Sports betting and advertising

AGRC Discussion Paper No. 4 – November 2014

The growth of sports betting advertising and promotion

  • Sports betting advertising has proliferated, using a wide range of media and promotional techniques.
  • Sport is now a marketing platform for sports betting operators, with concerns that this encourages gambling uptake, especially among youth and young adult males.

Marketing is critical for sports betting operators to compensate for intense competition, limited price elasticity and little product differentiation (Nettleton, 2013). Promotional techniques used include broadcast advertising on TV and radio, online pop-ups on Internet sites, celebrity brand ambassadors, inducements, direct and third party email and SMS, and loyalty programs (Gambling Compliance, 2013). Sponsorship and promotions have also been embedded into sporting fixtures, as discussed later. Operators provide mobile sports betting apps, stream live coverage of sporting events, and promote sports betting through smartphones and email, including improved odds, money back guarantees, betting tips, offers of credit and bonuses including “free" bets and deposits (Hing, Cherney, Blaszczynski, Gainsbury, & Lubman, 2014). The aim is to recruit, register and retain active customers (Weibe, 2008).

The proliferation of sports betting advertising in Australia

  • In 2012, 3,069 individual sports betting advertisements were relayed over all forms of media, not including social media communications.
  • These included 528 individual sports betting advertisements, which were collectively played over 20,000 times on free-to-air TV, and more frequently on pay TV.
  • The value of sports betting advertising on television quadrupled between 2010 and 2012.

Source: Ebiquity (2012).

The saturation of sports betting advertising has prompted controversy and concern. Sport is now used as a marketing platform to deploy huge investments of money by sports betting operators to recruit and retain customers through advertising, merchandising and celebrity endorsements that incorporate sport products, images, usages and icons (Dyall, Tse, & Kingi, 2007; McMullan, 2011; Monaghan, Derevensky, & Sklar, 2008). Particular concerns are that this marketing can encourage consumers to consider gambling as sport, and that young people are learning about gambling through sport programming and merchandising. This can normalise and legitimise gambling uptake at a young age (Dyall et al., 2007; McMullan, 2011; Monaghan et al., 2008).

The clear target market for most sports betting advertising is young adult males. Strategies include using celebrity role models, attractive female presenters and models, and the repositioning of sports betting as an activity for successful, professional young men (Milner, Hing, Vitartas, & Lamont, 2013). Advertising attempts to appeal to this market through engaging notions of masculinity, team loyalty and sporting knowledge (Thomas, Lewis, McLeod, & Haycock, 2012).

However, it is the embedding of sports betting promotions into live and televised sport that has attracted most controversy in Australia. This practice has been fuelled by the escalation of sport sponsorships and advertising rights purchased by sports betting operators.