Continuing our series of Business and Sport articles, Emmet Ryan examines the furore created by a new ad campaign created by Hunky Dorys.
The IRFU got played today by a company that makes crisps and it wasn’t the titillation that did it.
Now I understand the image isn’t the largest so I’m going to assume some of you are too distracted to spot the offending material, well the part that counts as far as Hunky Dorys and the IRFU are concerned. It’s not that the young lady is wearing a relatively small amount of clothing. It’s the line of text at the bottom that reads Proud sponsors of Irish Rugby.
Two situations could occur here. If the image only shows Kelly (yes I did my research) and no text then the complaints already being received by the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) would be enough to see the ads pulled within a few weeks* and there would have been some outrage over the sexism but not a terrible amount of media coverage, certainly no guarantee of front page headlines. This style of risque advertising, though given how crude it is as a fan of burlesque shows I find the term overly kind, has been used as an attention grabber so often that the media simply don’t bite once they see some exposed flesh.
*While I know some of our readers may find this excessively punitive and others find it not enough of a punishment, the ASAI has a clear cut standard procedure on ads like these so there’s no doubt what the end result will be on their end.
What Hunky Dorys needed to do to cause more than a ripple was develop the second situation, the one which draws in the big fish. They set the bait with those five offending words and the IRFU bit with an official statement.
The IRFU didn’t have to react but it was always likely, a major sporting body is always going to be over eager to protect its brand. It worked when Fintan Drury and Eamon McLoughlin came up with the plan to put Paddy Power logos on hurleys at the start of the century and sure enough Largo Foods, the owners of Hunky Dorys, sucked in the Rugby brass with this campaign.
Technically Hunky Dorys can claim the language is correct as they sponsor Navan RFC but the IRFU is far from happy as it will have seen Hunky Dorys to be capitalising on their brand. The thing is the crisp firm gained far more in that regard by having the Rugby overlords get involved in the fight.
If it goes to court my limited understanding of fair use in advertising from my days as a commerce student tell me that the IRFU will probably win but not definitely (if there are any lawyers reading feel free to comment). More importantly, Hunky Dorys will have played the odds and seen that there is little to no chance of the IRFU bothering with a costly legal campaign, one which will only draw more attention to the offending ads.
The IRFU could have stood away and it may have been the smarter move. Not responding would have seen the ads disappear due to ASAI action and if they were asked by the media about them a quick non-answer stating they had no involvement would likely have sufficed. There were no definites with this option however and the overwhelming urge to strike back, to aggressively protect what’s theirs was too much to resist. The marketing brains at Largo Foods were banking on this and it will pay off handsomely.