Back in August, Paddy Power made an unexpected push into print with the release of free football magazine Pitch Invader. Its editor and head of PR Lee Price said, "talent is tricky, paper is expensive," but has hinted at another run in 2020.
Paddy Power launched the mag to raise brand awareness in the summer before the return of the football season. It also wanted to give punters the knowledge base to start gambling again. The mag didn't feature odds and barely referenced Paddy Power.
An in-house staff team of six editorial staffers were led through this project by Price, who spent six years at The Sun as a feature writer, alongside Paul Mallon and PR Rachael Kane, who had a combined 24 year career at The Irish Star. The bookie's production team helped take a step-up from "resizing banner ads" and flex their creative chops.
Inspired by FourFourTwo's revival under editor James Brown, Mundial and even out-of-print free mag Shortlist, Pitch Invader was not "a glossy pamphlet to sell betting offers,” Paul Mallon, head of major brand activations at Paddy Power, said.
Editor Price has reflected on the learnings from the one-shot. For one day only it boasted the third-highest print circulation in the UK (1.2m), getting the 48-page magazine in front of more people than the Daily Mail - with help from Mediacom.
Price said: “We often judge things by quality measures as well as just quantitative – particularly when something flops – but, in this case, having a bigger circulation than the Daily Mail was very cool.
“We pumped the magazine full of brilliant, colourful content, exclusive interviews with big-hitters, spitting out opinions for fun, but we are very proud of how it turned out. There are definitely learnings we took away, should we want to do it again.”
According to the YouGov brand index, Paddy Power maintained its top of sector position in the last four weeks of the transfer window, holding onto the momentum created from the Save our Shirt campaign that 'unsponsored' a series of football teams.
In addition to the initial print reach, there was the PR value of sharing the content on its own channels, and the footfall driven to retail destinations that stocked the mag also cannot be understated.
Furthermore, the content “played out really well” with front pages in other media, even before the mag was revealed. Most interviews generated online and print coverage.
The mag, Price said, invaded the white space before the season kicked off and he envisions launching another in the future.
Next time around, he considered whether the Metro, already freely distributed in UK cities, could be a distribution partner going forward. Paddy Power advertises in the title whenever a reactive print ad like this is merited.
Paddy Power joined Airbnb, Bumble, Casper, Dollar Shave Club, Facebook and Net-a-Porter in running a branded mag.