West Yorkshire, England - Huddersfield Town Commercial Director Sean Jarvis has announced that they were ready for the backlash that resulted from their spoof kit strategy implemented in collaboration with Paddy Power.
On Wednesday, July 17, Huddersfield Town players entered the field for their pre-season friendly game against Rochdale flaunting what was supposedly their new kit. The kit caused quite a stir because while the team retained their blue-and-white stripes, they had Paddy Power’s name boldly printed diagonally across the player’s shirts like a sash.
Many viewers called it a “joke of a kit”, but some Terrier fans speculated that it was a spoof or a PR stunt facilitated by Paddy Power, as the bookmaker is known in the industry as a major prankster. There were also talks that the kit breached the guidelines of the Football Association regarding shirt sponsorship, prompting speculations that it will be banned.
At the time, Jarvis released a statement, saying: “We’ve gone for a really modern twist on how we feature the famous Paddy Power logo. The new sash-style logo is really eye-catching, and helps maintain our reputation as being innovators, too.” The new kit certainly seemed legit—albeit controversial and arguably laughable—when it was first introduced to the public.
The kit became even more controversial because it was introduced at a time when major sports sectors are under pressure with regard to their relationship with the gambling industry. By the end of the week, it was revealed that the fans who called it a spoof and attributed the stunt to Paddy Power were right, after all. It was all part of a stunt to promote Paddy Power’s “Save Our Shirt” campaign, which calls for brand logos to be taken off “sacred” club shirts.
Asked for a reaction to the backlash that they endured for a couple of days because of the fake kit, Jarvis said: “It was part of the plan. It was all part of what we intended to do. Obviously, when we announced the fake kit, there was an element of criticism, which you would expect. Some people were quite derogatory towards ourselves, and we understand that, we understand what the end game was, so we kind of knew when the positive would come back.”
“We’d actually gone down to the dark point and then come back into the high, but yeah, it’s quite hurtful and you can understand that because it’s very passionate to the people that support their club,” Jarvis added. “And I can only apologise for putting them through that, that very difficult period, but hopefully now they can realise all the positives and the end game where we are. We have a fantastic shirt that we’re looking forward to playing in."
It certainly looks like the positives have started pouring in, as talkSPORT pundit Simon Jordan called the stunt a “clever” marketing strategy. “It’s guerilla marketing, it’s subterfuge,” he said. “I know a little bit about it because I was approached to be involved in it, but I turned down the opportunity. But it’s very clever from Paddy Power, you cannot underestimate the genius of their thinking.”