Here at London PR we are big fans of Paddy Power and their eye catching PR stunts. The bookmaking chain have a great PR team (and agency Taylor Herring) and have delivered some memorable stunts over the past few years.

But their latest ruse hasn’t gone as well as they would have liked.  To mark the start of Wimbledon fortnight they decided to go to work on the Cerne Abbas Giant – turning his club in to a tennis racket. What a lark!

For those who don’t know who (or what) the Cerne Abbas Giant is, he’s a 180 foot tall chalk figure cut into the limestone hills of Dorset. No one is really sure how old the figure is, with some experts claiming it as an ancient symbol of fertility and others saying it could be the work of a 16th or 17th century prankster. Either way, the giant is pretty old and of enough interest to benefit from National Trust protection.

But the giant’s status as a protected monument didn’t stop Paddy Power from descending on him and turning his club into a huge tennis racket, anticipating masses of publicity. Just to make sure the stunt was topical they released a statement saying they’d modified the giant as a tribute to the fertility of Andy Murray, who has just announced his wife Kim is expecting their second baby.

Permission?

Asked if they had been granted permission for the stunt by the National Trust, a Paddy Power spokesman said: “We’d rather beg forgiveness, than ask permission.”

Which at first glance seems to fit with Paddy Power’s brand values of disrupters who shoot first and ask questions later. But is that really the appropriate response when it comes to defacing a national monument?

A spokeswoman for the National Trust said: “We’re fans of tennis as much as anyone and pleased to hear of Andy Murray’s news, however we do not encourage any defacing of the Cerne Abbas Giant, however it was done.

“The Cerne Abbas Giant is protected… and we are very concerned about any publicity stunt that may in future encourage damage to this fragile site.”

The implication being that Paddy Power’s eye catching stunt was in reality an act of historical vandalism. The brand emerges as arrogant and uncaring of Britain’s rich cultural history.

Is anything off limits to Paddy Power or do they consider all monuments fair game? Are we to expect the Cenotaph to be turned into a replica of the FA Cup? Or perhaps Stonehenge’s ancient stones could be chiselled into a sculpture of Lord Sugar to launch the next series of The Apprentice?

Britain’s monuments have protected status for a reason. Some things are more important than headlines and brands that ride roughshod over such details come across as arrogant and uncaring.

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