The shopfront of a Paddy Power betting shop in Norwich city centre

Anti-Marketing – How does it work?

As oxymoronic as it sounds, anti-marketing is a growing theme in the advertising sector. We live in a climate where you are likely to see some form of advertisement wherever you turn your attention – public transport, television, mobile apps and clothing are all examples of everyday resources that are exploited by brands to showcase their appeal, whether it be a subtle logo, an extravagant display, or a quirky commercial.


Anti-marketing is the concept of defying the traditional conventions of advertising with a sense of irony, with the intention of viewers interpreting the ad with a degree of appreciation, even if only subconsciously. This leads to sales by building an affinity with the audience. Just as conventional ads will appeal to emotion to build a connection with their target market (as explained in our blog on selling your brand), recognising that the general public tolerates an abundance of marketing attempts on a daily basis, and empathising with their irritation, provides an opportunity to strategically attract viewers to your brand.


Can anyone undertake an Anti-Marketing campaign?


This shouldn’t be undertaken by all brands. For many products & services it is imperative that an advertisement is informative – however, if the purpose of your campaign is simply to build brand awareness, the whole point is to make your ad memorable; not necessarily explanatory. With this being the case, why invest resources into an ad that will likely be ignored?


In addition to ensuring an anti-marketing campaign is suitable, it’s also paramount that you get it right. There is a fine line between reverse psychology and appearing pretentious. 


For context, here’s a recent example:


Paddy Power – #SaveOurShirt


Paddy Power is an Irish bookmaker with a unique marketing ethos. Their social media accounts are famed for their eccentric posts, usually using tongue-in-cheek humour to drive engagement. Focusing on the latest happenings in sports, the betting firm build awareness of their brand by creating content that resonates with their target market (sports fans across the UK),  with a significant portion of it being adult male football fans.


Just over a month ago, Huddersfield Town (based in West Yorkshire) announced their new kit design for the 2019/20 campaign with the tweet below:



Even with no idea of what makes a good football kit, it’s clear that the Paddy Power logo stamped across the otherwise plainly-designed kit is – to be abrupt – hideous. 


As expected, this received a harsh reception on social media, especially from Huddersfield supporters. While many suspected it may have been a hoax, the Terriers played a pre-season friendly in the kit, seemingly confirming its authenticity. 


Shortly after, Paddy Power announced on their Twitter account that the kit was in fact fake. Furthermore, they unveiled their Save Our Shirt campaign, whereby they revealed their plans to sponsor clubs by ‘UNsponsoring’ them. 



For the past few decades, shirt sponsors have been a fundamental part of any professional football team’s kit. Some become an iconic part of the strip, some completely spoil it. Nevertheless, many fans perceive shirt sponsors as a symbol of the ever-increasing capitalist influence on the sport. As ticket prices soar, televised games and merchandise become more prevalent, and gradually, evidence of the sport’s essence being exploited by the ‘suits upstairs’ has ensued. 


“It might sound grand and serious and game-changing but – although you could make it all of those things – Save Our Shirt is actually just a common sense call for sponsors to stop bastardising football shirts and to return them to the fans. That’s it.” – 


How does this market their brand?


For these reasons, the campaign has been deemed a success by followers of the game; further boosting Paddy Power’s popularity amongst their target market. Moreover, Paddy Power have also secured the ‘unsponsoring’ of Newport County (South Wales), Motherwell (Scotland), Southend United (Essex) and Macclesfield Town (Cheshire) – an ideal range of locations for spreading awareness across the UK. 


Little has it been pointed out however, contrary to the plausible idea that the betting company may well care for the matter in hand, this is ultimately an example of Anti-Marketing, used to increase brand awareness and eventually boost profits. A paradoxical link between marketing & morality, if you will. 


Regardless, sponsors of all forms stand to benefit in someway. In this case, Paddy Power have managed to gain remarkable recognition from their target market by becoming a football club sponsor; all the while avoiding the very method that fans generally dislike. 


While the cynic may deem it somewhat Machiavellian, the campaign is undeniably innovative and certainly supports an admirable cause. As a branding agency, we appreciate #SaveOurShirt as a masterstroke in the method of Anti-Marketing.


For help and advice with your branding, contact Plan B today!