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Advertiser: Paddy Power
Medium: Radio, Television
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 3.16, 3.17, 3.19, 3.20
A television advertisement featured a well-known Irish actor walking on an empty
racecourse. As he walks, he is joined by various people, some also well-known sports
personalities, who represent Ireland in various ways. Some of the people are holding
banners with statements such as “The Boom is Back” and “Beans don’t belong on a fry”,
while others were dressed as construction workers and characters from Peaky Blinders.
The main character of the advertisement stated:
“Look we need to have a chat, neighbour to neighbour. This is for laughing at the way
we say 33, and you can't even say Siobhan. For claiming Saoirse, Katie and Niall as your
own and for your complete lack of soda bread. For ruining words like banter, now stop
before you ruin craic. For it's coming home, lads not everything can come home. For
chain pubs, the state of the pints you serve and for not caring as much as we do about
Ireland versus England. Every year we get one chance, our horses winning big on your
On screen text: “Paddy Power proud supporters of the Irish Cheltenham takeover”.
Two radio advertisements also featured the well-known actor and featured similar scripts
to the television advertisement.
“Look, we need to have a chat. Neighbour to neighbour. This is for laughing at the way
we say 33, and you can't even say Siobhan. For ruining words like banter. For it's coming
home. For chain pubs and the state of the pints you serve. And for not caring as much as
we do about Ireland versus England. Every year we get one chance, our horses, winning
big, on your turf. This march Chelteham's coming home.
Paddy Power proud supporters of the Irish Cheltenham takeover. Over 18's. Please
gamble responsibly. See dunlwey.net”
“Look we need to have a chat, neighbour to neighbour. This is for laughing at how we
say 33 and you can't even say Siobhan and for claiming Saoirse, Katie and Niall as your
own. For clogging up our passport application system and your complete lack of soda
bread. For ruining words like banter. Now stop before you ruin craic. For putting baked
beans in a fry, for it's coming home. Lads not everything can come home. For chain pubs
and the state of the pints you serve and for not caring about Ireland versus England as
much we do. But every year we get one chance, our horses, winning big, on your turf.
This March Chelteham's coming home.
Paddy Power proud supporters of the Irish Cheltenham takeover. Over 18's. Please
gamble responsibly. See dunlwey.net”
Five complaints were received regarding the advertising. All complainants considered
that the advertising was offensive on the grounds that it was racist against English people.
The advertisers said that they sought to promote advertising campaigns that were daring,
sharp-witted and on-the-ball as these were their brand pillars, alongside positioning their
Paddy Power brand as the kind of friend with whom a person would converse with about
topics raised in their sports and gaming advertising generally. They believed that it could
be said that the public in Ireland and the UK recognised that their marketing campaigns
contained a humorous and mischievous element, to the extent that their mischief was
rooted in popular culture and news events.
They said that it was never their intention to cause offence and they regretted the offence
caused to the complainants in this instance, however, they did not believe that offence was
a rational response to the advertising, nor did they believe the advertisement was racist to
They said that the advertising was created as a sharp-witted, self-deprecating piece of
cultural commentary in the lead up to the Cheltenham Festival which ran from 10–13
March 2020 and the advertising was fronted by a renowned Irish actor which stoked the
friendly sporting rivalry between Ireland and England ahead of the Cheltenham Festival.
They said that the underlying message of the advertising celebrated the arrival of the Green
Army and the anticipated successes of Irish horses winning in Cheltenham at a time when
the Irish were performing poorly and inconsistently in other sports compared to England.
They said that each year at Cheltenham, one of the ongoing sub-plots of the event was
whether more winning horses would be trained by Irish or English stables and that it was
usually a close contest. They referred to the fact that Cheltenham’s own organisers, The
Jockey Club, run a friendly competition on this matter each year during the Festival,
known as the Prestbury Cup and that it was a much sought over accolade that celebrated
the good-natured racing competition between both Ireland and England with the cup
awarded to the Country with the most winners at the end of the Festival. They said that
Paddy Power had sponsored the 2020 Prestbury Cup.
The advertisers said that the advertisement featured a group of Irish supporters being led
by the main actor as he lists some petty and annoying cultural irritations that added to the
sporting rivalry between Ireland and England. They said that the advertisement
culminated in a self-deprecating acknowledgement that the rivalry did not mean much to
England by stating “for not caring as much about Ireland versus England as we do. Every
year we get one chance…” which they believed reinforced the underlying message of the
advertisement, which they believed could be seen to promote England in terms of its
sporting successes compared to that of Ireland.
