Oscar Pistorius and the Paddy Power PR Win

Oscar Pistorius Paddy Power advert

One thing is for sure – it has us all talking!

Was this the obvious objective when Paddy Power cobbled together their latest advertising stunt?

Just in case you have missed it, Paddy Power are taking bets on the Oscar Pistorius murder trail against his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. They caused outrage initially by offering odds on the outcome of the premeditated murder trial – 7/4 for a guilty verdict and 2/5 for not guilty.

Not only does this stunt interfere and shape public opinion about the verdict of the court case, there was also an immediate public reaction with many Twitter users branding the gimmick ‘vile’ and ‘disgusting’.

Paddy Power then took things even further, by offering losing bets a refund if the 27-year-old is found not guilty. This “no lose” offer for customers was featured heavily on newspaper adverts adding even further fuel to this controversial fire, demonstrating that Paddy Power didn’t really care about the negative public and media reaction.

Not only has Twitter been on fire about the issue but newspapers and radio have given the “bet” extra momentum through extensive negative coverage.

On national radio, RTE Liveline, Paddy Power defended the move to take bets on the trial: “This is the biggest profile trial that has ever been. It’s the only topic of conversation around the world. It’s to provide customers with the opportunity to bet on something that everyone is talking to.”

It sounds as if they are doing us all a huge favour by allowing us to take bets on such an event – are we that desperate?

The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK have already reacted though their official Twitter account: “We’re fast tracking a formal investigation into the Paddy PowerOscar Pistorius‘ ad. No need to lodge a complaint, we’re looking into it” .

There is also a campaign running on change.co with 117,000 people already (at the time of writing) who have signed a petition to Patrick Kennedy, MD of Paddy Power to “please remove your offensive betting on the outcome of the Oscar Pistorius trial and donate any profits so far to a women’s charity fighting violence against women

Despite all of this the Paddy Power adverts continue to run and the company defends them under the heading of “customer service”.

Oscar Pistorius

The horrible truth is this is a huge awareness victory for Paddy Power, way beyond the cost of the adverts or any payouts for winning bets. Sadly the bigger a storm we make of the issue the more attention we draw to Paddy Power and the more traffic will be pushed towards their website.

If this negative publicity was deemed to be damaging to the Paddy Power reputation you can be assured it would be retracted immediately but I am guessing that the view from within the company is that the publicity is good because the belief is that the target betting audience isn’t that bothered.

The women’s groups and the general public can be outraged all they want but as long as the campaign helps the company to attract the betting fraternity this is one of those times when any publicity is good publicity.

However, while the campaign appears as a clever win for Paddy Power it does leave a bitter after-taste, which in the long run could undermine the brand alongside the flawed Olympic star who at one point could do no wrong.

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Fuzion are a Marketing, PR and Graphic Design agency in Ireland with offices in Cork and Dublin

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16 Responses to “Oscar Pistorius and the Paddy Power PR Win”

  1. Fergal Bell Says:

    It really is in terribly poor taste and it’s hard to believe they willingly sanctioned it. They’re obviously of the opinion that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. It’ll certainly help their brand profile but I wonder will it backfire?

    For a product like theirs which is pretty much only concerned with price and reliability/security I’m guessing there won’t be many downsides, unfortunately. Are customers going to take a stand and not support them? I have my doubts.

    • Greg Canty Says:

      you are so right Fergal = it does however say something about them, which isn’t nice. My guess is at some point this could bite them in the butt!

      • Fergal Bell Says:

        You’d like to think so. A few years ago they were getting a lot of headlines because they announced they would pay out on Man U. winning premiership when they were streets ahead. In the end it proved premature and Utd. lost the race but Paddy Power honoured their word and said they would pay anyway. It would be nice if they were still getting their headlines that way.

      • Greg Canty Says:

        As someone else pointed out that (the Man U example) would cause upset to their customers, which they don’t want. The rest of us can get as upset as we want …who cares!

      • Fergal Bell Says:

        Exactly – it’s a great way of getting good publicity and would attract me to using the company. The early payout to customers could be viewed as a marketing expense.

  2. Damien Hanley Says:

    Great blog Greg!
    Without a doubt, the whole campaign is nasty, but i’m not exactly surprised that they came up with such a ploy, they do employ a ‘head of mischief’ after all. I can’t see their customers not supporting them, anyone who has seen paddy power’s shops on a saturday afternoon or cheltenham week can see that the audience mightn’t exactly be the most sensitive or p.c. in the world.

    As for damaging Paddy Power’s profile, is it really possible to damage a bookie’s brand with this kind of behaviour? To me, the only possible thing that could cause any problems for them would be failure to honour a legitimate bet.
    What would be very interesting to find out though would be how many punters have actually gambled on the courtcase, and when it concludes what pay out paddy power’s were facing – then it would show the real result of this awful idea.

    • Greg Canty Says:

      thanks for the feedback Damien.

      You are probably right but it is a sad day when a lot of us just don’t care about this stuff and everything is a “sport” including a murder trial.

  3. Shane O Leary (@shaneoleary1) Says:

    I can certainly see where you’re coming from here Greg, but I think as a society we’re now hopefully past the stage whereby any PR is good PR.

    Any smart person seeing this will understand PP are attempting the ‘Ryanair’ model and have purposely gone too far to get a reaction.

    It’s a pretty shameful campaign, but I don’t think it’ll have any impact either way on their bottom line.

  4. Edel O' Brien Says:

    Point well made – After the dust has settled and in 12 months time, do you really want your brand to be linked with “that murderer from South Africa.. You know.. the guy with no legs.. what was his name again??”

    One radio caller suggested boycotting Paddy Power. that is what will truly hurt .. affecting their €€€ intake. I for one intend to and would politely request all others to do so too.. Vote with your wallet.

  5. Fergal Bell Says:

    As an updated on this, Greg – Paddy Power have been forced to withdraw the ad in the UK http://www.businesspost.ie/#!story/Home/News/Paddy+Power's+Pistorius+ad+pulled+in+UK+after+record+complaints/id/87198161-2385-3183-1570-565947152579

  6. Hugh Says:

    Very good assessment of the whole episode Greg. If PaddyPower wants to ply that line, good luck to them. But, in so doing, they must recognise that in manipulating events like this, they only need to get one wrong and the process of debasing their brand will have begun. OVertime, that could have a real impact on their growth and development. This has a real value. Why else did Ryanair decide that having a corporate persona that is liked, is something that is worth putting time into? Its a very dangerous game. I hope they don’t regret it.

  7. Oscar Pistorius and the Paddy Power PR Win | Greg Canty Fuzion Blog Says:

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    One thing is for sure – it has us all talking! Was this the obvious objective when Paddy Power cobbled together their latest advertising stunt? Just in case you have missed it, Paddy Power are taking bets on the Oscar Pistorius murder trail against his…

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