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  • Harry Lang

Will Hill and the #ItsComingHome World Cup Hashtag controversy


An original interview for EGR Marketing, July 2018

Q. First of all, what is your opinion on William Hill buying the hashtag, which initially included a WH-branded football strip emoji next to the hashtag, but this was eventually removed (William Hill says this was their decision)? Was it a smart play to buy this Twitter hashtag in the first place? Why/why not?

In terms of tactical marketing it was a brilliant ruse - no matter how well or badly England do, 'Three Lions' always becomes the unofficial battle cry and the marketing team at Will Hill were sharp enough to grab it before anyone else did. Getting squatter's rights on the Hashtag was a great idea but rather inevitably it came with baggage. We all know the gaming industry has its detractors and is still seen as dirty by many corners of the media (who remain, conversely, perfectly happy to milk at the teat when it suits them). Hills probably saw this as a cheeky social campaign that took off virally then, like Icarus, flew too close to The Sun and crashed and burned as a result. I reckon they got more than their money’s worth though - they pulled out when the gavel of public perception swung, nobody got hurt and like England's Semi Final capitulation it'll be forgotten in a week.

Q. The backlash centred around accusations that William Hill had hijacked the hashtag, as well as concerns around children seeing and promoting a gambling company when they used the hashtag. Were these concerns justified in your view and was Twitter wrong to sell this hashtag to a gambling brand? Would there have been the same level of reaction if it was beer brand rather than a betting brand?

'Hijack' seems a little strong - Twitter flogs these sponsored hashtags every day and no one seems to take the least offence. 'Football's Coming Home' gets recycled before every major tournament by everyone from the Prime Minister to the playground - and that's where Hills came unstuck.The Hashtag became too famous and with the song being a perennial national treasure, a backlash of moral turpitude grew exponentially (fuelled, I suspect, by the hypocritical indignance of the Daily Mail). Twitter should also take some responsibility - the song's IP belongs to the Ian Broudie, Baddiel & Skinner after all. If anyone has the right to be miffed at Hills, it's them.

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