Sports betting company drops Boris Johnson from football advertising

The script for the high-profile advert had been signed, the star had been hired and the creative team at Irish sports betting firm Paddy Power were confident they had secured a victory ahead of a big sporting summer.

Even with his back turned, and even before the big reveal, the man in the England number 10 shirt would be instantly recognizable by his build and pale hair: Boris Johnson.

“I told you I would take us back to Europe,” the script called for Johnson to say, a perfunctory – and false – quip from a man who helped lead the Brexit campaign that led to Britain leaving the European Union.

But the commercial will never air.

Dublin-based Paddy Power was forced to cancel the planned clip – set to become the cornerstone of its advertising campaign for a busy summer which will include the European Football Championship and the Paris Olympics – after a backlash by its staff in Great Britain. .

The decision was confirmed by two people familiar with the campaign and its demise. They said a script for the advert had been provided to Mr Johnson. A spokesman for Mr Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.

The people asked not to be named to discuss the company's internal decisions and out of sensitivity to aligning the company with Johnson, who led his Conservative Party to a large majority in the 2019 national election but whose mandate is ended after a series of scandals engulfed his premiership.

Paddy Power staffers in Britain, according to these people, said they felt uncomfortable promoting such a controversial figure as Johnson, and particularly with language that mocked Brexit, an issue that has polarized the country and damaged relations with countries across the continent. .

“We spoke to Boris Johnson's team about a number of opportunities, one of which was an idea for a cameo role in a TV advert,” Paddy Power's parent company, Flutter Entertainment, said in a statement to The New based in the United States. York Times.

The company confirmed that Johnson's role in the Euro 2024 campaign, which will air in the coming weeks, has been cancelled, but did not say why.

“We remain confident that we can work together in the near future,” he added.

A British tabloid, The Sun on Sunday, broke the news that Mr Johnson would lead Paddy Power's Euro 2024 campaign earlier this month.

A gambling company known for its publicity stunts, Paddy Power has never been afraid to push the boundaries with its adverts, which often attract a lot of attention, even if not all of it has been positive. In 2010, a campaign in which a blind footballer appeared to kick a cat received hundreds of complaints. (Paddy Power said the advert “presented an action so unlikely as to be absurd” and that the cat was unharmed.)

Two years later, it paid a fine of about $100,000 to UEFA, European soccer's governing body, on behalf of a Danish soccer player who had promoted the brand on his underwear after scoring a goal at the 2012 European Championships. promotion broke rules against players displaying advertisements on clothing other than football uniforms.

In 2020, she apologized for using “derogatory and offensive” language after sharing a video on social media in which a football fan made homophobic comments.

Including Mr Johnson was apparently a step too far for some staff at Paddy Power's London offices.

The former Conservative leader's partnership with Paddy Power contrasts with some of his government's views on gambling. While he was prime minister, the government asked the English Football Association to cancel a multimillion-pound sponsorship deal with a major betting company.

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