How controversial content pays off for Paddy Power
Paddy Power is a brand well-known for its controversial sense of humour, and ad campaigns that are unafraid to push the boundaries of what’s considered acceptable.
Richard Harris, Head of Online Marketing for Paddy Power, took to the stage at Shift London this week to talk about how this approach pays off for the brand.
Paddy Power has built its brand presence around content that is timely, brazen, unapologetic and funny. This approach has won them legions of fans who follow and engage with their content across a range of channels. But their strategy isn’t just about fun and games, as Richard Harris revealed in his presentation at Shift London this week.
Behind the humour is a very calculated, data and metrics-driven approach to business, and a very clever marketing strategy which delivers concrete returns for Paddy Power. Harris explained how brand culture, content strategy, planning and flexibility come together to give Paddy Power a competitive edge in the world of sports betting.
For Paddy Power, brand is something that transcends the whole organisation. “It doesn’t just sit in one corner of the office with a bunch of guys doing funny stuff,” said Harris. The company’s culture is a competitive one, and personality helps.
Everything that Paddy Power does reflects its controversial ethos – not just its marketing. In 2012, the horsemeat scandal formed the backdrop to the company’s annual report: Paddy Power issued a horsemeat ‘recipe book’ along with the report, which opened to music from Black Beauty. Even when interacting with investors, the company stays true to its offbeat brand image.
The company knows its audience and the platforms they spend the most time on: 69% male, 24% ages 18-34, 88% more likely to view a video on Facebook and 56% more likely to watch a video on YouTube. Channels like social media and YouTube give Paddy Power reach with a young audience that TV can’t provide.
Harris believes that content should come together from teams with different skillsets working together.
The company’s brand, social, editorial and online marketing teams all collaborate to create content for Paddy Power. The content they produce “is about having your finger on the pulse, being sharp-witted and bold, being consistent in tone.”
The main theme of Paddy Power’s content is of course sport, mostly football. Common topics include current events in sport and making fun of sports personalities, especially football ‘prima donnas’; but the brand also has no qualms about using content from outside the sporting world. In the lead-up to Christmas, for example, Paddy Power released a typically provocative take on the John Lewis Christmas ad which gained over 800 retweets on Twitter.
“Most people find these things funny; there are always a few that don’t,” said Harris. But that isn’t always a problem for Paddy Power, as negative reactions only serve to fuel the conversation around their brand.
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) November 6, 2015
Much of Paddy Power’s controversial content is carefully planned out, but getting the best response from content also involves a lot of flexibility and opportunism; the brand is always ready to react to what’s happening.
For example, in honour of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Paddy Power tweeted a photograph of the Amazon rainforest, where it appeared to have carved a message in support of England by cutting down huge swathes of trees.
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) June 7, 2014
Paddy Power’s reputation played completely to its advantage with the stunt, as huge numbers of people were fully willing to believe that Paddy Power had really chopped down miles of Amazon rainforest in the name of advertising. The frenzy of reaction on social media was so intense that Paddy Power decided to wait 48 hours, instead of the planned 24, before revealing the hoax.
When it comes to engaging with negativity around its content, Paddy Power is careful to read the situation before deciding how to react. In the case of ‘Shave the Rainforest’ (as the Amazon stunt became known), Paddy Power knew that the outrage would die down once the hoax was revealed, so it even fanned the flames a little bit, playing into people’s assumptions to encourage the conversation, before coming clean. In the case of genuine upset, though, the brand deals with things more carefully.
Harris highlighted the need for content creators at Paddy Power to be “ready to act” on opportunities that were presented to them – by match outcomes, press disasters, and other twists and turns. Some of Paddy Power’s most popular content has come from the brand providing an entertaining twist on events at just the right moment.
In a hugely competitive marketplace, each brand has to do something different in order to stand out. Paddy Power’s provocative content allows it to stand out amongst its competitors.
In a previous post for ClickZ, Tereza Litsa compared Paddy Power’s success on Twitter with that of its competitor Ladbrokes. While Ladbrokes appears to tick all the right boxes on social media, its content is less creative and remarkable, and ultimately less successful as a result.
Paddy Power’s controversial marketing, while it might turn some away from the brand, has successfully got people engaging across all channels, and even offline. As the ‘Shave the Rainforest’ example proves, even negativity can still be extremely valuable promotion.
To illustrate this point, Harris highlighted the brand’s marketing budget, which as a percentage of its online net revenue is less than its competitors. Harris attributes this efficiency to the value of Paddy Power’s brand. “We believe it gives us an edge that our competitors don’t have,” he said.
At heart, Paddy Power is a pragmatic brand. Although big follower numbers are always nice, it knows that the fans and followers who are actually customers are much more valuable to the brand than those who aren’t. “It’s not just people having a laugh,” said Harris. “It’s a very metric and data-driven game.”
Paddy Power knows that there will always be people who just like to consume content, and may follow every update without ever placing a bet. It has strategies in place to try and persuade them to become customers, but knows that it isn’t possible to convert 100% of your fans and followers.
The brand’s content creators have license to “roam around”, push the boat out and be creative without a lot of oversight, because what they do has been proven to work. “As long as the CEO doesn’t end up in jail,” Harris joked, “we’re good.”