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Assessing the football and betting sponsorship dynamic

Much has been written regarding the industry’s relationship with sports, none more so than football, where criticism has suggested measures must be put in place to curb what is seen as an over saturation of marketing, sponsorships and advertising.

This topic is set to fall under the microscope at the sixth annual Betting on Football, taking place this week at Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge home in a panel session titled “sponsorship and advertising – how much is too much?”

Amid the debate regarding the industry’s sponsorship and advertising efforts surrounding football, Mark Davies, global head of partnerships at Swansea City, commented: “There is no doubt there is clear synergy between football and betting. For many it’s part of their weekend routine, even if they aren’t headed to a match or following a specific team, and as such will always remain a relevant part of the industry as long as people want it too.

“Personally I support all of the current efforts made by brands in regard to promoting the GambleAware side of the business, as well as the protection of minor’s being interested in the sector at an age too young to understand the potential dangers.”

With David Clifton, Director at ‎Clifton Davies Consultancy, giving his take on the criticism concerning football-betting related advertisements: “Half of me sympathises with the industry. It’s not as if the content of the football betting ads (including, since April last year, the “Bet Now!” style of ad) were illegal, because CAP and BCAP Codes had to be complied with.

“I think like everyone else in the sector we are on the outside watching in with a keen eye to see how it evolves over the next few years”

“The other half of me understands why the public at large had just had enough bombardment of ads, during the 2018 World Cup in particular, and regrettably the industry was very slow to react to that, as a result of which it really had no option but to agree the “whistle to whistle” ban.”

Moving on, should severe penalties be put in place football would undoubtedly survive, but where would it turn next, Davies added: “I feel it’s a little similar to the shift of alcohol and cigarette brands from headline branding pieces in the 90’s, in that it’d leave holes to fill in your seasonal inventory but certainly in the case of the alcohol brands, they still form a prominent part of a club’s partnership portfolio.

“Clearly the pre-9pm TV advertising ban will affect how those within the gaming industry will apportion budgets – will it mirror the Asian brands who operate similar restrictions in their own regions and divert TV-spend into club sponsorship, or could the digital marketing side of the business be enhanced to mirror the trends within the modern sponsorship world?

“I think like everyone else in the sector we are on the outside watching in with a keen eye to see how it evolves over the next few years.”

With Clifton addressing what steps could be realistically and effectively implemented to ensure the appeasement of all concerned: The problem to be overcome is that, without agreement on the part of all licensed UK betting operators to take similar action in curtailing the sheer quantity of ads, who is going to be brave enough to take the first step in reducing not only the volume and aggression, but also the style, of its marketing?

“For understandable reasons, football betting ads have focused on males within a particular age category, but this “lad culture” style is not to everyone’s taste, and surely the creative minds at work within the advertising industry can come up with marketing campaigns that appeal to a wider market and both sexes?”

“We live in a consumer led, demand driven society – if you go down the wormhole of morality in advertising where does it end?”

Philip Canavan, Director at Sports Entertainment Marketing, concluded with a belief that the implications of severe measures being taken could be hugely detrimental, and other industries could also potentially come under the microscope: “The commercial model across all traditional media is driven by the content – advertisers seek a relevant editorial environment alongside which they are able to promote their brands and product. Football sponsorship is no different.

“Regardless of any opinion, betting is a legal, regulated and hugely popular part of sport for the fans; and for the vast majority of UK licensed bookmakers football is the most popular sport to bet on. It cannot be a surprise to anyone that the brands “fish where the fish are” when it comes to marketing spends.

“It works the same way with all marketing campaigns placed into relevant contexts, and ultimately encouraging consumers to spend their hard earned cash. Regardless of the industry, turning away from an almost guaranteed ROI is not a sensible decision. Whilst the registrations keep coming, the brands will keep spending – as is their right.

“The morality stance is of course relevant – but as I see it betting is a major part of sport in the UK and worldwide, and is enjoyed by consumers who are part of a regulated industry. Is there a moral difference between encouraging a £10 bet to a football fan vs peppering teenage audiences with fashion/beauty/clothing ads for products they can ill afford during the latest episode of Made in Chelsea or TOWIE?

“Or promoting Junk food and drink to children? We live in a consumer led, demand driven society – if you go down the wormhole of morality in advertising where does it end? Should Mcdonald’s and Burger King advertising be banned before the watershed as kids are not educated enough on nutritional values? Or breakfast cereals containing vast amounts of sugar advertising on Kids TV networks at breakfast time?

“The betting still goes on, but it puts money into the hands of organised crime and/or offshore operators rather than regulated businesses”

“Ultimately, banning or rejecting sponsorship from the gaming sector would have little impact on long established consumer behaviour – betting patterns and frequency amongst US sports fans, a country where sports betting is largely illegal and there are virtually zero adverts/sponsorships promoting sports betting – must surely endorse that point.

“The betting still goes on, but it puts money into the hands of organised crime and/or offshore operators rather than regulated businesses. It was estimated that over $4.5 billion worth of bets were placed on The 2018 Superbowl which took place prior to the repeal of PASPA – 97% of these bets were technically illegal. No adverts, no sponsorships – but $4.5bn+ handle on a single sporting event.”

Held from 19-22 March, Betting on Football is the only trade conference that brings together decision makers from international operators to address the recent issues and opportunities in the sports betting industry.

Stamford Bridge provides the perfect setting for 200 expert speakers across 40 sessions, including high level business and networking opportunities for key suppliers, top affiliates, sports clubs and organisations to meet with the operators.

‘Sponsorship and advertising – how much is too much?’ is due to be discussed in conference room one on Wednesday 20 March from 14:00-14:45.

For more information about Betting on Football, please click HERE.

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