Sports betting and advertising

AGRC Discussion Paper No. 4 – November 2014

What lessons can be learned from the advertising of other potentially harmful products?

  • Because comparatively little research has been conducted into gambling advertising, lessons can be learned from other fields.
  • Exposure to alcohol, tobacco and junk food advertising can contribute to their uptake and consumption.
  • Promoting potentially harmful products through sport can enhance awareness, recall, purchase intention and consumption.

Research indicates that exposure to alcohol, tobacco and junk food advertising contributes to their uptake and consumption, especially among adolescents (e.g., Connolly, Casswell, Zhang, & Silva, 1994; Dixon, Scully, Wakefield, White, & Crawford, 2007; Ellickson, Collins, Hambarsoomians, & McCaffrey, 2005; Evans, Farkas, Gilpin, Berry, & Pierce, 1995; Pierce, Choi, Gilpin, Farkas, & Berry, 1998; Tye, Warner, & Glantz, 1987; Unger, Johnson, & Rohrbach, 1995). For example, most longitudinal studies support a relationship between exposure to alcohol advertising and subsequent adolescent alcohol use, and heavier drinking among existing drinkers (Anderson, De Bruijn, Angus, Gordon, & Hastings, 2009). Each additional alcohol advertisement viewed by 15 to 26 years olds has been found to increase their alcohol consumption by 1% (Snyder, Fleming Milici, Slater, Sun, & Strizhakova, 2006).

Use of sport to promote potentially harmful products is a long-established practice that appears effective in enhancing awareness, recall, purchase intention and consumption. For example, exposure to tobacco advertising at sporting events has been linked to increased awareness, experimentation and use of tobacco products (Ledwith, 1984; López et al., 2004; Pierce et al., 1998; Sparks, 1999; Vaidya, Naik, & Vaidya, 1996). An Australian review concluded that the synergistic relationship between alcohol and sport is a key contributor to alcohol-related harm (Jones, 2010).

However, assessing the impact of advertising is notoriously difficult. Debates continue as to whether advertising increases overall consumption or affects only market share. It is difficult to reliably measure advertising exposure, identify causal pathways, and account for other influential factors on consumption (Binde, 2014; Nelson, 2010; 2011). These limitations also apply to research examining the impacts of gambling advertising.