In yet another cheeky, slightly devious headline-generating stunt, Irish bookie Paddy Power offered Liverpool fans a chance to swap their Mario Balotelli shirts at Anfield before Hull match.
Leveraging the maverick Italian attacker’s poor start to the season, the bookmaker set up a souvenir stall behind the Kop on match day and offered to exchange any fan’s Balotelli top for a shirt bearing the name of either of two truly legendary Liverpool strikers Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler.
The outdoor stunt followed on from fan discontent and media outcry over the former Inter Milan and Man City striker being disciplined for swapping his own shirt with Real Madrid’s Pepe at half-time in the previous week’s Champions League defeat.
The bookie’s official comment on the stunt aimed to position itself as the fans’ friend:
‘You can understand why the Liverpool fans are getting shirty. The performances have been less Super Mario and more Luigi. The lack of goals wouldn’t be quite as frustrating if he made more of an effort. We stepped in as it seems only fair that if Balotelli doesn’t want his shirt, fans shouldn’t have to keep on going round with his name on their backs.’
Of course, it was also hoping to turn the stunt into a direct revenue generator by launching an accompanying book / gambling line on the player’s future.
This was publicised with an amusing outdoor billboard outside Liverpool station showing the following Mario madness Special Odds:
Mario Madness Specials:
To be charged with an offence in 2015 – 8/1
Brendan Rodgers to call him a clown – 25/1
To retire from football to become a manual labourer – 250/1
The initiative has strong echoes of previous low-latency, bookie-led shirt swap stunts – particularly BetFair’s ‘Trash Your Teves Shirt’ campaign (see previous case study).
Of course, the Paddy Power team are now becoming so well known for their mischievous marketing stunts that they now seem to generate more publicity for the promotional antics than for the bookie business.
From its frequent Cheltenham Festival ambushes,
and its sending both a grim reaper and a (very bad) Waxwork Alex Ferguson (see previous case study) to Old Trafford to taunt the struggling David Moyes, to its ‘Bendter Euro 2012 Pants Stunt’ (see previous case study) and its fake ‘Come On England’ branded Brazilian deforestation stunt at the World Cup (see our Brazil 2014 Report), the Paddy Power team certainly understand how to rapidly respond to sports events to generate unearned media headlines.
There is a serious side to their ambush stunts too – from their Nigel Farage-fronted Ryder Cup commercial (see previous case study) and the widely applauded ‘Rainbow Laces (see previous case study)’ campaign with Stonewall, to the much criticised backing of Dennis Rodman’s North Korean basketball Tour (see previous case study).
Love them or hate them, they have carved out a position at the marmite of the betting brands.
At least Balotelli himself is known for his own wicked sense of humour.
Perhaps Mario will have his own response for the Irish Bookie later in the season?
Paddy Power Balotelli Stunt Blog