Hardly a full on ambush, but Betfair is attempting to whip up a bit Rugby World Cup business with a stunt that sees it offer New Zealand farmers $1 for every sheep they paint with a St George’s Cross during the Rugby World Cup.
Launched to coincide with the tournament’s kick off, the campaign claims it is an attempt to create a form of sheepvertising: English red cross roadside signs in New Zealand to support England during the competition.
Designed to unsettle the host nation, Betfair claims that 200 sheep already signed up to the two-month programme. Of course, out of a sheep population of 47 million (more than 13 times the amount of people), Betfair has a fair few farmers left to convince.
To publicise the stunt and drive PR coverage, the bookie has released a viral fronted by rugby ambassador and England 2003 World Cup Winner Will Greenwood. Seeded on YouTube and other related sites, Greenwood is seen rounding up his own flock of sheep while appealing for New Zealand farmers to sign up to the scheme. The webfilm comes complete with clichéd mock Shakespeare lines and a pun-led tagline ‘England needs ewe’.
Farms are being contacted directly by Betfair, but those farmers who wish to be part of the sheepvertising campaign can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Farmers will require proof that they own at least ten sheep in New Zealand.
This is another example of a betting brand leveraging a sports event with a cheeky patriotic challenge, a joke based on a stereotype and a semi-celebrity. A classic case of a PR campaign disguised as an advertising campaign.