What does a Denver-based online pawning startup have to do with the Superbowl? Well, not much of anything which is what made Pawngo’s Boston-bashing publicity stunt just as strange as it was classless.
In one of the worst marketing stunts in startup history, Pawngo dropped 900 pounds of Butterfinger candy bars in Boston ‘s Copley Square Tuesday with a gift tag in the form of a large placard that read, “Thank you Wes Welker.” The stunt was meant to mock Patriots receiver Wes Welker for dropping a key pass in Sunday’s big game, a move now being referred to as “The Drop.”
To add insult to insult, Pawngo’s official Twitter account unabashedly taunted Patriots’ fans about their candy-surprise:
Hey Boston… watch out for a sweet surprise from team Pawngo in a few
– Pawngo (@Pawngo) February 7, 2012
Pawngo thought Boston fans deserved a little something in return for their heartbreaking loss the other night…
– Pawngo (@Pawngo) February 7, 2012
If you’ve event been to Boston or met anyone from Boston, you can guess how well Patriots’ fans took Pawngo’s childish stunt. In addition to a $1000 littering fine, Boston press railed the startup; BostonIno.com’s headline read “F*ck Pawngo” — Butterfinger Stunt Enrages New England, Company Fined $1000 For Illegal Dumping. Pawngo’s Twitter account lit up with hundreds of angry messages from enraged fans. And Groupon, the daily deal company whose founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell invested $2.3M in Pawngo through their investment group LightBank last summer, also recieved heat from angry fans who threatened to pull their business.
Stupid #pr tricks.Hey @pawngo , look for slower sales for you and parent @groupon in #newengland bit.ly/wav7R
– Joel Richman(@xylem) February 7, 2012
@Pawngo The fact you are trying to make your stunt in Boston yesterday look like you were trying to be nice is a total lie.You are garbage
– Brian Smith (@brian_h_smith) February 8, 2012
@Pawngo @Groupon I’m thinking you managed to piss-off #PatsNation badly enough-esp w/ the pathetic apology-that they really don’t care…
– Tina Rainville (@tmrainville) February 8, 2012
Its time to unleash the Massholes on @groupon and @pawngo and smear their names the way they smeared Wes Welker today. RT if u agree!
– Masshole Sports (@MassholeSports) February 8, 2012
As an online startup without any geographic boundaries to your potential customer base, I have no idea why you would go so far out of your way to alienate and enrage one of the nations most prideful cities. You might be thinking well, they got the press they are clearly desperate for? Right?
Yes, but they also sent an entire city running into the arms of their formally unknown Boston-based competitor.
After tweeting, “
@Pawngo In Wes Welker we trust! Go Pats! @Pawntique, The New England based Online Pawnshop,” Boston’s own online pawn shop, Pawntique , quickly emerged a city-wide hero. Pawntique received a barrage of support from their local Twitter community, press and Pats’ fans everywhere.
Had no idea who @pawngo was before – but now I know their local NE competition is @pawntique.Thx! bit.ly/wON2Qm
– Peter Ross (@pebenr) February 8, 2012
@Pawngo go @Pawntique. My new favorite online pawn site. forbes.com/sites/chrisbar…
– Ryan Canney (@RyanCanney) February 8, 2012
Just a few hours ago, Todd Hills, Pawngo’s CEO & Founder, released a statement apologizing to Boston and Patriots fans noting that they “thought that Boston fans would get a laugh out of it.”
“To All of Boston, Wes Welker and Patriots Fans Across the Nation
As a die-hard sports fan, I would like to sincerely apologize for a misguided and misdirected stunt that we did yesterday in Boston. In delivering a pile of Butterfinger bars to Copley Square in Boston, and a sign referencing Wes Welker, we were making a lighthearted gesture following Sunday’s hard fought game. We thought that Boston fans would get a laugh out of it. But, for many great Boston sports fans, it was taken offensively. Please accept my most sincere apologies. We got caught up in the moment, reacting to a suggestion that we thought would be funny, but we were wrong, and on behalf of everyone involved with Pawngo, I apologize.”
Hills went on to note, “We will not make this type of mistake again.” Which begs the questions: Mr. Hill, are you promising to treat all your customers with respect, no matter their NFL preferences, and to abstain from tasteless PR-whoring stunts ? Or are you only promising not to dump candy insults in the name of being a sports fan?