Flying Green Pants & Hollywood Sign
The Cheltenham Festival is the biggest meeting of the National Hunt season and for many racing fans the highlight of their entire year. Hundreds of thousands of racing fans pour through the gates of Cheltenham Racecourse every year (even in 2020!) but it is so busy and the racecourse is so big that it can be difficult to get a good view of the actual racing. That’s where Paddy Power stepped in.
In 2013, Paddy Power offered racing fans a unique experience and what they called ‘the best seats in the house’ courtesy of a huge inflatable balloon in the shape of their infamous green and white underpants. The balloon measured 60 feet by 63 feet and was such a success that it was reeled out at other major events during the year, even if it wasn’t exactly universally popular.
Such is the importance of Cheltenham that Paddy Power always have something up their sleeves when it comes to the March meeting. Their stunt in 2010 was every bit as memorable as the flying pants. They hired out a space on Cleeve Hill, a stone’s throw from Prestbury Park, to erect what was then the largest free-standing advertising board in the world. Modelled on the Hollywood sign, the board was 50 feet tall and 270 feet from end to end and caused a major stir, with Tewkesbury borough council demanding it be dismantled the day after Imperial Commander won the 2010 Gold Cup.
Royal Ascot – The Drunk Tank
Royal Ascot is to flat racing what the Cheltenham Festival is to jumps racing. The best horses on the flat and tens upon tens of thousands of fans (including the Queen) head to the Ascot Racecourse every year for the Royal Meeting in June. Every bookmaker worth their salt is represented at Royal Ascot so Paddy Power have to raise their game to stand out.
Among all their stunts and adverts at Royal Ascot, two stand out. The first comes from 2018 when they drove their ‘Drunk Tank’ to the course. The idea behind the tank, which was supported by a television advert, was to save the residents of Ascot from people who “by the second race are rolling around the Royal enclosure like wild animals.”
Cheltenham Festival – Chav Tranquilizer
The Drunk Tank from Royal Ascot was done, as with most Paddy Power advertising, with tongue very firmly planted in cheek. Still, it received some complaints and disapproving voices but the uproar was nothing quite like the reception that the 2012 ‘Chav Tranquilizer’ video received.
The idea came from a Facebook boost in which somebody said “I hope the chavs don’t ruin Cheltenham like they did Ascot.” From that, Paddy Power came up with an advert in which an assassin-type character walked around a racecourse, shooting tranquilizer darts into people. Signed off with the line “Paddy Power, the app for classy people and the Irish” it’s not surprising that the advert was never cleared for TV and had to be unpublished on YouTube. Though we have uncovered a slightly censored version as shown above.
Golf is another big sport in the world of online betting and certainly one popular with punters in Paddy’s Irish home. Paddy Power cover a whole host of golf tournaments every week but they have saved their stunts for the biggest of the lot.
Ryder Cup – Sky Tweets & Unlikely Supporters
The Ryder Cup is the golf tournament that catches the attention of the wider public more than any other. It is, therefore, a tournament that Paddy Power spend a lot of time, money and effort targeting.
The 2012 Ryder Cup is known as the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ for the way that Europe fought back against the odds to win on a pulsating final day of action. It took an inspired performance to win and Paddy Power can claim some of the credit for that inspiration. They hired a team of skywriters to spell out tweets sent in by Paddy Power customers on Saturday morning of the tournament. The European team, who were struggling badly at that moment, were filmed looking up at messages such as ‘Do It for Seve” and “Rory’s Gonna Getcha” before starting their fightback.
Whilst evoking memories of the late Seve Ballesteros, arguably the most inspirational European Ryder Cup player of all time, was nothing but a positive, Paddy Power have form in deliberately winding golf fans up. They first did this in 2014, when they found the least likely cheerleader for Europe they could think of – Nigel Farage.
In a viral video he reeled off a list of reasons why punters, like him, should be backing Europe. Then, two years later they created a video starring Piers Morgan in which he shunned Europe and brashly announced his support for the USA, eventually leaving a genteel English golf club in a monster truck.
Pulling off stunts around major sporting events is one thing but Paddy Power have long been known for pricing up markets on a host of political and news stories. Fittingly, they have used a host of current events and stories to get the Paddy Power name out there, often in fairly outlandish style.
