Paddy Power’s ‘Man Utd – Sir Alex Waxwork’ PR Stunt


Mischievous (and PR stunt obsessed) Irish bookmaker Paddy Power is at it again – newsjacking stories around Manchester United faltering form since the departure of iconic manager Sir Alex Ferguson via a Fergie waxwork stunt outside Old Trafford.


The Sir Alex wax statue (which really doesn’t look like the legendary manager at all), was placed in a glass Paddy Power box outside the stadium’s main entrance following Man Utd’s 3:1 defeat by Chelsea.


The box was emblazoned with the following sign:


‘In case of Emergency at Old Trafford, Break Glass’.


Typically, the rushed stunt itself didn’t attract too much interest, but the bookmaker posted a story about it on its own blog reading:


‘We’ve brought Fergie back to Old Trafford. Sort of. Well, in wax work form. In a high covert operations that was only partially undermined by the massive Paddy Power logo emblazoned on the side, we brought Fergie to Old Trafford once again….Yes, it appears it was made by someone who has no idea what Sir Alex Ferguson looks like, but still – it’s Fergie back at Old Trafford – what more do United fans want?’


The company also promoted its own stunt through its Twitter feed – which currently boasts around 250,000 follower – and generated 3000 retweets and 1000 favourites.




Paddy Power seems almost obsessed with publicity seeking ‘newsjacking’ stunts that leverage events and properties.


This approach, of course, brings the worst fears of the tradition al sponsor to light, as by using a real time social media led approach the brand is able to leverage events and exploit properties without paying for any official rights.


Some old school partnership professional feel the rise of this approach might even fundamentally undermine the sponsorship industry.


Whilst others argue it merely demonstrates the importance of switching to more contemporary models of sponsorship activation that focus on experience enhancement  rather than logo reach.


By using quick response humour to leverage a current topics and contemporary events relevant to its target a consumer, Paddy Power’s objective is that the cheap stunts go viral (either spread primarily by consumers, or by media organisations).


This guerrilla approach also helps with its anti-establishment and rebel brand positioning.


However, the tactic doesn’t always pay-off, as the consumer and press backlash against the bookie’s backing of Dennis Rodman’s controversial basketball tour of North Korea highlights.




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