The National Lottery has issued an apology after a social media stunt on Twitter backfired in embarrassing fashion, resulting in the charity’s official account inadvertently tweeting offensive messages.
As part of The National Lottery’s sponsorship of the World Athletics Championships in London, the company ran a social media campaign whereby users that retweeted certain messages would be greeted by one of Team GB’s athletes holding signs thanking them for their support.
However, users of the social network were baffled as British athletes such as Tom Bosworth and Sophie Hitchon were pictured holding signs bearing slogans including “Bolt’s a roid head”. Much of the content is too offensive to display in this article.
Twitter users were asked to retweet a post from @TNLUK with the hashtag #Represent. Those doing so would receive a thank you tweet, including their Twitter account name being held up on a sign by one of the stars of the British Athletics team.
They continued to be posted by the National Lottery’s account throughout Monday night.
As one Twitter user noted: “@TNLUK are learning a valuable lesson about auto-replies and the need to filter them.”
As more and more responses were generated, Twitter users reached out to the National Lottery to take action, which it did early on Tuesday morning.
In two separate tweets the organisation posted: “We are aware that some people are maliciously targeting our British Athletics Twitter campaign with offensive and abhorrent content. (1/2)
“We are dealing with this as quickly as possible and are hugely sorry for any offence caused by this malicious act. (2/2)”
We are aware that some people are maliciously targeting our British Athletics Twitter campaign with offensive and abhorrent content. (1/2)
— The National Lottery (@TNLUK) August 15, 2017
The tweets were also removed but many people on Twitter had saved screenshots of the messages, which they tweeted in response to the National Lottery’s apology.
Some Twitter users blamed the National Lottery for the posts, rather than the those responding on the social media.
“How can you not have known something like this would get hijacked? That’s quite some ignorance of the platform!” posted one Tweeter.
A similar PR gaffe occurred when the “Walkers Wave” campaign asked social media users to respond to a tweet from the official Walkers Crisps Twitter account with a selfie, using the hashtag #WalkersWave, as part of the chance to win Champions League tickets.