Professor Stephen Hawking Solves How England Can Win The World Cup

Paddy Power Brazil 2014

Winner: Guardian MAA Awards 2015



Taylor Herring have worked with Paddy Power on a number of high profile campaigns over the last 4 years. 

In March we successfully arranged for 'Daft Punk' to gate-crash The Brit Awards, ahead of the Cheltenham Festival we famously installed a jockey on the Uffington White Horse and our oversized Royal Babies caused a stir in July last year.

In April the Irish Bookmakers briefed us deliver an audacious curtain raiser to mark the start of their World Cup betting season.

The creative would be built around original and newsworthy sporting insights that would inspire debate, aid betting decisions and create national news headlines for Paddy Power in the run up to the tournament.

Two key questions informed our campaign – ‘why haven’t England won a world cup since 1966?  And, ‘why are we so bad at taking penalties?’ 

These issues were the key domestic debating points around the fixture and we knew that if we could help to answer them then we may just have a story…

Enter Professor Stephen Hawking - could we partner with Britain’s greatest scientific mind, to help explain the variables that might contribute to England success in Brazil 2014?

We already knew that the Professor had little interest in football however our proposition was rooted in mathematical principles and based upon a statistical analysis of England’s performances on the World football stage.   It was a long shot, but we had an inkling that the idea may just appeal to his famously dry sense of humour. 

It did. Professor Hawking agreed to take part and the core idea was so well received by the client it became the flagship creative platform for Paddy Power’s pre-world cup marketing campaign.


We engaged the mathematical genius and theoretical physicist to lead a month long study delving into the science of England’s World Cup performances and the best (scientific) way to take a penalty.

The professor used a technique labelled ‘General Logistic Regression Modelling' for the study - analysing all the key factors which have affected England’s World Cup performances in their 45 finals games since 1966.  These included the stadium temperature, stadium altitude, nationality of the referee, the colour of the team’s shirt, team formation and age of the captain.

The resulting scientific model was then synthesized via a series of new equations which could be used to help predict the probability of England winning key matches in Brazil this summer and inform the national side on how to take the ‘perfect penalty’.

Hawking Talking – The Content

Our final report was distilled into a 20 page document complete with bespoke graphics to illustrate every variable studied.

The key findings were highlighted to create a series of web-friendly infographics to accompany the campaign.

Two video films were shot with the Professor in Cambridge to accompany the release – a short snappy version and a longer form video for the planned launch press conference. We took special care not to over brand these assets which carried two verbal mentions and one visual credit. We would make the short versions available to news media to run in their own players.

We also scheduled an advance photo shoot with the professor wearing an England scarf and displaying the two formulae on chalkboards.

Finally a series of Social Media assets were created by the in-house team including banners and picture cards for Twitter and Facebook all falling under the campaign banner ‘Hawking Talking’.

Launch Day – Hawking Talking LIVE 

With the report, pictures and video completed it was time to present the findings to the media to a packed press conference held at The Savoy Hotel, London.

Professor Stephen Hawking delivered his presentation and Paddy Power (himself) ran a question and answer session.

Media guests live-tweeted the findings from the report and Paddy Power’s social team deployed picture led updates to their 500,000 strong social media following in real time.

The press release, video, images, report and a full transcript of the event were all shared within minutes of the event concluding via an FTP link containing all the assets.

We used the press conference stage to film an exclusive interview with Newsnight for transmition later that evening.


Over 1000 credited news items within the first 24 hours of launch.

The story was covered by every national newspaper and major news site  in the UK. All coverage was credited and the majority included an insert of our video.

Highlights included The Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Metro, Daily Mail, The Sun, Daily Mirror, Express, Evening Standard, Daily Star, MSN, Yahoo!, AOL and ITV News, Digital Spy and key trendsetters such as Mashable and Vice.

Dozens of sports sites such as,, The Sport Review and The Score have also run with the story.

A fully credited three minute TV feature was lined up on the UK’s agenda–setting news show Newsnight (BBC Two).

We landed BBC Breakfast (BBC One), Sky News Sunrise and Sky Sports News. It featured on BBC TV regional coverage in 15 different regions. 


Have I Got News For You

National digital radio stations including XFM, Talksport, Magic, BBC 5 Live, LBC as well as 60 regional BBC and commercial stations across the board also covered the story.

International coverage has included Time Magazine, NBC and The LA Times to name but a few.

The campaign became a global trend with 54 Million Twitter impressions around the story in the first 24 hours.

Paddy Power shot to the top of the betting brand index on the eve of one of the biggest betting market of 2014 – The World Cup.

The Client said: 

“Like all great mischief ideas it was love at first sight. It’s beautifully simple, different and full of audacity and wit. Its one thing to conceive a leftfield idea and quite another to execute it. I’m really pleased that together with Taylor Herring we managed both. Consider the bar raised.” - Paddy Power

more about it here