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Analysis: Paddy Power hits the bullseye with debut World Darts sponsorship

As a 16-year-old sensation drew global attention by reaching the final, it was as though Paddy Power had prophetically handpicked the perfect year for its first-ever sponsorship of the PDC World Darts Championship.

BallonDart

I've written about Paddy Power's marketing prowess before.

Sure, it's no secret – as a colleague of mine wrote recently, the brand's "mischievous marketing" has been making waves for decades. It's been five years, in fact, since I wrote my aforementioned ode to its famous Rhodri Giggs advert. With a deep sense of what I believe to be déjà vu rather than accidental time travel, here I am lavishing praise on Paddy Power once again all this time later.

Let me explain why.

As the drama of the 2024 PDC World Darts Championship final unfolded at London's Alexandra Palace, with Paddy Power branding all around, it was as though the Flutter-owned brand had masterfully planned every aspect of how the tournament would come to pass.

A 16-year-old Luke Littler got people in offices, pubs and households around the world talking on his way to a logic-defying runner-up performance in his debut World Championship.

True, he might have looked a tad older, but in the infamous voice of Inbetweeners character Will McKenzie: "His mum still buys his trousers – sixteen."

Following a new record of 914 tournament 180s, that donation is now up to £914,000 in the fight against one of the most horrible diseases facing humanity. That's not just good PR, that's a beautiful contribution to a very worthy cause

The likes of Ladbrokes and William Hill have previously adorned the Alexandra Palace walls but, of course, Paddy Power's first crack at it just had to be the one with the most marketable storylines. In an age where social media only amplifies freak achievements like Littler's, just imagine how many TikTok videos, X (Twitter) and Instagram posts have actually featured Paddy Power in some shape or form since the Championships began on 15 December.

Some debut for Littler. Some debut for Paddy Power.

Naturally, there was a degree of luck involved here (it is the gambling industry, after all...): Littler's route to the final would have been unforeseen by most of the planet pre-tournament. Because most of the planet, including what I'd wager was most Paddy Power employees, had never heard of him.

Eventual champion Luke Humphries also produced some of the best darts the planet has ever seen to add further sporting prestige to the Paddy Power-sponsored spectacle.

Even referee Russ Bray – the famous voice of darts whose unmistakable "one huuuuuundred and eighty" call has graced countless television sets over the last three decades – chose this match as his final game before retiring. Just in case Paddy Power fancied a little bonus storyline.

Sponsorship of the Darts World Championship is prime real estate in today's sports betting landscape – so much so that politicians have even called for it to be televised on free-to-air UK channels

On the opening day of the World Championships, Connecting Brands Director Russ Yershon joined me on the Huddle to discuss the benefits of sponsoring a major darts tournament. Back then (it seems a lifetime ago now), he spoke of just how much coverage and exposure Paddy Power would receive at Alexandra Palace.

After all, darts is Sky Sports' second-most viewed sport behind football. And, during the World Championships, it becomes the biggest betting sport in the UK.

But 'Littler' did either of us know just how the storyline of a 16-year-old reaching a professional world final would propel the sport of darts into the public eye on an even grander scale. (A shameless plug, though, that I did predict Humphries' ultimate victory on that very Huddle.)

Of course, Paddy Power did things the Paddy Power way throughout. Hilarious TV adverts in between matches were bolstered by its traditional tongue-in-cheek social media posts. Only Paddy Power would present the world champion with a 'Ballon d'Art' trophy almost as big (if not bigger) than the actual World Championship version.

But, all joking aside, the Ballon d'Art trophy was a superb initiative – and not just from a marketing standpoint. Ahead of the semi-finals, Paddy Power had already agreed to donate £832,000 ($1m) to Prostate Cancer UK, with 832 tournament 180s having been thrown up until that point.

By the time the semi-finals and final had concluded, following a new record of 914 tournament 180s, that donation is now up to £914,000 in the fight against one of the most horrible diseases facing humanity.

That's not just good PR, that's a beautiful contribution to a very worthy cause.

In an age where social media only amplifies freak achievements like Littler's, just imagine how many TikTok videos, X (Twitter) and Instagram posts have actually featured Paddy Power in some shape or form since the Championships began on 15 December

Gambling Insider this week suggested consigning 2023's compliance failures to the past should be a New Year's resolution for the gambling industry. Betting operators have the power to do so much within society and, with its 'Big 180' initiative, Paddy Power has truly used that platform for good here.

So, with perfect timing yet again, the Flutter brand has added another string to its ever-expanding bow of marketing successes. Sponsorship of the Darts World Championship is prime real estate in today's sports betting landscape – so much so that politicians have even called for it to be televised on free-to-air UK channels.

And, ever since Paddy Power arrived at 'Ally Pally,' it couldn't have really gone any better for the operator.

Indeed, in gambling terms, Paddy Power has landed another jackpot. In darts speak, it's hit the bullseye.

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