Paddy Power’s Poor Taste Wimbledon StuntJake Cooper | 11 Jul 2017
Paddy Power is known for setting bets on almost anything, even when Polar bears will be extinct, and for mounting advertising campaigns that are equally attention-grabbing. In 2014, for example, an image was posted on the UK and Irish bookmaker’s Twitter feed ahead of the FIFA World Cup. It showed a Brazilian rain forest with the words “c’mon England” and the PP logo.
Later revealed to be fake, the pictures caused considerable uproar. Now Paddy Power has come under fire again, this time for a publicity stunt with a Wimbledon theme.
Defacing National Heritage
In what seems to have been intended as a tongue-in-cheek advertisement to tie in with the British Open, Paddy Power altered the appearance of a 400-year-old statue in Cerne Abbas, a quiet village in Dorset.
The statue is a fertility symbol that stands at an impressive 180 feet, and is of a naked man holding a club. Local folklore says if childless couples make love on the hillside by the statue, they will bear children.
The new campaign replaced the club with a tennis racket and ball, making the statue seem somehow much more sexually explicit and risqué to many, including the National Trust who have strongly objected. Paddy Power’s PP sign can also be seen.
A Herculean Prank
Paddy Power has stated that the alterations to the statue were intended to celebrate Wimbledon 2017, and to give a humorous nod to the fact that Andy Murray and his wife Kim Sears are expecting their second child. Murray is a 2-time Wimbledon champion and the top-ranked player in Britain.
A lot of effort went into completing the stunt. In just over 3 hours, a team of 6 did it under the cover of darkness on 3 July. They wore night vision goggles, and used a 255sqm tarpaulin and no less than 250 tent pegs to accomplish the task.
No Permanent Damage
Paddy Power has confirmed that the alterations to the Cerne Abbas Giant are temporary, and that they will cause no lasting damage. Nevertheless, a spokesperson has said that the National Trust is concerned that the stunt may encourage future damage to this ancient and fragile site. They went on to say that although they were pleased to hear of Murray’s news, they did not encourage defacing the protected Cerne Abbas Giant under any circumstances.
Making a gesture of goodwill, Paddy Power has donated £5,000 to the National Trust. This is, however, almost certainly not the last time their mischievous advertising campaigns and accompanying publicity stunts will land them in hot water.