It’s been a clever piece of marketing. Well, hoax marketing actually. But clever none the less. Paddy Power’s fortnight of stunts with Huddersfield Town Football Club, branding their shirts with brash Paddy Power sashes only to u-turn, calling out the industry and sports sponsorship in doing so.
Explaining that they know who they are and don’t need to change the nature of the football club just because they’re sponsoring them, they released their ‘Save our Shirts’ mission, removing all branding from Huddersfield FC’s shirts. They also encouraged fans through their ‘shirt amnesty’ to return previously branded shirts to receive a clean one. Pointing out examples where the very heritage of sporting teams have been changed just to suit sponsors (think Cardiff ‘Bluebells’ switching to red to please their Malaysian owners who also own ‘Visit Malaysia’ or West Bromwich Albion who updated their mascot to a Combination Boiler (!) to please their Ideal Boiler sponsor….), Paddy Power are taking a firm stance on the nature of sponsorship and encouraging others in the industry to do the same.
So, can sports marketing in this way be a power for good? Paddy Power explains they’ll be focusing their sponsorship efforts on player and manager access, and content development at appropriate moments in the team’s scheme. They’ll be leaving the teams’ brand intact, and knowing their own brand, looking to co-operate rather than merge.
Could all sports marketing take a leaf out of their book? With events like the FIFA Women’s World Cup garnering heightened attention and brands jumping on board to be part of it, it would be wonderful to imagine that they do so with a social conscience, or a goal to increase equality and authenticity in sports collaborations. When it comes to Paddy Power, we know one thing for sure: we can always expect the unexpected!