We respect the decision of the ASA and apologise to the nine people who complained about our ‘Always Bet On Black’ advert.
The ad, to promote an early payout for Paddy Power customers who backed Floyd Mayweather for a victory over Conor McGregor, was part of a wider marketing campaign for the Las Vegas fight.
Paddy Power has a history of making early payouts to our customers and our headline ‘Always Bet On Black’, carried in two UK newspapers, was a playful way of generating reader engagement.
The sole reason we paid out early on a Mayweather victory was because, having checked the respective records of the two fighters, we concluded just one them was actually a boxer (with a 49-0 record). This reason is explained in the ad itself. In our eyes this match was a circus, not a contest. Therefore we called it and paid our loyal customers.
The ASA acknowledged the advert did not make a negative statement about Floyd Mayweather’s race. Ironically the only backlash we expected was from our Irish customer base annoyed at their local bookmaker betting against their hometown hero.
Paddy Power’s headline was never designed to offend.
Our thinking was that it had a clear gambling connotation for a fight taking place in Las Vegas, and was an amusing nod to the cult film Passenger 57 and the line spoken by Wesley Snipes. The line ‘always bet on black’ was further parodied in a more recent movie, Lego Batman (one of my favourites).
The line was approved by Mayweather who saw it as a humorous dig at his rival before the fight. The wording was, in fact, branded onto Mayweather’s shorts for the weigh-in, at the request of the American fighter’s agents.
Furthermore, when Paddy Power was buying the ad space in the Evening Standard we knew the line would have to be approved by their editor, who happens to be the former UK Chancellor. We deemed George Osborne a good barometer of taste. Next time we’ll try Keith Vaz.
Although disappointed with the outcome, Paddy Power accepts the findings of the ASA Council and we will take this decision on the chin. Like Conor did.
Paddy Power acknowledges that using ‘always bet on black’ may be more acceptable when uttered by a movie star, or if you’re a brick-based cartoon crime-fighter.
Additionally, we have ordered a review of our marketing advertising strategy and concluded that using films from 1992 such as Passenger 57 for creative inspiration is no longer acceptable. For that reason, the office VHS copy of White Men Can’t Jump is also going in the bin.