So it was a hoax all along…
On Wednesday morning Huddersfield Town announced their new home kit for the upcoming football season. Not an unusual launch for this time of year but notable for the prominence of the logo of the principal shirt sponsor – betting company Paddy Power.
🔵 #htafc‘s new home kit for the upcoming 2019/20 season has today been revealed!
— Huddersfield Town (@htafc) July 17, 2019
It caused uproar among fans, the football-loving public and the media. Of course that’s partly because of the nature of a sponsor, gambling companies have been in the firing line in more ways than one in the UK media in recent years, but also because of something more emotional – the football fan’s sense of tribalism, belonging and ownership.
The move was seen as just the latest chapter in the never-ending story that is ‘selling football’s soul’. Everything, from stadium names and the seats on the substitutes’ bench, can be bought.
The furore reached fever pitch (sorry) when the Terriers wore the kit for a pre-season friendly on Wednesday evening. Yet today it was revealed that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax and, instead of a garish logo, the shirt would have no sponsor’s logo at all, even though Paddy Power is still Huddersfield’s sponsor for the upcoming season.
🙌 Here it is!
— Huddersfield Town (@htafc) July 19, 2019
This campaign, all conducted over three days, has all the hallmarks of Paddy Power’s disruptive style of PR: the outrageous stunt, the media uproar, the offended moral sensibilities of half the country, the twist and the final gracious statement that confirms they were pulling our legs and they’re actually behind a morally righteous movement to “give something back to the fans.”
And it worked from a PR perspective; the story was picked up by every major news outlet, was trending on Twitter and was sparking conversation up and down the land. It kicked off with the launch, wearing it in the pre-season friendly was the early goal, the FA announcing it had contacted the club to “seek their observations” was an own goal that worked in Paddy Power’s favour and today’s announcement was the last-minute goal that sealed the victory – as I type, #SaveOurShirt is trending on UK Twitter.
To conclude the match report (and painfully extended sports metaphor): Paddy Power set out with a gameplan and executed it perfectly; they anticipated every move of the opposition, resisted the pressure and won a fine victory for their PR strategy and their brand awareness.