Updated 11AM with Video
Paddy Power would not be the same brand if they weren’t getting into hot water and every media outlet in advance of a major sports tournament like the FIFA World Cup.
Earlier this week they created a massive stir when seemingly tranquilising a Polar Bear in the Russian Arctic to spray paint a flag of St George on its side as a stunt to promote betting on England.
OK, that goes not just one step but an entire walking mile beyond the bounds of what anyone would think was acceptable. The trick is that that’s exactly the same view of Paddy Power themselves.
In fact, it was a teaser to what is actually a campaign they are backing with Polar Bears International to bring the plight of the animals to a wider audience and funding a research programme.
The idea has been a year in the making and is explained this morning by Paul Mallon, Head of Major Brand Activations at Paddy power’s Clonskeagh Head Office.
“We considered creating a life-size animatronic bear, but came to realise that not only would this be costly, it’d probably look a bit naff. Besides, nothing’s better than the real thing.”
“So, we looked further afield and found the love of our lives in Canada, a privately-owned, majestic polar bear called Agee.”
“When we first spoke to Mark Dumas, owner of Agee, and told him we wanted to paint his beloved polar bear the silence was palpable.”
“He warned us sternly, ‘If you want to rile up a 250kg apex predator that’s a pretty good way to go about it’.”
“It was at that point we realised a brush, a tin of red paint and a dash of bravery wasn’t going to cut it. Avoiding death and cruelty was the question, and technology was the obvious answer.”
“We spoke to the techies at visual effects company Framestore to see if they could help us out in bringing our George’s cross to life.”
“Of course they could – but they’d need 18 clips or trackers on Agee’s fur to make that happen. Mark Dumas’ response to that? “Do you fancy pinching an Alsatian with a hair-clip 18 times and seeing what happens? Thought not. You’ll be lucky to get five on her.”
“Still, we headed out to the wilds of British Columbia in the hopes of getting as many clips on the side of a polar bear as we could. Joining our crew was Arthur, our dashing Russian-speaking actor you’ll see in the video, two camera guys and a whole lot of apprehension.”
“Our first destination after landing in Vancouver was Mark and Dawn’s ranch. Here, we got to meet our leading lady for the first time.”
“We also met Agee’s extended family. Her vet and handlers gave us our first safety briefing, as well as managing our expectations for the big shoot day. We didn’t want to piss off a polar bear.”
“We headed to Kamloops, near where our shoot was due to take place, and had various final planning sessions, spray-painting fluffy white rugs and practicing Russian phrases with our actor. Heading deep into the Canadian countryside – and watching the temperature gauge fall to minus 12 degrees – it was time for action and a thorough briefing on how to stay safe around Agee.”
“A few nervy hours of shooting followed, in the company of PBI and American Humane, who look after animal rights on film productions. We were keen to make sure Agee was happy and comfortable, that we had enough shots to take home and that all our interviews with experts were recorded. You see, it’s unlikely you’ll get a second chance at something like this.”
“Unlike working with footballers or jockeys, Agee nailed her part pretty quickly and after a manic few days in North America it was back to the UK and editing suite at Framestore.”
“Framestore made footprints and electric poles disappear, added a spray-painting hand, and performed endless hours of technical wizardry that left us with a video we’re sure blows your mind – the loose idea being that Paddy Power had hired this Russian rogue to spray a cross on the side of a bear. Vlady Power.”
A video of the making of the whole stunt will go live at 11 AM this morning and we will carry it here but we wanted to bring you the inside story first.