BETFAIR and Paddy Power on Wednesday announced plans to merge, a move which would create a gambling behemoth with a revenue of over £1.1 billion.
But it’s not just financial muscle that the new group will possess, as it will also mark the joining of two of the betting industry’s most innovative and imaginative companies, both well known for marketing stunts and clever advertising.
In recent years, these two companies have never been far from the headlines – although not always for the right reasons. Here we recall a few of their most famous, eye-catching or controversial stunts:
Paddy Power desecrate the Amazon – or do they?
Social media erupted in outrage when Paddy Power posted this image, supposedly of the Amazon rainforest, before the 2014 World Cup.
Of course, the picture was a fake – albeit one so skilfully created it fooled even experts – and Paddy Power later revealed the joke with a follow-up tweet revealing what should really have been obvious from the start.
The Betfair Million jumps bonus
In 2006 Betfair announced the launch of an ambitious £1 million bonus to any horse special enough to win the Betfair Chase, King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season. Tough ask, eh?
In a case of unfortunate timing, the incentive came into being just as Kauto Star was entering his pomp, and Clive Smith’s all-conquering superstar scooped the prize in just its second season, causing a rethink at the firm’s headquarters.
After an abortive attempt to add the Grand National to the mix the bonus was scrapped in 2009.
Cleeve Hill or Hollywood?
Paddy Power are not known for keeping a low profile and on the eve of the 2010 Cheltenham Festival the firm erected a Hollywood-style sign bearing their name on Cleeve Hill, in full view of racegoers and TV cameras.
At 50ft high and 15m wide the sign dwarfed its Californian counterpart and provoked a furious reaction from Tewkesbury Borough Council, who threatened action unless the sign was dismantled the day after the festival ended – which it was.
The giant octopus
A giant octopus was central to Betfair’s pre-World Cup ‘This Is Play’ promotional campaign, but attracted the ire of London’s road users when a truck carrying the replica mollusc to the firm’s offices broke down in Oxford Street, causing traffic chaos.
Betfair apologised for ‘any inconvenience caused’, but angry Londoners would surely have softened their stance after watching the octopus play table tennis in a surreal advert screened a week later.
Hunt Ball was a brilliant winner at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival but his fourth-placed effort in the Byrne Group Plate the following year was just as memorable, this time because the Paddy Power logo had been painted to his hind quarters with liquid chalk prior to the off.
The BHA took a dim view of the marketing stunt, which was said to have raised £10,000 for charity, and handed out fines to the horse’s trainer, Keiran Burke (now retired), and controversial owner Anthony Knott (who has since been warned off due to passing on inside information).
Here, there and everywhere
One of the most ubiquitous sights at winter jumps meetings is Betfair’s yellow scarves, handed out for free at racecourses by promo girls and offering punters protection from the cold.
Widely disseminated and gratefully received, no bookmaker has a garment to rival the distinctive winter warmer, which is testament to Betfair’s marketing team. Will we see a green and gold one this winter?
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