PR stunts are notoriously risky. By their very nature, as the risk increases, the potential reward increases. But so does the chance of something going wrong.
At one end of the scale, the risk is simply that the stunt will flop and won’t generate any publicity. At the other is the potential for the stunt to completely backfire, resulting in a crisis situation.
BassBuds has found itself in the latter thanks to the pitch invasions at the Tottenham Hotspur v Partizan Belgrade match last week, and has been forced into fending off massive public criticism and publishing reactive statements.
What’s interesting about this situation is the extent to which the brand itself is culpable and responsible.
Social Media Crisis
When three morons sporting identical BassBuds FC t-shirts ran onto the White Hart Lane pitch on Thursday evening, the brand was thrown into an immediate crisis on Twitter. It was astonishing to think that the company would be so irresponsible as to organise or even approve this stunt given that Tottenham only recently introduced licensed BassBuds products to its Club shop and website.
The three separate incidents led to the players being taken off the pitch and the game being halted for ten minutes. Europe’s footballing body UEFA has now opened disciplinary proceedings against the Club, which are likely to result in a heavy fine and possibly playing behind closed doors.
It’s a disastrous situation for BassBuds’ relationship with Tottenham Hostpur and, despite the brand issuing the following statement, the Club has removed all products and brand mentions from the shop and website.
A YouTube video posted by ‘pranksters’ (for that, read ‘douchebags’) Trollstation on Friday showed the participants preparing for the stunt, stating the aim was to see who could last on the pitch the longest.
And yet the statement issued by BassBuds clearly states that it had a working relationship with Trollstation, even if it did not approve the pitch invasion. It had also tweeted its support for Trollstation in the past, and the day prior to the stunt retweeted this:
Should BassBuds Take Responsibility?
This is far from the first time a brand has come under fire for a publicity stunt.
In June, Betfair had to apologise to angry Londoners after a truck carrying a giant octopus ‘broke down’ slap bang in the middle of Oxford Circus. It later transpired that the ‘unfortunate’ incident was devised as a stunt to promote the brand’s new TV ad.
And in March, Paddy Power upset a huge number of people with a tasteless ad that promoted an offer to refund all losing bets if Oscar Pistorious was found not guilty in his upcoming murder trial.
Both examples are clearly different from the BassBuds situation in that, if we believe its statement, BassBuds did not organise or approve the Trollstation stunt.
But given that it did have a working arrangement with Trollstation, does that mean it is not at least partly responsible?
I’d argue that it is. And I say that not just as a Spurs fan, but as a football fan in general. Other than Arsenal fans, who are obviously revelling in this, the general response from the football world has been one of condemnation.
As a marketer and a PR professional, I feel that BassBuds must act to protect its already tarnished reputation. And that starts by saying: “Sorry, we screwed up by hiring these twats in the first place. Although we had no idea they would do this, we didn’t do our due diligence and we apologise unreservedly to Tottenham Hotspur and its supporters.”
I’d also like to see BassBuds offering to pay the expected fine Tottenham will receive from UEFA.
Do you agree? What are your thoughts?
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Posted by Paul Sutton