Huddersfield Town have moved into a new era in their partnership with gambling company Paddy Power. For some it might feel uncomfortable, like wearing a new pair of shoes. It will pinch at first, might end up making you look a little daft (see numerous social media reactions to the kit launch) but ultimately, it’ll be worth it in the long run.
The average person in the UK spends 171 minutes of their day looking at the bright screen of their smartphone. The vast majority of that time is spent on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
In the 2016-2017 season viewing figures for live Premier League games on Sky hit a seven-year low whilst overall sports media consumption grew by 13%. The vessel driving that shift is social media, in particular ‘snackable content’.
Many of the biggest clubs in the world now have dedicated social media teams devoted to producing social content to raise the profile of their club online. Huddersfield Town, recognising that they perhaps don’t have the capability to do that for themselves have enlisted the help of one of the biggest online sports brands – Paddy Power.
The Irish bookmaker have 320,000 more followers on Twitter than Huddersfield Town, and a far bigger reach over all platforms than the club. Paddy Power are experts when it comes to producing engaging, shareable online content, and now Town are buckled in to join them on a season-long PR ride.
On Monday Paddy Power were unveiled as the club’s ‘title sponsor’ for the upcoming season, causing much consternation amongst the fan base. Ironic cries of moral outrage came from fans who were either unaware, or oblivious to the club’s link with a major Asian betting company ofrom 2017 to 2019.
Monday’s faux outrage quickly turned to full on revolt on Wednesday morning when both the club and Paddy Power revealed the new Town kit for the 2019/2020 season. The fears of overly precious fans were realised, with many claiming that the club had sold its soul to the devil.
The whole football world suddenly became a hub of virtue signalling, so much so that popular podcast ‘The Football Ramble’ took to Twitter to lament gambling's growing involvement in football.
That’s ‘The Football Ramble’ - sponsored by Bet365…
Quickly enough Town fans realised that the kit launch was a PR stunt, either through deduction of the FA rules or sheer, blind hope. The friendly against Rochdale came and went, with Town playing in their new sash kit and for many, the joke appeared to have gone too far.
Then this morning both the club and Paddy Power announced that the kit was a hoax, and the actual jersey would not feature a sponsor. It’s part of Paddy Power’s #SaveOurShirt campaign, which aims to ‘call bullshit on football shirt sponsorships’.
All was well with the world and 99% of Town fans were happy with the real kit reveal, bar one or two who feel short-changed about not getting a sponsor for their £48. Fortunately the fans who feel they aren’t getting ‘bang for their buck’ can take advantage of Paddy Power’s shirt amnesty.
The bookmaker have agreed to hold an amnesty before the Derby County game which will allow fans to swap old branded shirts for the new, unbranded version. Paddy Power’s tagline is, ‘Enough of the Nonsense’, and it’s good to see them taking that approach to football sponsorship.
Instead of joining the other 14 Championship clubs with gambling sponsors on their kits, Town are entering into a new age of commercial partnership. The bookmaker will have access to the manager and players throughout the season, with the aim of producing more ‘snackable content’.
In the wake of the fake kit outrage, both Huddersfield Town and Paddy Power received record amounts of exposure, for the former even surpassing that of the Premier League soirée. It's a move that will cement the Huddersfield Town brand in people's memories, which might result in Ian Wright succesfully distinguishing Town from Sunderland.
Every major media outlet in the UK as well as a series of high-profile foreign outlets have carried the story of the kit launch. Football fans in America, Australia, Europe and China were talking about Huddersfield Town on Wednesday, not even a win against Manchester United could guarantee that exposure.
This new partnership may not be to the tasting of traditional football fans who spend their afternoons lamenting the loss of the game they love. But for the new social media savvy generation, the partnership is good news with both parties benefitting in the long run.
Expect similar stunts over the course of the season, count on piss boiling levels of anger, but most importantly count on a major profile boost for both Town and Paddy Power. A big stadium was once the way to attract new fans, now it is a big online presence that brings in the new generation of supporters.
Credit to Sean Jarvis for enlisting Paddy Power to help the club make this brave new step and steal a commercial march on its competitors.