Campaign: Ladbrokes makes light of team's penalty woes

The 2006 World Cup was the world's largest-ever betting event, with more than a billion pounds staked across the betting industry. At the time, bookmaker Ladbrokes' and The Red Consultancy, its retained agency for the past ten years, wanted to devise a PR campaign around penalty kicks.

Campaign Perfect penalty formula
Client Ladbrokes
PR team In-house, The Red Consultancy and TheMindLab.Org
Timescale June-July 2006
Budget £3,700

Penalties were chosen because of England's historic weakness in shoot- outs. The team had been knocked out of major tournaments via mis-kicks in the 1990 and 1998 World Cups, and in Euro 96 and Euro 2004.

To position Ladbrokes as the ‘first choice' for World Cup betting. To communicate its odds in a way that would resonated with England fans.

Strategy and Plan
To target Ladbrokes' potential customers, mainly 20 to 30-year-old males, the campaign was designed around the anticipation and anxiety felt by fans as England approached the knock-out stage of Germany 2006. Sport science experts at Liverpool's John Moores University were asked to analyse the elements that could affect the success of a spot-kick.

With this data, Red commissioned neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis of TheMindLab.Org - provider of bespoke scientific research projects for the PR and marketing industries - to create a formula that, if followed, would guarantee success in a football penalty shoot-out.

This was calculated to be (((X + Y + S) / 2) x ((T + I + 2B) / 4)) + (V/2) -1, where V is the velocity of the ball once struck, and B is the striking position of the boot - with the other letters referring to other such factors. This formula was presented to the media with advice such as ‘don't blast the ball'.

The story was ready by the start of the World Cup, but to keep it topical Ladbrokes had to hold its nerve, hoping that England would survive the first round of matches, enabling it to launch the campaign to coincide with England's first knock-out game - and first chance of a shoot-out.

Measurement and Evaluation
Dr Lewis was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live before England's first knock-out game against Ecuador - the build-up was the station's most-­listened-to programme in its history. Meanwhile, more than 20 publications covered the penalty formula. Highlights included The Times and Daily Mail, Daily Star, The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times. Online coverage included the Sky News, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Guardian websites.

Regional coverage comprised the Northern Echo, Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Century FM, Radio City and the BBC's Radio Merseyside.

The campaign is estimated to have reached more than 30 million people, while nearly 70 per cent of coverage carried Ladbrokes' odds. The bookmaker will not give specific figures, but says it saw ‘an uptake in betting from the target demographic'.

Northern Echo regional reporter Stuart Arnold recalls: ‘The story came in on the PA newswire and we liked it instantly because it was quirky. Plus, we're a north-east paper and Newcastle United's Alan Shearer was named as the perfect penalty-taker. It was also timely, with World Cup fever at its height, and pertinent, since England did lose on penalties - again.'

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