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Guerrilla marketing: Bendtner's 'underpants' ambush UEFA at Euro 2012

By Stuart Roach, for CNN
June 19, 2012 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
Denmark's Nicklas Bendtner scored twice during his country's 3-2 defeat against Portugal.
Denmark's Nicklas Bendtner scored twice during his country's 3-2 defeat against Portugal.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner fined $126,000 and banned for one international match
  • Fine follows striker revealing sponsor's name on waistband of his underpants
  • Stunt means sponsor Paddy Power's brand exposed to global audience of more than 100 million
  • Sports business expert Professor Simon Chadwick warns "ambush marketing" can backfire

(CNN) -- UEFA's decision to fine Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner for revealing a sponsor's name on his underpants during a Euro 2012 game may have opened a can of worms for football's European governing body.

Bendtner was fined $126,000 and banned from playing in Denmark's next competitive game for flashing his sponsored waistband as he celebrated a goal against Portugal.

For Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, who has announced it will pay the fine on Bendtner's behalf, the hefty fee probably represents good value for the publicity the stunt has gained. Already, Paddy Power has announced on its website that Bendtner was wearing "lucky pants."

But a leading expert in sports business has warned that any form of "ambush marketing" has a danger of backfiring.

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Spain's soccer team celebrates with the Euro 2012 trophy on a double-decker bus during the victory parade in Madrid on Monday. Spain defeated Italy 4-0 in the final match on Sunday. Euro 2012, bringing together 16 of Europe's best national soccer teams, began June 8 in Poland and Ukraine. Look back at the action and atmosphere. Spain's soccer team celebrates with the Euro 2012 trophy on a double-decker bus during the victory parade in Madrid on Monday. Spain defeated Italy 4-0 in the final match on Sunday. Euro 2012, bringing together 16 of Europe's best national soccer teams, began June 8 in Poland and Ukraine. Look back at the action and atmosphere.
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"For brands entering into sports sponsorship, it's all about eyeballs," said Simon Chadwick, professor in sports business strategy at England's Coventry University.

"It's likely Bendtner's celebration was seen by at least 100 million pairs of eyes worldwide so that represents a very cost-effective piece of sponsorship.

"The beauty of guerrilla sponsorship is not just in the execution but in the potential fallout and publicity that follows. The fact that Bendtner was fined and that we are all talking about it delivers value for money that other traditional methods could not provide."

But there are potential downsides too, Chadwick warns, not least the fact that Bendtner's fine eclipses the $31,000 UEFA fined the Croatian Football Federation for disturbances in their match against the Republic of Ireland.

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The Russian Football Federation was on Monday fined $37,000 after the setting off and throwing fireworks, displaying illicit banners and the invasion of the pitch by a supporter during the Group A match against Poland in Warsaw.

That punishment followed a fine of $150,000 and a suspended six-point deduction for the improper behavior of Russia's fans during the match against the Czech Republic.

Already, Denmark fans are questioning why their striker has been fined more for flashing his underpants than nations whose fans have been involved in serious crowd disturbances.

Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand, left out of England's squad for the tournament, weighed in on the matter on Twitter, accusing UEFA of not prioritizing tackling racism.

"UEFA are you for real??? £80,000 fine for Bendtner for underwear advertising....all of the racism fines together don't even add up to that?!" the 33-year-old said via his official @rioferdy5 account.

"UEFA are not serious...Platini was a great player but him & his colleagues alienate themselves with exactly this type of rubbish #priorities.

It's likely Bendtner's celebration was seen by at least 100 million -- that represents a very cost effective piece of sponsorship
Professor Simon Chadwick

"If racism made money for UEFA like advertising does do you think UEFA would take it as serious?? #priorities"

The Croatian Football Federation is also under investigation into alleged racist chanting by its fans in the match against Italy, and Chadwick warned: "There is always a danger that people react adversely to a firm involved in ambush marketing and the real danger here is that the sponsor could become embroiled in a potential race row.

"The results of guerrilla marketing can be spectacular, but there is always the danger of becoming embroiled in a much broader agenda. In that sense, it is a bit of a gamble."

As one of Europe's fastest growing bookmakers, Paddy Power is well versed in what represents a worthwhile gamble.

But it was quick to react to the punishment handed out, labeling it: "A hysterical and deeply cynical move by UEFA dictated by pure commercialism."

Chadwick tweeted in response that those comments could equally have been made by UEFA towards Paddy Power.

UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body imposed the fine and suspension from the next competitive international match for which Bendtner is eligible, and has given the striker three days to appeal.

But it's not just UEFA that Bendtner has offended by revealing his lucky pants -- Paddy Power's bookmaker rival Ladbrokes is an official sponsor of the Danish national team.

One way or another, the story is unlikely to be over just yet -- and that is either good news or bad for the sponsor, depending on which way you look at it.

"As the reasoned decision concerning the Bendtner case has not been sent to the player yet, we are not in a position to comment on the matter," said UEFA in a statement.

Follow CNN's Euro 2012 live blog with rolling commentary and live pictures of each day's games

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