US Presidents – Elections, Impeachment & Assassinations
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK: To the American football fans swarming Dublin this weekend, this bet may be of interest… pic.twitter.com/PC866nFy7t
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) September 2, 2016
The increasing polarisation of politics has thrown up a number of issues but it has created some fascinating presidential election campaigns in recent years. The betting on who would win the 2020 race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was the biggest betting event of the year with Paddy Power offering a host of markets but their interest in presidential elections goes back years.
When Donald Trump won the Republican nomination to run as president for the 2016 election, Paddy Power put up a billboard offering enhanced odds on Trump winning the election with a picture of the reality TV star next to one of Barack Obama with the slogan, “Orange is the New Black?” It wasn’t just the copy or the pictures used that were controversial, but the placement of the billboard in Dublin targeting American football fans heading to the Aviva Stadium for a match between Boston College and Georgia Tech.
As distasteful as some found that billboard, it caused nothing of the stir that a single market did just after Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. Paddy Power laid 16/1 that Obama would not finish his first term in office. Whilst not expressly stated as such, that was widely taken to mean Paddy Power offering a price about whether a sitting American president would be assassinated. A public outcry eventually saw that market pulled. Even we have to think Paddy might have gone a bit too far that time!
Paddy Power were on more solid footing from a moral standpoint years later when they offered a market on whether or not President Trump would be impeached. Trump himself probably wouldn’t have appreciated that market had he seen it but he would have been much more unappreciative of the Mariachi Band that Paddy Power sent to Scotland to welcome him in 2016. It’s not known whether Trump ever saw the band, Juan Direction.
British Politics – Expenses, Brexit & Babies
Every manager in English football who has seen their job come under pressure after a run of bad results has heard rival fans (and sometimes their own fans) chant, “You’re getting sacked in the morning.” In 2015, Paddy Power felt that British politicians should get the same treatment. After a poll claimed that 75% of MPs were in danger of losing their seat, Paddy Power thoughtfully sent an articulated lorry to the Houses of Parliament covered in a huge decal with that familiar terrace refrain.
Back in 2015 it was the expenses scandal and austerity that were still the biggest issues causing friction between British voters and their elected representatives. That would change shortly after with the European referendum and subsequent fallout around Brexit dividing the nation. Typically, Paddy Power saw plenty of opportunity to make a bit of a stir out of the Brexit mess with a string of stunts that would rival Nigel Farage’s infamous flotilla.
These stunts included the placing of an advert in newspapers ahead of England’s match with Ireland in the 2019 Six Nations. The full page ad read, “Dear England, Sorry for the last two years of pain, suffering and humiliation. Another 798 and we’ll be even.”
Then there was the ‘Brexit Bunker’ advert in which Eric Cantona wondered when the UK would finally “kung-fu kick Europe in the chest and say, au revoir” and revealed details of his Brexit Bunker somewhere out at sea. Paddy Power also enlisted the help of Louis Walsh for their ‘Eu-Revision’ campaign. The X Factor star announced that he was “coming out” in support of the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest and implored the rest of Europe to join his cause as it would force the UK to host thousands of Europeans in the following year’s competition.
It’s not just politicians and Brexiteers who have been targeted by Paddy Power, even the Royal Family hasn’t escaped. In 2013 the whole world seemed to go ga-ga for the birth of the first child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Thousands of people placed a bet on the baby’s name and to highlight their own market, Paddy Power sent three grown men down in bright green babygrows and baby masks with a blackboard that featured names such as George (9/1), Diana (10/1) and Pocahontas (500/1).
Gay Rights – Rainbow Laces & Brighton Pride
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) August 4, 2018
As touched upon above, Paddy Power have broadened the scope of their advertising and their stunts over the years to include socially conscious messages. Gay rights is one of the causes which is clearly close to their hearts as it’s played a part in a few stunts.
Paddy Power have been fixtures at Brighton Pride for some time now. One year they hired out a big green bus painted with a rainbow flag. They labelled it the ‘Official Bus of Gay Professional Footballers’, painted ‘Come Out and Play’ on it and intentionally left it empty to make the point about the lack of openly gay footballers in the men’s game. Well intentioned as the stunt was, it was criticised by Stonewall which highlighted their concerns about making people feel pressure to come out publicly.
