Paddy Power Controversy: What’s the Big Deal?

We’ve been reporting on the developing story of Danish star Niklas Bendtner’s controversial guerilla marketing attempt. During a match against Croatia, Bendtner scored a mid-match goal, and in celebration, ran the field with his shirt pulled up and pants lowered. The controversy lies in his underpants choice, specifically the writing on the waistband.

Labeled with the words “Paddy Power,” the name of an Irish betting firm, Bendtner’s move was immediately spotted by the UEFA, the managing football organization, as a guerilla marketing ploy, forbidden in the league’s rules. Bendtner was later fined the equivalent of $126,000 for the stunt, and suspended for one competitive match.

The underwear fiasco hasn’t ended there, however. The move has put the spotlight on guerilla marketing in general within the sports organization as well as a potential bias against rival advertising activities.

In a recent match against Italy, the Croatian football league was fined only $37,000 for chanting racist remarks. The contradictory dearth between the $37,000 charged for the racist stunt and $126,000 for Bendtner’s marketing attempt has placed the UEFA in an awkward light, as it would appear they’re priorities are askew.

Manchester United soccer team member Rio Ferdinand, commented on the matter on Twitter, accusing UEFA of de-prioritizing tackling racism: “UEFA are you for real??? £80,000 fine for Bendtner for underwear advertising….all of the racism fines together don’t even add up to that?!”

Regardless of whether the UEFA has skewed policing policies, Paddy Power is most certainly raking in the cash. Even with their commitment to pay the UEFA’s fine on Bendtner’s behalf, the betting firm has received an other-worldly amount of attention: well worth the $126,000.

Paddy Power has tried to revert the focus back to the UEFA, too, calling the fines “A hysterical and deeply cynical move by UEFA dictated by pure commercialism.” The fact that Paddy Power’s marketing campaign was similarly motivated by “pure commercialism” seems to be lost on the betting firm.

In any case, it looks as though this is one controversy that isn’t dying down any time soon. We can’t help but wonder, though, maybe the big fuss isn’t over the actual revealing of Bendtner’s Paddy Power underwear, but the fact that the green skivvies aren’t yet on sale to the public.

What do you think? Was Bendtner charged too much? Is the UEFA wrong in the fines they’ve administered?