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CUNNING STUNTS: It’s Saint Nicklas and 15 of Paddy Power’s biggest controversies

Aside from Daft Punking and playing a round with Nigel Farage, Paddy Power has a history of cunning stunts. This includes taking on the Amazon and the GAA. Ideal time for a recap so...

by Aidan Elder | June 20, 2015

We love a bit of mischief, which sometimes involves paying heavy fines for footballers. Here’s a recap of some of our finest – and daftest – moments…

Nicklas Bendtner

1. Bendtner gets lucky (2012) ↑

Portugal may have finished 3-2 winners in their Euro 2012 Group B clash with Denmark in Lviv but Nicklas Bendtner enhanced his reputation with a brace of headers which kept his side in the game. And he happened to be wearing a pair of Paddy Power lucky pants as he did it.

We here on the Paddy Power Blog are not saying that Nicklas Bendtner scored twice because he was wearing his Paddy Power Lucky Pants but we’re definitely taking credit for the second one. Of course, the fact Serbia were fined less for their racist fans just makes Nicklas a saint in our eyes.

2. Grannies on a zebra crossing (2002) ↑

The most complained-about ad in the UK in 2002 depicted two old ladies crossing a road with odds bubbles above their heads. We were clearly betting on who would get across the road first. Some people got the impression that the menacing 4×4 in background meant we were betting on which of the grannies would be run over first. Lots of old people weren’t happy.

3. The sky’s the 140-character limit (2012) ↑

Paddy Power decided to take to the skies above the Medinah Country Club (USA) to deliver the world’s first ‘sky tweet’ campaign in support of Team Europe at the 2012 Ryder Cup tournament. It wasn’t long before everyone at the course saw what was happening and Sky Sports started to broadcast the sky tweets live on air to viewers at home. It was so good the BBC repeated the tweets during their Sports Personality of the Year awards ceremony on Sunday, December 16. Thanks, Beeb.

4. Hurls allowed (2003) 

Ireland is unique in having two Championships of professional standard played by amateurs every single year. We spotted a way of rewarding players that wasn’t in breach of any rules. We simply wrote Paddy Power on hurleys (see above). To say it caused consternation would be a massive understatement. The sponsorship was the subject of national debate to such an extent that we pulled it after just one game because it was interfering with players’ preparation for the biggest day of their lives.

5. Paddy goes to Rome (2005) 

We had been betting on who would be next Pope for a number of years, and when John Paul II was obviously very ill, interest in his successor soared. When Pope John Paul II died, there was a period of mourning in Rome and the world’s media were camped in Rome with nothing to talk about. We thought it would be a good idea to give them a story. So Paddy Power (pictured above) and Head of Mischief Ken Robertson packed their bags and jumped on a plane to Rome. They went straight to St Peter’s Square, set up a bookies stand and began shouting odds. There was huge interest from the public in Rome as everyone wanted to know who the bookies thought would be next Pope. The media caught the bug too and over the course of three days they were interviewed on more than 90 international TV networks. The highlight of the adventure was when Ken had a gun pulled on him by a member of the Italian Secret Service, he somehow managed to evade capture.

6. Sweet Jesus (2005) 

More religious stuff. Paddy Power causes a storm with an advertising campaign featuring Jesus and the apostles gambling at the Last Supper. The billboard posters were emblazoned with the slogan: ‘There’s a place for fun and games.’ It was adapted from Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting of the Biblical story of the Last Supper and showed Jesus with a stack of poker chips and other chums playing cards and roulette. Sure, isn’t that what they were doing?

7. Tiger blows it (2009) 

It takes a special kind of company to turn what should have been our best ever golf result into our worst but that’s exactly what Paddy Power did with the USPGA in August.  For some very questionable reason we took the unprecedented step of paying out over €1m to backers of Tiger Woods before the world number one teed off for round three of the USPGA. At that time of Tiger was four shots clear at the top of the leader board and was the bookies red-hot 1/5 favourite to win the final Major of the year.  Unfortunately for us, Tiger failed to produce his trademark magic in the final two rounds resulting in our record breaking seven-figure cock-up, the biggest ever mistake of its kind.

8. Cat amongst the pigeons (2010) 

This TV ad showing a cat being kicked into a tree by a blind footballer was the most-complained-about UK advert of the year. Some people.

9.  Cheltenham goes a bit Hollywood (2010) 

Paddy Power had a 50ft Hollywood-style sign erected on Cleeve Hill for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Tewkesbury Borough Council said the sign did not have planning permission. “We’re pretty excited about it, it’s probably going to be a bit of a tourist attraction for the area,” said Paddy, before being forced to remove the sign.

10. Ryder in a storm (2010) 

Paddy Power is forced again to take down another Hollywood-style sign next to Celtic Manor after losing a battle with Monmouthshire County Council during the Ryder Cup. PAH!

11. Chav a go of this (2012) 

We ‘take care of the Chavs – veterinary style’ is revealed and becomes an internet sensation just one week after a Ladies’ Day advert for Cheltenham featuring transgendered actresses is pulled from TV.

12. You’ve Been Punked (2014) 

In an effort to make the Brit Awards at least a little interesting we took two interns, filled them full of booze, dressed them up like internationally renowned dance act Daft Punk and pushed them out of a limo onto the red carpet. To our joyous surprise the media and event organisers were so thrilled at the idea of having the elusive Daft Punk at the event that they didn’t think to check for tickets or ID. It wasn’t until our interns dropped their trousers to reveal their Paddy Power Lucky Pants that they were finally rumbled.

Final version

13. Couldn’t see the joke for the trees (2014) 

Before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil we decided to wish the England team good luck by shaving our salutations into the Brazilian Rainforest. Understandably some people thought we might have gone too far by destroying the already criminally diminished rainforest in the name of self-promotion. What with the whole needing oxygen/global warming/hurtling towards human destruction thing.


Understandably people were a little miffed until they realised it was all a big joke. Not even Paddy Power wood go that far for some publicity. Read all the details of how we infuriated hair-trigger hippies all over the world here.

14. Eur Having A Laugh Farage (2014) 

If there’s one thing we know about Nigel Farage it’s that he doesn’t like Europe. Okay there are several things we know about Farage but I’m not legally allowed to say any of the other ones without video evidence and sworn statements from the (alleged) victims. So it was quite the surprise when we convinced the leader of UKIP to voice his support for the Ryder Cup team in the rather humorous video above.

15. An Entirely Different Statue of David (2014) 

Never ones to miss a knife-twisting opportunity, the week David Moyes was given the old heave-ho from Old Trafford we celebrated his tenure with those fans who truly appreciated the work that bad been done there by the Scot. Liverpool fans. We had a statue of Moyes commissioned and sent to Anfield for the fans to enjoy.

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