Case Study: Paddy Power, Rainbow Laces

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When Lucky Generals and Crispin Porter + Boqusky approached Paddy Power's Rainbow Laces campaign, the creatives needed to come up with a tongue-in-cheek solution to a serious issue... 

One of the perennial challenges when promoting a good cause is avoiding the temptation to lecture people. That's particularly important when your brand has a reputation for fun and your customers love you because of your cheeky personality.  Strike the wrong tone and not only will you fail to change behaviour but your brand could actually be damaged in the process.

Paddy Power were acutely aware of these risks when they set out to tackle one of the great taboos in British sport - homophobia in football.  Over the years, there had been several official initiatives in this field, but they had all been rather worthy and as a result, none had captured the public imagination.  Given that the Paddy Power brand is synonymous with mischief, we knew that we would have to take a different tack.  Especially as paid media budgets were limited and the usual channels were cluttered with big sports brands.

Our twist was to take an irreverent approach, to show that Paddy Power were "Right Behind Gay Footballers".  In pursuit of this mission we wanted to create something iconic that footballers could wear which the authorities and sponsors didn’t have jurisdiction over. What we came up with was a simple pair of rainbow coloured laces. We made 5000 of them and sent a pair to every professional footballer in the UK. All they had to do was lace up if they if they wanted to support the cause.  We then launched an intense, week-long barrage of advertising, social media and PR to enlist the public's support and get the whole nation talking about this previously taboo issue. 

What was interesting was how things changed over the course of that week.  We had decided early on to team up with Stonewall, Metro and Twitter so we knew we had a bedrock of support and activity in place.  But as we met with our partners (twice a day, every day, for the whole week) we had to continually adapt our tactics, in line with the news agenda.  For instance when some clubs disingenuously claimed they hadn't been given enough time to change their laces, we ridiculed the notion and pointed out that "it only takes 2 minutes to change the game".

By the end of the week, 25% of the British population had heard of our campaign (despite a tiny £150k spend).  Over 400 media stories had been generated, with a combined reach of 500m.  Over 300m Twitter impressions had been delivered, with our #RBGF hashtag getting 72,000 mentions and trending worldwide.  Players from 54 professional clubs wore the rainbow laces, from Arsenal to Aberdeen, Everton to East Fife, Norwich to Newcastle.  And even the lead singer of Black Lace voiced his support (as well as some slightly better-known celebrities, like Ed Miliband, Stephen Fry, Gary Lineker and Boris Becker).

All in all, at a time when big corporations control every available inch of media space around footballers, we used the one area nobody cared about and turned it into one of the most powerful sporting icons of recent times.

Success on a shoestring indeed.


Creative: Lucky Generals and Crispin Porter + Bogusky

Media: M2M

D&AD Impact seeks to identify and celebrate great, transformative ideas that contribute towards a better, fairer and more sustainable future for all. If you think you have a campaign that makes a real and positive difference to the world then why not enter it into D&AD Impact.



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