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Paddy Power’s Most Controversial Campaigns

Paddy Power recently unveiled a new visual identity to reflect its image as a “mischief-maker.”

“We are obsessed with ensuring that our brand remains edgy and different, not corporate and mainstream,” chief executive Patrick Kennedy told The Irish Times .

As homage to the bookie’s bad-boy reputation, we’ve found some of Paddy Power’s most controversial advertising campaigns

It’s interesting to note that banning adds does not limit the public’s exposure to them; in fact, it can actually increase it. Demand online (YouTube, for example) soars after a commercial is pulled.

Most Complaints

Blind Football

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The advert, which shows a cat mistakenly kicked by a blind footballer, had more complaints lodged against it than any other in 2010. Many (industry and public) argued that it was disparaging to the visually impaired and promoted animal cruelty.

Peter Hepburn, chief executive of animal charity Cats Protection, said: “At best this commercial is in very bad taste and at worst it may encourage cruelty towards cats.”

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rejected the complaints, however, concluding that the ad was unlikely to encourage cruelty to animals or cause “serious or widespread offence.”

Look Before Crossing


The United Kingdom’s most complained about advertisement in 2002 featured two elderly ladies crossing the street. The odds reflect who will cross the road first, not who will be run over by the oncoming truck, Paddy Power claimed.

Social Commentary?

Chav Tranquilizer

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Released ahead of the 2012 Cheltenham Festival, the ad shows chavs being tranquilized with darts. It was pulled less than a week after it aired, though rowdy youths in burberry hats still roam the streets of Britain, unfortunately.

A Paddy Power spokesman said: “Shockingly, our last TV Ad has been banned after just four days on TV. That’s some kind of record, even for us.”


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Also aired ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, the advert urged racing fans to “spot the stallions from the mares.” Unsurprisingly, Paddy Power was forced to withdraw the ad.

“The suggestion that trans people could be segregated into the gender stereotypes ‘stallions’ and ‘mares’ as part of a guessing game, trivialised a complex and difficult issue and objectified them in a way that was likely to cause them serious offence,” the ASA ruled. “The ad condoned and encouraged harmful discriminatory behaviour and treatment.”

Religious Zeal

Last Supper


With religion often a touchy subject, it’s no surprise that Paddy Power caused an uproar with an ad featuring Jesus and the apostles gambling at the Last Supper.

Paddy took down its Last Supper posters in Dublin and replaced them with ones reading: “There’s a place for fun and games. Apparently this isn’t it.”

The Messiah’s Touch

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The campaign depicted Jesus Christ healing players, filling stadiums and fighting match fixing. The ad was released to promote Paddy Power’s new Italien website and the start of the 2012 Serie A season.

Italy’s biggest broadcasters pulled the commercial. Paddy Power dubbed the decision the worst “since 80-year-old Cecilia Jimenez took her crayon set to sex-up the 19th-century Ecce Homo fresco of Jesus.”

“We’re disappointed that some major networks have decided not to show the ad. Given that a lot of Italian fans think a miracle is needed to save the game from scandal, we think most would welcome some divine intervention—his is supported by the large numbers of likes and views the ad is getting online,” a spokesperson said in astatement.

Public Stunts

London Games


Paddy Power erected massive billboards advertising the “largest athletics events in London this year”—an egg and spoon race in London, France. Locog, which organized the 2012 London Olympics, called for the ad to be pulled. However, Locog backed down after Paddy Power launched legal proceedings, arguing that the campaign did not breach Olympic advertising regulations.

Paddy is certainly not shy about using international sporting events to generate buzz. The operator caused a stir during Euro 2012 when Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner revealed Paddy Power underpants after scoring.

Uffington White Horse


Paddy Power put a jockey (110ft tall and 200ft wide) on the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire. The company made a donation to the National Trust, which maintains the 3,000-year-old carving, though it didn’t dampen the outrage.  

A National Trust spokesman said:

“We’re fans of racing as much as anyone but we’ll need to investigate if the pegs they’ve used have caused damage to a monument that’s been here for thousands of years.

“It’s our job to look after special places like this so everyone can enjoy them and we know that the thousands of visitors who come here every year have a huge emotional connection with this place.

“We’d normally be asked about this kind of thing in advance to help avoid any issues with damage.”

Going Hollywood


Also to promote Cheltenham, Paddy Power had a 50ft sign erected on Cleeve Hill in Hollywood-style lettering. The bookie was forced to remove it because the operator was not granted planning permission. In September 2010, Paddy also put up a huge Hollywood-style sign beside Celtic Manor Golf Course for the Ryder Cup.

Celtic Manor owner Sir Terry Matthews described the company as “scum” in an interview with the BBC.

“We’re very disappointed. The fun police have won – the big bully boys have come along. They completely over-reacted and threatened to bulldoze the sign down, which they had no legal right to do,” Paddy Power commented.


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