FIFA’s decision to place an immediate ban on Luis Suarez regarding ‘all football-related activity’ for his bite on opponent Chiellini did not just scupper Uruguay’s World Cup plans – it also prevented what would have been Paddy Power’s latest audacious marketing stunt.
The Irish bookmaker had offered the Liverpool striker €1m (£792,000) to wear a special branded mouth guard during one of Uruguay’s games in the knockout stages. This likely would have taken place as the teams sang their national anthems ahead of the Uruguay v Colombia match last week. Suarez would have revealed his Paddy Power choice of mouth wear as the cameras went by.
This, oddly, was not the first time Paddy Power had attempted to sponsor Suarez’s gum shield. A representative of Paddy Power told the Sunday Independent last week: “Last summer we had several exchanges with Joel Barras Garcia from Pere Guardiola’s (brother of Pepe) management company. The discussions were around sponsoring Luis Suarez’s gum shield for his return match to the Premier League following his last biting ban (the one on Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic). Negotiations broke down over cost but in theory, he was up for it.”
“We reconnected with Garcia immediately after his latest World Cup biting ‘incident’ and in principle we had a deal in place whereby Suarez would reveal a Paddy Power branded mouth guard during the national anthems before the Uruguay v Colombia match.”
The decision by FIFA to implement a four mouth ban effective immediately put an end to this deal. The World Cup represents a gargantuan opportunity for bookmakers to gain new customers and a larger market share. As such marketing teams are under pressure to deliver innovative and successful methods, and thereby ensure their brand is seen and discussed.
Thus far this campaign Paddy Power already raised awareness of both themselves and the plight of the Amazon rainforest in yet another daring two-part stunt, whilst their attempt to temporarily rebrand some of their stores ‘Pele Power’ was decided against due to the threat of legal action from the man himself. The Suarez mouth shield plan bears a striking resemblance to another idea, this one actually carried out, by the bookmaker at Euro 2012. Denmark’s Nicholas Bendtner, after scoring against Ukraine, pulled down his shorts to reveal a pair of Paddy Power underpants to the millions watching live. In response UEFA delivered a €100,000 (£79,000) fine which Paddy Power paid in full.
Had the mouth shield stunt taken place there is no doubt about the manner in which FIFA would have responded. FIFA very strictly prohibits any advertising by those not on the list of official sponsors. The main sponsors at this year’s competition are Adidas, Visa, Emirates, Coca-cola, Hyundai and Sony; FIFA have earned around $404m (almost £236m) in terms of marketing revenues this World Cup. Adidas alone are thought to pay in the region of $80m (over £46m) per year in a sponsorship agreement with FIFA, part of this deal gave the firm the right to produce the official World Cup ball – the Brazuca.