Lots of talk in the last week about Paddy Power’s Save Our Shirt campaign. Just in case you’ve been relaxing on a beach, this is the one where Paddy Power revealed a new sponsorship of Huddersfield Town FC, complete with an outrageously large logo on the front of the club’s new shirts.

For anyone even remotely familiar with PP’s tactics over the years, the shirt design was obviously a spoof, tailor-made to cause “outrage” amongst fans of the club, the football community at large and the likes of the Daily Mail (which dutifully ran a suitably outraged story).

No surprise when, a few days later, Paddy Power revealed that this wasn’t in fact the real shirt design. But the clever twist was in announcing that their logo wouldn’t be on the shirt at all – “unsponsoring” the club, in their words.

Pretty soon, the same deal was announced with some other clubs including Motherwell, Newport County and Southend United, under the banner of an overall campaign to “put fans first” and reclaim the front of a team’s shirt as some sort of sacred space.

All of this has been expertly executed with the usual Paddy Power flair and humour, and has done the job for the brand – generating media and social media engagement massively beyond the level you’d usually get for a simple sponsorship unveiling of a Championship team.

All in all, a very nice, smart execution. But I’m just a tad cynical about the wider campaign and Paddy Power trying to position themselves at the lead of some sort of altruistic campaign to rid all football shirts of sponsor’s brands.

Absolutely no doubting that it’s a really smart position for a betting company to take – saying to fans “We get you, we’re on your side, we’re up for a laugh and we’re not like all those other nasty betting companies on all the other shirts.”

But I’ll be interested to see if they follow this up with other initiatives that really do show them putting fans first (a tough ask when your business model essentially relies on exploiting their passion for the sport), or if this just proves to be another tactical hit for Paddy Power, before moving on to the next idea.

If you’re going to launch a “purposeful” campaign like this, you kind of need to back it up with some meaningful action, although that premise tends to apply to brands that take themselves a bit more seriously than Paddy Power does.

It’s quite telling that Paddy Power sign off their campaign website with “This issue isn’t owned or controlled by Paddy Power. We’ve simply started the ball rolling, but the power now lies with you, the supporter.” That suggests there won’t be an awful lot of follow up.

The reality is that gambling brands are the main, front-of-shirt sponsors for 61% of teams in the top two tiers of English football. This is a situation being closely monitored by the government and there’s every chance of tighter regulation coming in, so Paddy Power might just be getting ahead of that issue while simultaneously reinforcing their own brand positioning. And with the dominant strength of their brand (at least in the domestic markets) it also might not do PP too much harm if all their competitors were suddenly banned from sponsoring football…

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