Jesus Christ is the star of a new spot for online gambling company Paddy Power, which is hoping controversy will make the brand famous in the Italian market, where football is the only sport to attract significant betting activity. Italian football has been dogged by match-fixing and corruption--two issues that Jesus is brought in to resolve in the ad by Crispin Porter & Bogusky London and directed by Hungry Man's Brian Billow.
The bookmaker's long-running U.K. campaign, based around the idea of listening to fans, uses the line, "We hear you." Its first Italian ad is presented as a response to a Facebook fan, Luca Pagni, who posted, "Betting on this football? Only if a miracle heals it."
Coming from a predominantly Catholic country, Ireland's Paddy Power knows a thing or two about offending fellow Catholics in Italy. Jesus is shown performing some of his most famous miracles: healing the sick (footballers who are faking injury), filling empty stadiums, and using a baseball bat to expel the match fixers from the temple (the men's toilets). The endline is, "Bet on a resurrected football."
Another spot responds to another fan's complaint that overpaid footballers sit on the bench doing nothing most of the time. It shows players cleaning toilets and selling hot dogs in the stadium in an attempt to merit their enormous salaries.
Ben Walker, ECD at Crispin Porter & Bogusky London, said, "These films continue to lay down the cheeky, mischievous tone established in the U.K. We're hoping Jesus cleaning up football, and overpaid players working as hot dog salesmen, announces Paddy Power's arrival on the scene loud and clear."
A statement from Paddy Power confirmed that most networks in Italy have chosen not to run the "Jesus" spot or have taken it off air. A spokesperson said in the statement, "We're disappointed that some major networks have decided not to show the ad. Given that a lot of Italian fans think a miracle is needed to save the game from scandal, we think most would welcome some divine intervention--this is supported by the large numbers of likes and views the ad is getting online."
The bookmaker isn't shy about courting controversy. It recently made waves during the London Olympics, with an ambush campaign naming Paddy Power as an "official sponsor of the biggest athletics event in London this year"--London, France, that is.