They said that the talent chosen, together with the advertising’s tone and delivery, was
crucial to ensure their message came across as tongue in cheek, celebratory, fun and
humorous and not hostile. They said that the advertising was about the sporting rivalry
between the two countries and that rivalry was at the very heart of all sports. They said
that without rivalry, there could be no sport or competition and that rivalry was a healthy
output of sport that released passion and galvanised people to cheer on their team or their
nation and that sport, by its very nature, would always produce rivalries that unite people
behind their team. They said that the advertising had not made hostile or antagonistic
references to historical relations between Ireland and England. They also referred to the
fact that several media reports had referenced that the advertisement had stoked the
‘sporting rivalry’ between the two countries. The advertisers referred to extracts from a
press release they issued at the start of the campaign that included quotations from the
Irish Actor, the Director of the television advertisement and from Paddy Power
They said that prior to production of the campaign, they had tested the concept, approach
and script with a qualitative consumer focus group made up of 24 participants of 25 to 45-
year-old men who use a variety of betting apps (i.e. not all Paddy Power customers). They
said that the response was overwhelmingly positive.
They also said that they had entered into a sponsorship agreement with the owners of the
Cheltenham racecourse, The Jockey Club, in 2020 to sponsor The Stayers’ Hurdle on the
third day of the 2020 Festival and also The Prestbury Cup. They considered that this was
relevant background information in respect of the advertising as the Prestbury Cup was a
much sought over accolade that celebrated the famous and good-natured racing
competition between both Ireland and England with the Cup being awarded to the country
with the most winners at the end of the Cheltenham Festival.
They said that the delivery of the advertising by the talent was crucial and that they had
gone to great lengths to ensure the advertising came across as a tongue in cheek parody-celebratory and humorous as opposed to hostile or mocking. They said that the actor was
specially chosen because of his credentials with comedic delivery and experience over
other well-known Irish men, and was best known for playing iconic, light, charming,
often-Irish humorous characters, was well-liked in Ireland and England and that he had
been directed to deliver a tone that was light-hearted, to smile to camera, to wink and nod.
They said that the opening scene was crucial in setting the tone, and that they exercised
caution to ensure it was warm, invitational and light, with the words “Look we need to
have a chat, neighbour to neighbour” were spoken at the outset, followed by a wink to the
camera, to deliberately set a charming and friendly tone. They said that they exercised
particular care to avoid referring to anything which might be interpreted as Anglophobic
or as antagonistic references to the historical relations between Ireland and England. They
said that any sporting occasion between Ireland and England brought discussion, debate
and banter due to the unavoidable history between the two countries, including historical
sports events. To avoid potentially offending viewers and to avoid any implication or
expression of hostility, the script focused on well-known stereotypical cultural references
throughout the actor had been directed to deliver each line with warmth, wit and charm.
They said that the nature of the script had drawn on recognised truisms that rival fans
might say to each other in the pub or in a social setting, for example good natured banter
such as “you can’t pronounce thirty-three”; “you can’t even say Siobhán”; “the state of
the pints” or “it’s coming home”. They said that they had avoided including anything
which might be deemed to be malicious mocking and that the script had referenced well
known erroneous claims by the press, which stirred up a lot of controversy at the time, that
well known personalities from the entertainment and sports industries were British when
in fact they are Irish. They said that each line of the script was deliberately chosen or
edited to ensure the underlying message was delivered in a light-hearted, friendly and
humorous manner and that words such as “Lads” were spoken to demonstrate the goodnatured tone. They said that the “it’s coming home” line was an amiable dig in respect of
England’s ongoing ‘Football’s coming Home’ campaigns and that the parodic nature of
the advertising and its tongue-in-cheek message was reiterated throughout with actors and
well-known Irish men and women in the background holding signs emblazoned ‘The
boom is back!’; ‘Angela thinks we’re at work’; ‘Beans don’t belong on a fry’; and ‘Light
a candle for Ireland’. They said that they had taken care to ensure that all stereotypical references within the script to both countries were light-hearted celebrations of each
country’s culture and not malicious mocking. They considered that the advertising had
culminated in the delivery of a self-deprecating line “And for not caring as much about
Ireland versus England as much as we do. Every year we get one chance…….”. They
said that the television advertisement had concluded with a slow-motion finale, with
Hadel’s ‘Zakok the Priest’ playing in the background, cut off by an Irish Olympic walker
‘bolting off’ into a speed walk, to further echo the spoof, disarming and fun nature of the
advertisement. They said that the over-the-top finale of the advertisement was produced
in this manner to further lighten the tone and disarm any notion that the advertisement was
about anything other than sporting banter.