Stunts that have gone down better include the huge ‘Game Changer’ balloon that Paddy Power paraded in Brighton in 2019 which was partnered by Proud United – a team comprised of LGBTQ footballers – and their manager for the day, Graeme Souness. Six years earlier, Paddy Power also earned widespread support for their role in creating the ‘Rainbow Laces’ campaign which saw top flight footballers switch their usual laces for rainbow coloured ones in a show of support for gay rights.
Oscar Pistorius – Money Back If He Walks
Even by Paddy Power’s standards, their 2014 advert publicising an offer surrounding the Oscar Pistorius murder trial was questionable. The South African Paralympian’s arrest and subsequent trial for the murder of his partner, Reeva Steenkamp was one of the biggest news stories in the world at the time. As you’ve seen many times already, Paddy Power know the value of piggy backing on a news story and that’s exactly what they sought to do with the trial.
In the eyes of some, it was bad enough that Paddy Power were taking bets on the outcome of a murder trial but it was the advert that accompanied the market that caused the most fuss. Alongside the strapline ‘It’s Oscar Time’ Paddy Power mocked up a replica of an Oscar award with Pistorius’ face superimposed on it. Then, in a reference to Pistorius’ disability (he had both feet amputated as a baby) they offered “Money Back If He Walks.”
Not only did the advert cause more outrage than was normal for Paddy Power, it was actually the most complained about advert of 2014 with a record 5,525 complaints. Such was the ferocity of the outrage and the crassness of the ad that the Advertising Standards Authority ordered it be pulled immediately.
Vladimir Putin – Olympic Medals & Gay Rights
Just as Paddy Power saw the 2014 World Cup as a chance to make a stance on deforestation, they saw an opportunity to hammer home their support of gay rights ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.The World Cup itself was such a success that it is easy to forget that there was such a huge amount of fuss made about the potential for serious trouble and violence towards England fans and a hostile atmosphere for gay supporters in Russia. To show which side they were on, Paddy Power unveiled their ‘Rainbow Russians’ campaign which depicted Vladimir Putin and players from the host nation as Russian dolls and carried the strap line, “From Russia, With Equal Love”. Moreover, Paddy Power offered to donate £10,000 to Attitude magazine’s foundation for every goal scored by the hosts, eventually raising £170,000.
Russia and Putin were the target of another classic Paddy Power stunt a couple of years earlier. After the World Anti-Doping Authority announced that widespread evidence of cheating from Russian athletes and threatened to ban Russia from future events such as the Olympics, Paddy Power headed down to the Russian embassy in London with a team of actors – a skier, a diver and a sprinter – and a medal amnesty box which said, “Putin Your Medals. No Questions Asked.”
Other Businesses – Costa Coffee and the Brits
Faecal matter in your cappuccino? Not a problem. We’ve got you covered… pic.twitter.com/4n5seIW7dq
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) June 28, 2017
Paddy Power may do most of its business online but it retains a significant presence on British and Irish high streets. You may think that as part of a physical retail industry which has had all sorts of difficulties in recent years that Paddy Power would support their neighbours. That, as Costa Coffee, found out, is not necessarily the case.
In 2017, a worrying investigation by the BBC uncovered all sorts of hygiene concerns in major coffee shop brands including “off the scale” traces of faecal bacteria in iced coffees at Starbucks, Cafe Nero and Costa Coffee. That was particularly bad news for one branch of Costa in London which has a Paddy Power shop next door. Said Paddy Power shop spotted an opportunity to promote the fact that they offer free coffee in store with a sign placed in the window saying, “Don’t Gamble Next Door. We Won’t Sh*t in Your Coffee.”
Costa is not the only iconic business in Britain to have fallen foul of a Paddy Power stunt. Those green underpants got another outing during the 2014 Brit Awards when Paddy Power sent a couple of stooges down to the red carpet dressed as Daft Punk. Due to their outfits, which included Daft Punk’s trademark helmets, nobody thought to check the pair as they strolled onto the red carpet and, in front of the assembled media, proceeded to drop their trousers and reveal their Paddy Power pants.