Sportsmen and famous people are used in some of the most controversial and offensive ad campaigns.
Sports fans know that games and insults go hand in hand. Cursing at players who mess up, screaming at rivals, making obscene gestures at referees – they’re all part of the game. Advertisers and betting companies know better than anyone that if you want to attract the attention of a sports fan, you simply have to play by these rules.
If you like football and hockey and enjoy placing the occasional wager on the outcome of the game, you’ve probably seen a few controversial commercials and know just how rude and merciless advertising companies can be. The campaigns they come up with range from funny to outrageous, but in the end, you know their main purpose is to provoke.
Advertising companies like controversy and there are dozens of examples to prove it, so choosing just 7 of them was not easy. However, here’s a list of the most insulting sports ad campaigns we came across:
7. This is one of the “gentler” sports ad campaigns out there. It was created by Command Transportation to support the Chicago Blackhawks and one of their best players, Bryan “Bick” Bickell. “Confidence is abundant when you’ve got a #BigBick,” the company tweeted. Their billboard featured the Canadian hockey player showing off his big smile – despite the fact that his two front teeth were missing! – with the message “More goals than teeth”.
6. After Chicago Bulls guard Marco Belinelli was fined $15,000 for making an obscene gesture during a game, the same company put up a billboard with the message: “Things you can buy for $15,000” next to a photo of the player and a car bearing a price tag. The team then tweeted: “Hey @marcobelinelli, how do you say ‘That’s a Pricey Meatball(s)’ in Italian?”
5. Oh, this is a good one! It was put up after Lance Armstrong admitted to using performance enhancing drugs to get his hands on his seven Tour de France titles. The company used a cheeky “0isthenew7” hash tag and posted: “To win @letour as many times as Lance you must have desire, dedication, determination… or nothing at all.”
The billboard featured a photo of Lance with the text “I should be peddling”, also hinting at the fact that the sportsman was sued for peddling “fiction” as his memoirs.
4. We’re getting closer and closer to the truly insulting ones, but until then, here’s another advertisement which didn’t really offend anyone except for its main target – Justin Bieber.
Betting in Canada and the USA suddenly became more interesting when Command Transportation suggested a special stake for the USA vs. Canada Olympic semi-final hockey game: “Loser keeps Bieber”, their billboard said. The joke went on after America lost to Canada 1 to 0 and the company came up with a new offer: “Hey Canada, best 2 out of 3… errr… best 3 out of 5?”
3. The entire population of Boston took things personally when a Chicago-based T-shirt company released a controversial model bearing the Blackhawks logo and the inscription “Chicago Stronger”.
People accused the company of mocking the “Boston strong” slogan adopted at major sports events after bombings at the local marathon.
Cubby Tees released the controversial T-Shirts before the Stanley Cup game, but had to pull them off the market because of numerous complaints.
2. Online and mobile betting company Paddy Power is famous for its offensive ad campaigns. The gambling operator already has a bad reputation among Christians, being a wagering company and all, but their Jesus ads only added fuel to the fire.
Paddy Power’s “We hear you” campaign ran for a long time in the UK before it was introduced to the Italian market. The very first local ad was presented in response to a Facebook comment saying “Betting on this football? Only if a miracle heals it”, and showed Jesus cleaning up Italian football.
Suddenly, players feigning injuries were healed, stadiums were full and match fixers were chased away with a baseball bat. By Jesus. The ad ended with the following punchline: “Bet on a resurrected football.”
It comes as no surprise that the ad wasn’t too popular in Italy. Local authorities eventually banned it.
1. First place was an easy one. With 5,200 written complaints and over 122,000 signatures on an online petition, Paddy Power’s Oscar Pistorius campaign definitely wins this one.
The Irish bookmaker invited bettors to place wagers on the outcome of the Paralympian’s murder trial and offered to give them their money back if he’s set free.
The campaign provoked a predictable reaction. People started accusing Paddy Power of trivializing the death of Pistorius’ girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The Advertising Standards Authority was flooded with complaints and decided to suspend the ad without even investigating the matter.
We don’t know whether these campaigns actually help companies attract more clients or not, but they certainly help draw some attention or at least create some controversy. And we all know controversy sells.