Paddy Power has found a new way to upset people. Just a couple of weeks after the company was forced to withdraw its transgender advert, a new stunt has incurred the displeasure of the National Trust.
The Trust is investigating whether any damage has been caused to the Uffington White Horse, a Bronze Age hill carving in Oxfordshire, to which Paddy Power has added its logo and the outline of a jockey. The bookmakers used more than 200 m of lightweight campus, cut into five separate pieces, to create a temporary installation 110 feet tall and 200 feet wide. It was secured some 5 feet above the chalk markings by over 500 tent pegs.
A Paddy Power spokesman said, "The idea for our Uffington Rider came from a tweet from one of our customers. He was responding to our ‘We Hear Campaign ’, asking if we have any mischief planned in the wake of our giant Hollywood sign a few years ago. We simply couldn't resist the challenge and we've come up with something which literally measures up to the giant sign."
The Hollywood sign he's referring to is one from two years ago, where the company name was mounted in large letters towards the top of Cleeve Hill and Cheltenham racecourse during the 2010 Festival. That angered both the Prestbury Park management and Channel 4, and so was not repeated last year.
Paddy Power now faces possible prosecution if they are found to have damaged the ancient landmark of the White Horse, and although they have offered a donation to the Trust, that has not calmed the situation. The charity is particularly annoyed that they were not informed about the proposal beforehand, presumably, and probably correctly, on the basis that they would have been expected to say no to the idea.
Speaking for the Trust, Steve Field said, "Obviously it is a scheduled ancient monument, so any damage to the site will have to be taken very seriously because there is potentially a criminal offence involved, but first we have to investigate what the state of the area is. We'd normally be asked about this kind of thing in advance to help avoid any issues with damage and we've yet to see the promised donation."
It took about six hours to create the jockey, but he was very much just a temporary gimmick. Paddy Power said, "It's been taken down already. We had it up this morning (Thursday) and lots of pictures were taken and then the ranger on site asked us to remove it. It was a very short stay – the rider has been unseated."