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PR Stunt Watch: Chelsea's 3rd kit draped over Tower Bridge doesn't get much UK media coverage - but it wasn't supposed to

Do you know what the PR industry doesn’t talk enough about? PR stunts that aren’t real. So what’s the stunt I’m going for today? A stunt that isn’t real.

One of the most important qualities you can have as a creative director is learning to love ideas that you personally hate, which is exactly how I feel about Chelsea’s launch of their 2023/24 third kit.

@chelseafc Eton Blue. A shirt fit to take over the capital. #ThePrideOfLondon ♬ original sound - Don Toliver

Working with VFX experts at The Berry, the execution was simple. They draped a giant version of the ‘Eton Blue’ Chelsea kit over Tower Bridge. According to the write-up, this is because Chelsea is the ‘Pride of London’, the best team in the city and this is a shirt fit to take over the capital.

I’m going to start with why I hate it. I am what is known in the trade as ‘a proper football fan’. I barely watch football on TV, because I actually go to the games. I don’t have a ‘Prem team’ because I follow the mighty Reading. I don’t have any tattoos, but if I did – they’d be the geezer hat-trick of wife, daughter, football team. The only three things I can be absolutely convinced I will love forever.

As a proper football fan, I can pick holes in this idea. Why have they put it over Tower Bridge? Tower Bridge is central/east, and Chelsea are a West London side. Tower Bridge has literally no connection with sport, it’s a tourist attraction. As a proper football fan, I’d have really lent into the rivalries that exist in London to deliver the ‘taking over’ message. Rather than using PR’s favourite bridge, how cool would it have been to have used this impressive technology to drape the Chelsea shirt over Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium? Hanging your shirt all over your rival’s ground? Now that’s a takeover.

But here’s the thing – ‘proper football fans’ are not the money in football anymore, we are a tiny minority. Chelsea’s home ground hosts about 45,000, but their viewing figures are in the millions – so Chelsea’s aspirations are to be a global, lifestyle brand.

While a London-based fan might question a Tower Bridge execution, a Lagos-based fan immediately gets it. Chelsea have American owners, so of course they have gone for Tower/London Bridge. Rather than Tiki-Taka, this is Route One creative – which is spot on for a global audience. Instantly gettable, no translation required. It’s a global execution for the global fan and the spectacular numbers and engagement support this.

As well as being a proper football fan, I’m also a proper PR person. I love earned media more than anything and I like stuff to be real…so I can pick holes in this idea. A few design and trade blogs patted it on the back, but it didn’t get any mainstream earned coverage, because it’s not real.

However, the international fans are not reading UK media – they’re following on social, so that’s exactly where this idea should bang…and that’s where it did bang. The engagement was brilliant, the views on all platforms were stratospheric and people genuinely loved it…worse still, some even fell for it.

Obviously, I didn’t fall for it. I’m a proper PR person who can smell a fake a mile off…but I did stop scrolling. I did double take and I did find the blog to find out how The Berry did it because it was the best fake I’ve seen in ages. That’s the biggest compliment I can give this campaign. It was everything I don’t like, but I still thought it was brilliant.

This week's PR Stunt Watch was written by Greg Double, Creative Director at Mischief PR.

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