Betfred, the Irish bookmaker, is famous for pulling some of the most outrageous marketing stunts in the world. They describe themselves on their website – “the marketing equivalent of running up and slapping you in the face.”
Outrageous, controversial, funny – whatever you make of the campaigns themselves, they are incredibly successful, going viral on the internet as soon as they are uploaded to YouTube.
Along the way, they’ve ruffled a few feathers and managed to come up with the most complained-about adverts. However, this has also led to their marketing campaigns being featured by CNN, The New York Times, and the BBC for their ground-breaking marketing innovation.
But don’t take their word for it; decide for yourself. Here are just a few of Betfred’s infamous escapades – just who knows what they’ll be up to next.
Betfred – Fan Outrage
Now it’s fair to say that Football fans are religiously loyal to the team that they support. Kit sales are a highly lucrative market, and every top club makes a song and dance about revealing the new season’s kit. So, when Betfred revealed that they were sponsoring Huddersfield Town, we knew there was something up their sleeve.
They did not disappoint. In July 2019, Huddersfield Town released its new kit. But did it go down well? Let’s say, No. What it did do was create outrage from the fans, leading to a huge social media outcry.
Surely this was not the real kit? Thankfully after playing in the kit pre-season, Betfred revealed that the kit was a spoof and that there would be no logo on the kit at all.
However, this did not satisfy the FA, who fined Huddersfield Town £50,000 for misconduct in September 2019. Ouch, now that’s a big slap on the wrist. But it sure did generate a huge amount of interest.
Betfred – Polar Bear
It’s fair to say that the poor old polar bear is having a pretty bad time. The world is very concerned about it losing its natural habitats due to global warming. So, what did Betfred go and do in the build-up to the 2018 Russia World Cup?
Well, they approached this sensitive subject head-on. They released an ad of them spray-painting a polar bear in the Russian Arctic with an England flag. All set off with the strapline ‘England Till I Die’.
Yep, you guessed it. People went nuts about this. But, to be fair to Betfred, they did follow up with an explanation and did generate awareness of the endangered polar bears in the Russian Arctic.
Betfred – Hollywood Sign
Now, there’s making a statement; then, there’s making a big statement. How does a 270ft long, 50ft high homage to the famous Hollywood sign sound for size?
Well, that is exactly what they built on Cleeve Hill; high above Cheltenham racecourse in 2010. The punters loved it, but that wasn’t the reaction of racecourse officials or Channel 4. This left them seething at the audacity of the bookmakers’ nerve and worried about upsetting major sponsors.
Even so, it didn’t stop them from repeating the stunt. The following September, they erected the huge Hollywood-style sign beside Celtic Manor Golf Course for the Ryder Cup. But this time, it caused such a stink that the bookmakers were eventually forced to dismantle the structure after incurring the wrath of Celtic Manor Resort owner Sir Terry Matthews.
They scored a bit of an own goal when Danish striker, Nicklas Bendtner, got a little more than a slap on the wrist. Bendtner was fined an astonishing 100,000 euros (around £80,000) and banned for one competitive international fixture when he pulled up his shirt to reveal lucky green ‘Betfred’ branded underwear during Denmark’s game against Portugal in the European Cup.
To add insult to injury, Denmark lost the match 3-2 and went out of the tournament when they later lost to Germany. Betfred said in a statement: ‘We are appalled with the severity of Nicklas Bendtner’s fine for displaying Betfred on the waistband of his lucky underpants recently.” I wonder who actually paid the fine?
Let’s say that the huge backlash directed at Bendtner did not stop Betfred. The Betfred pants have made a return on many occasions. For instance, when what looked like the band Daft Punk turned up to the Brit Awards and strolled up the red carpet, they suddenly dropped their trousers, you guessed it revealing Paddy Pants.
But, easily, their safest bet was to cut a deal with the world’s greatest point-for-pound boxer that ever lived, Floyd Mayweather. I mean, who on earth is going to try to slap a fine on him?
So when Mayweather came out of retirement in 2017 for a one-off showcase fight with Conor McGregor, the whole world was watching. On the day of the weigh-in, Mayweather drops his pants, and boom… Paddy Pants. Who knows where the Paddy Pants will appear next?
Betfred – Musical Instruments
Let’s start with their Euro 2012-themed spots for the ‘We Hear You” campaign, which pokes fun at a traditional Ukrainian clay pipe – the zozicula. The ad features a giant zozulica being placed on top of a car after a Facebook comment expressing concern that the giant vuvuzela from a previous campaign could be banned.
It follows the same theme as Betfred’s previous “vuvutruck” ad, which was also a reaction to a customer’s Facebook post that pointed out that the vuvuzela – the background ‘music’ to the South African World Cup – was to be banned from Euro 2012.
Betfred – Stallions Or Mares?
Uh-oh… here they come again…! Lots of people got “crossed” when they asked viewers to guess if a series of ladies attending the races on Ladies’ Day at the Cheltenham Festival were ‘stallions or mares’.
The ad showed a series of brief shots of ‘women’ while the voiceover attempted to guess their gender. The result of this was a whopping 92 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and was banned after being ruled offensive to the trans community.
Banned or not, the ad has been viewed over 1,741,034 times with twice as many “likes” than “dislikes”.
Betfred – Tranquilise The Chavs
It seems that the PP team just can’t leave Cheltenham alone, but being described as ‘shameless’ when they created an advertising campaign promising to ‘tranquilize chavs’ at the Cheltenham Festival, was the water off the proverbial duck’s back.
The 40-second ad shows a very serious-faced hitman stalking the grounds of the racecourse and firing red tranquilizer darts at unsuspecting members of the public. The ad ends with a voiceover promising that ‘You can enjoy a chav-free Cheltenham’ courtesy of Betfred.
Betfred – Blind Football Players
What a slap in the eye for Betfred when, on its 50th anniversary, the Advertising Standards Authority released a list of the top ten most complained-about adverts of all time.
Number 3 came in as Betfred’s 2010 advert, featuring a blind footballer kicking a cat into a tree because he mistook it for the ball. The ad was the most complained about ad of 2010, proving just what a nation of cat lovers we are and how far the Betfred people are prepared to go to claw their way to the top of the publicity tree and turn a slap into a clap.
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Betfred – Uffington Horse
Even national monuments aren’t safe! Yes, Cheltenham again, but this time it was the Uffington horse that the Irish-based bookmakers were playing with. On top of the ancient 374ft long chalk figure, the Betfred task force placed their own jockey bearing the initials PP on his helmet.
The attention-grabbing feat took place in the strictest secrecy and total darkness over six hours at night before the early morning light revealed all. To complete this unique operation, five separate pieces of canvas were cut, and over 200 meters of canvas were used to create the 110ft tall and 200ft wide sham jockey.
Yes, there’s no doubt that the Betfred “slap in the face” machine is prepared to go to almost any lengths to publicise its cause, and it seems that their often hilarious, sometimes close to the edge, ads are here to stay.
From Bruce Grobbelaar shocking a lucky punter by jumping out of his fridge to more recent forays into the world of undercover stunting – a band of England football squad look-alikes raving in a Ukrainian forest. We even had a nasty old lady repeatedly telling Grand National Jockey Ruby Walsh that he is “a dickhead” in a café before the race. In their own words – “It’s a formula that the customer appreciates.”
Betfred has reinvented the art of the publicity stunt for the online social media age; and they’ve done it with such a revenue-generating vengeance that both their tongue-in-cheek courage and customer-driven inventiveness are bound to continue.