PR pros give 'car-crash' #Piegate stunt a red card while brands look to cash in on Sutton footballer Wayne Shaw

The #Piegate publicity stunt has been labelled as "car-crash PR" by comms experts, although brands are looking to cash in on beleaguered Sutton goalkeeper Wayne Shaw.

Image via Sutton United Facebook page
Image via Sutton United Facebook page

Shaw resigned after he was seen eating what appeared to be a pie during the second half of the non-league side's fifth-round FA Cup clash with Arsenal on Monday night (20 February).

Before the game the club's shirt sponsor, Sun Bets, was offering odds of 8-1 against him doing so, which Shaw reportedly knew about. He is now under investigation by the FA and the Gambling Commission.

However, with Shaw well into the twilight of his playing career, the #Piegate stunt looks to many like an attempt to get celebrity status.

Sun Bets, which reportedly devised the stunt, is now offering odds on Shaw appearing in reality TV shows, as well as winning Sports Personality of the Year:

However, the PR industry has been quick to point out how ill-conceived the stunt was.

Mark Perkins, director at MHP Communications, said: "With money, greed and commercialisation turning many fans off top-level football, #Piegate managed to do the same at Sutton United.

"It's car-crash PR at its worst, and a stunt that brings our industry into disrepute far more than Shaw for eating a pie."

Paddy Hobbs, head of sport at Pretty Green, said: "On paper, the Piegate stunt probably seemed like a genius idea but if they'd taken a step back the fallout was inevitable. Nobody involved should be expecting an open-top bus parade to celebrate this one."

David Alexander, managing director at Calacus PR, said the "poorly thought-out" stunt draws attention to the PR industry for the wrong reasons.

"The gaming industry is characterised by clever publicity stunts and witty banter, which draws in millions of punters and their cash.

"When Sun Bets were named as Sutton United’s shirt sponsor, it was vital for their newly appointed PR agency to put a robust communications plan in place, which took into account the very real risks of linking novelty bets to the club and its staff."

In response, David Fraser, managing director of PR firm Ready10, which provided comms support for the Sutton United ahead of the tie, said: "My phone was red hot yesterday with people asking if we were behind the stunt. We weren't - our remit was to support the club with the global attention they were receiving."

A source close to reserve 'keeper Shaw told PRWeek he will garner a fair amount of sympathy over the incident, which will endear him to the public and make him popular with brands.

A number of offers have already come in as brands look to take advantage of the stunt:

Pasty maker Ginsters also tweeted about the indcident, but has since deleted its post.

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