When Floyd Mayweather — the biggest and highest paid sports star on the planet — stripped to his briefs to weigh in for the most watched sporting event in history the only brand that adorned his body was Paddy Power.
Floyd Mayweather in Paddy Power lucky pants. It was quite the coup for the bookmaker.
It sent social media into a tizzy, irritated the nationalistic sensibilities of Ireland footballer James McClean and blasted the brand Paddy Power right around the globe. Job done.
Behind the scenes, the stunt, like many of the great Paddy Power stunts, bore all the hallmarks of the company’s advertising director guru Ken Robertson.
Mr Robertson has been working with Paddy Power for almost two decades and has held numerous roles at the company including head of “mischief”, head of communications and head of branding at Sportsbet — its Australian subsidiary. He is leaving the company later this year to start his own creative advertising business.
So how did he pull off one of the great stunts and get Mayweather in a pair of Paddy Power lucky pants emblazoned with the phrase: “Always bet on black”?
Well, it turns out quite a bit of luck was involved.
“That collaboration came about as a result of a quite a fortuitous conversation with the guys from a company called Draft,” he said.
“Draft is a fantasy sports company based in New York that Paddy Power Betfair have recently acquired. I think we acquired them back in May and by pure luck, they just happened to be visiting our offices in Dublin and it came to light pretty quickly that they have an association with Team Mayweather. Draft was doing a bit of social media work with Mayweather. So it wasn’t long after that that we got a deal in place with Mayweather and things moved pretty fast from there.”
While it may have required a fortuitous encounter, the fight was on the radar of all at Paddy Power for quite a while. Given one of the main protagonists was Irish, Mr Robertson explained that the idea of promoting the brand to the front of many of the creative minds at the company.
“I suppose with all the hype that was surrounding the fight since it was first mooted earlier in the year, we have been exploring a lot of different options to make Paddy Power part of the kind of narrative around the event and we have a very proud tradition in doing just that. Like we did with Nicklas Bendtner in Euro 2012 or ambushing the Ryder Cup with our Sky tweets campaign the same year. That’s kind of what we are famous for. That’s what our punters have come to expect.”
Once the deal was in place with Mayweather, the branding campaign unfolded over three days and began with delivering some underwear to the door of the biggest sportsman on the planet.
“We got a large variety of different styles of branded lucky pants and they were dispatched along with Paddy Power himself and a chap called Paul Mallon who is our head of brand activation. So the two lads went over to Las Vegas at the start of last week — so the week leading into the fight — and they basically spent a week with Mayweather.
“Obviously, they delivered the pants. They got some exclusive content and the campaign unfolded over there days where on Wednesday we announced the pay-out, on Thursday Mayweather released a video acknowledging the payout and then on Friday everything builds up to the fact that Mayweather is wearing the lucky pants at the weigh-in.”
He’s not known as Floyd “Money” Mayweather for no reason. So, did Paddy Power have to break the bank to land such a big fish?
Unsurprisingly, the advertising chief is coy on the financial remuneration paid to Mayweather but said it might not contain as many zeroes as people think.
“Look, to be honest, we don’t talk about money but what I will say, for us, it certainly represented value. The number probably isn’t as big as people think and certainly isn’t as big as numbers that have been reported in the media.”
Asking the departing Mr Robertson which one of the company stunts he was most proud of being involved with, he says it is “a bit like choosing your favourite child” but he admits that landing Floyd Mayweather “is right up there”.
“We are very happy with the way it worked out in terms of the level of branding we got during the live weigh-in and subsequently the number of times that was shown on Saturday in the lead up to the fight on news channels all around the world. And the amount pick-up it got generally in the media, whether through shots of the branded pants at the weigh-in or actual stories about Paddy Power sponsorship of Mayweather. We are very pleased with how it all worked out.”