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Statue stunt bombs...

15 January 2018 | Lloyd Hughes

Paddy Power is usually the king of the controversial PR stunt, having been responsible for dozens of memorable ones over the years.

The brand loves to cause a stir and in its time, has sent environmentalists into a frenzy by pretending to cut down the rainforest in support of England at the World Cup, while also causing outrage for offering odds on Oscar Pistorius ‘walking’ during his murder trial as well as referring to Newcastle United having had more Kop beatings ‘than an unarmed African-American male’ over the last 20 years. And those are just a few examples.

It’s fair to say, if it makes headlines, Paddy Power couldn’t care less if it causes offence.

But while offence may be one thing, the ‘mischief makers’ – as it likes to refer to its somewhat brazen marketing department – no doubt felt a degree of trepidation when its latest PR stunt saw police being called out for fear it constituted a bomb threat.

With Virgil Van Dijk having signed for Liverpool in January for an eyebrow raising £75m fee, Paddy Power was keen to jump on the back of this and get in on some headline grabbing potential.

Opting for a 9-metre-tall statue of the defender to demonstrate the weight of what £75m in gold would actually look like, the attempt to place the statue outside Liverpool’s Anfield stadium resulted in four police cars turning up and an order for the statue to be moved.

Given Paddy Power’s well-known propensity for stunts of this nature, I’m sure the police didn’t actually believe the Irish bookmaker was attempting to plant a bomb outside the stadium (they did have all the relevant safety paperwork to hand, after all).

It was more likely to have been a way for the police to demonstrate the fact they take a dim view of disruptive stunts and so came down hard. Either that or the chief of police is a Liverpool fan and was simply having none of Paddy Power’s attempted mockery.

If I was in the shoes of the PR team, I’d have been just a tad apprehensive when the police came crashing in – especially in such numbers – wondering if my job was worth a trip to the cells and a possible conviction…

But all’s well that ends well, and even though the huge statue (which reportedly took 180 hours to complete) didn’t make the game itself, it certainly didn’t escape attention, which, after all, is what Paddy Power was after.