The Sun today launched one of the biggest newspaper marketing campaigns ever in the UK as it sent a newspaper to nearly every household in England.
Some 22 million copies of a special edition celebrating Englishness have been sent out to celebrate the start of the Brazil World Cup.
The Sun declined to reveal to Press Gazette how much the exercise has cost, but it has been offset by six full-page ads.
There is no topless model on page three of the special edition. And it has not been distributed in Liverpool because of the strength of feeling which continues there as a result of The Sun’s coverage of the Hillsborough football disaster.
This morning there were reports that postal staff elsewhere in the North West – in Runcorn, St Helens, Skelmersdale and Ellesmere Port – would refuse to deliver the newspaper if asked to.
Special features in today’s free edition of the paper include a letter from actor James Cordon to England manager Roy Hodgson, a list of the top 66 players in English football history and a history of England in Sun front pages.
Sun managing editor Stig Abell said: “It’s a great credit to the idea of a print product. I can’t think of another way of speaking to 22 million households. If it didn’t exist we would have to invent it for this purpose.”
He said the special edition was intended to promote The Sun in print and online and that it was a celebration of the World Cup, and of print.
With existing newsstand sales today’s special edition of the paper raises its circulation to 24 million.
The Sun had an average print circulation of 2.1m in May, down 8.3 per cent year on year.
According to the National Readership Survey it has a combined print and online weekly readership of 11.9 million in the UK.
Sun editor David Dinsmore said: "We wanted to do something unprecedented and exciting to celebrate England and Englishness ahead of the World Cup.
“Newspapers are an important part of this country, and what better way is there to speak to the nation than in a huge free giveaway of a special edition of The Sun? We are keen to show all of England just what Sun readers enjoy every day.”
Today's free edition of The Sun has not been universally welcomed – as chronicled by Patrick Smith at Buzzfeed here.
And in its report about the backlash from postal workers the Liverpool Echo asterisked out the name of The Sun to reflect the continuing strength of feeling about the paper on Merseyside.