There's no such thing as bad PR

PR stunts | Crisis Comms | Greatest Showman
American showman Phineas T. Barnum (the real one, not Hugh Jackman) is often associated with the saying ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’. But this week, the brand that can do no wrong may actually have, as Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, apologises after releasing images featuring a polar bear supposedly graffitied with a St. George’s Cross. Despite a considerable amount of backlash on social media, is this truly bad PR or has it served its purpose and got people talking?

By Chris Brown, account manager 

From giant royal babies and an emergency Alex Ferguson to Juan Direction and a pair of giant inflatable pants, Paddy Power doesn’t shy away from the controversial. While most of its campaigns have provided a good laugh, its latest bid for the limelight has certainly raised some eye brows. 

Conceived by its marketing agency as a way of drawing attention to the plight of polar bears in the Arctic, particularly in the northern region of Russia, the print advert featured an image of a polar bear graffitied with a St. George’s cross on its chest.

As the angry mobs descended on Twitter to proclaim their outrage, Paddy Power revealed that the image was indeed photoshopped and was actually a bear called Agee who lives in Canada. In addition, it also announced it was a funding two research projects for Polar Bears International (PBI) to improve knowledge of the vulnerable and potentially soon to be endangered species.

But why, I hear you ask? What can possibly link Paddy Power and these magnificent beasts? Well this week, they released a statement:

“Now when it comes to this World Cup, there’s already plenty of people talking about Russian hooligans, Harry Kane’s captaincy and who England’s next scapegoat will be. 

“But how many football fans are discussing, say, the Russian Arctic’s endangered polar bears that roam across the longest Arctic coastline in the world, and some of the most remote? Scientists don’t know enough about the bears across this vast and inhospitable area that is not only experiencing record sea ice loss, but is also targeted for increased industrial activities and shipping. 

"So, while England fans are famous for bringing St George’s Cross flags everywhere, Pitch Marketing Group came up with the idea that we could get in on the action, show our support for Southgate’s boys (and stick two fingers up to Putin) by putting the cross where it’s never been – on the host nation’s most iconic animal in a stunt headlined ‘England Til I Dye’.” 

Once again all is not as it seems with one of Paddy Power’s campaigns and in fact it’s a rather good piece of PR, which has got people talking about the plight of polar bears.

While a controversial campaign might not always be the best way to get your message across, it’s always worth considering if you want to get people talking.

If you’d like to add some spice to your PR campaign, why not drop me a line to see how we can help either by emailing or calling 01785 225416.


Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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