They said that there advertising complied with the requirements set out in the 2019
Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising, that they had contained a
prominent responsible gambling message, including information in respect of Ireland’s
addiction and problem gambling support services, Dunlewey and had complied with
Section 10 of the ASAI Code.
The advertisers said that their legal and marketing teams were cognisant of their
obligations under the Code and worked closely with their agency and media to ensure the
underlying message and tone of the advertising was compliant with the Code while at the
same time meeting the objectives of their marketing brief. They said a lengthy vetting
process took place with relevant stakeholders (including the agency and RTÉ) in respect
of the script and that they had exercised particular care when referencing historical
relations between the countries, in accordance with the ASAI’s reminder to advertisers in
its “Six Nations” decision against Paddy Power in August 2019.
They advertisers requested that a decision by the UK’s Advertising Standard Authority
(“ASA”) from 2016 regarding a “Scotland Advertisement” be considered as they had used
this decision as a reference point when they created and/or made edits to the advertising
script given the significant similarities between the two advertisements. They said that
the Scotland advertisement was a Paddy Power branded TV advertisement which featured
a group of Scottish people singing about the fact they did not mind they had failed to
qualify for the UEFA Euro 2016 because they could still bet on England to lose in it. The
Scotland advertisement was the seventh most complained of ad in the UK in 2016. They
said that despite the ASA receiving 220 complaints about the Scotland Advert being
Anglophobic and racist, the complaints were not upheld as causing serious or widespread
offence. They said that light hearted humorous references of relations and matters of
public debate between competing countries was commonplace in sports and was
something they regularly did in campaigns, in a light-hearted way.
The advertisers said that the advertising was well-received and understood as light-hearted
humorous reflections in friendly sporting rivalry between Ireland and England. They said
that the tongue in cheek language used in the advertising and the context / background of
its appearance made clear that they were not subjecting people to ridicule or exploiting
them on the grounds of race. They considered that the fact that only five complaints had
been submitted to the ASAI indicated the advertising was not likely to cause grave or
widespread offence. They said that the advertising was extremely popular with both
British and Irish citizens and that an immense level of goodwill had been shown to their
brand as a result. They said that there was no indication that the advertising had caused
grave or widespread offence, nor had they received backlash on social media or from
activist groups. They also said that their core markets were the UK and Ireland, that this was where most of their employees were located and that it would not make sense for them
to inflame relations. They said that the campaign had received a positive response with
coverage in mainstream media and on social media. They also said that they have an
internal steering group within their brand marketing team who supervise their branded
campaigns and that given the importance of the advertising to our brand, they ensured that
the steering group (made up of Irish and English employees) closely monitored public
reaction to the advertising, which, they said, was a huge success for them from a marketing
perspective, becoming their most successful-ever Irish ad based on social media
engagement, online views (+10m) and TV rating performance before Cheltenham. In
terms of television performance in Ireland, they said it achieved 472 TVRs, reaching 68%
of ABC1 Males with an average frequency of 7.3 times, reaching508,000 ABC1 Males.
They said that an independent Brandwatch report, commissioned by Core Media for Paddy
Power, analysing the performance of the advertising on social media and news coverage
between 21 February to 6 March 2020, found that positive sentiment in respect of the
campaign was high in 69% of all mentions and shares, while 24% is of neutral sentiment
(mainly news articles). They said that negative sentiment accounted for just 7% of the
total mentions for this campaign and that the analysis was mainly driven within the first
72 hours, while the conversation was at its peak.
Finally, they said that it was not their intention to cause offence with the advertising and
they regretted the offence caused to the complainants in this instance. However, they did
not believe that offence was a rational response to the advertising, nor did they believe
that the advertising was racist to English people.
Complaint Not Upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’
The Committee accepted that friendly rivalry existed between countries in various sports
and in this case considered that the rivalry between Ireland and England had been
referenced in a tongue-in-cheek manner, taking account of the delivery and style of the
advertising. While the Committee appreciated the concerns of the complainants, they did
not consider that the advertising was in breach of the Code on the grounds raised and, in
the circumstances, did not uphold the complaints.