Paddy Power has taken responsibility for the stunt with a full-on newspaper wrap in the Metro, citing it as a means of England one-upping the Russians who are hosting the tournament.
Predictably, news of Paddy Power's exploits spread in the media and courted controversy across social media, with some calling the stunt 'idiotic' and 'disgraceful' (see some tweets below).
The video shows a Russian speaking man approach a dozing polar bear and emblazoned it with the England flag and the Paddy Power branding. The footage appeared on LiveLeak today (5 June)., a platform favoured by the brand in past stunts.
A Paddy Power spokesperson issued a carefully crafted statement on the stunt: “What we know so far is that an unidentified individual, speaking in Russian, seems to have spray painted a polar bear not just with the Cross of St George, beloved by England football fans, but also with Paddy Power branding. That this is mischievous in the extreme, is to state the obvious. We cannot make any further comment until we get to the bottom of this.”
However, looking back at the brand's previous exploits, the ruse becomes apparent. The campaign is is reminiscent of Robertson's efforts in Brazil 2014, where the brand ‘shaved the rainforest’ to reveal the words c'mon England PP. This deliberately poor photoshop sparked a crescendo of outrage but was later revealed to be a joint campaign with Greenpeace to highlight deforestation.
The betting brand’s former head of mischief Ken Robertson recently weighed in on what it takes to causes a stir at big football tournaments.
The work has drawn criticism on social media.
— Drew Barrand (@DrewBSport) June 5, 2018
Paul Mallon, head of major brand activations at Paddy Power underlined that it was not a computer generated video. He added: "It’s a real bear. We took appropriate care to make sure he wasn’t harmed during filming."