Has Football Taken Its Gamble?

Summer is usually the worst time of the year to be a football fan – there’s only so many times you can talk about how grossly overpaid someone is and hear the same transfer rumour 1,000 times. However, this July Paddy Power launched a guerrilla marketing campaign that had the majority of football fans in the country speaking.

The Irish bookmaker partnered with Huddersfield Town to unleash a shirt sponsorship akin to a hen party sash across their shirt. Initially presumed to be a joke, but when the Terriers donned the field against Rochdale many were fooled.

It later transpired this was yet another meticulously executed PR exercise for one of Flutter’s flagship brands as they removed their sponsorship altogether. “Save Our Shirt” is the campaign as Paddy Power sign up a string of UK clubs to raise awareness that over half of the clubs in the top two divisions of English football will be sponsored by a bookmaker.

Paddy Power aren’t the first operator in the iGaming sector to mount pressure on the industry to find alternative means as advertising, with GVC, owners of Ladbrokes and Coral, launching a call to arms to end football shirt sponsorship back in April as part of their ‘Changing for the Bettor’ mandate. This being backed up with the company donating 42 sponsorships across English and Scottish football to GambleAware's Bet Regret campaign. Moreover, their BETDAQ brand has also gifted its Charlton Athletic sponsorship to Children with Cancer UK for the 19/20 season.

Charlton
Charlton's Lyle Taylor wearing the 19/20 kit sponsored by Children with Cancer UK

Even with these withdrawals from sponsorship, due to SkyBet’s sponsorship with the Football League (EFL) there's still a tangible relationship to gambling for at least 72 of the clubs in the top four echelons of English football.

The 2019 EFL Supporters Survey of 28,000 supporters across the country recently found that an overwhelming 71% accept gambling related sponsorship in the EFL, and the majority of which strongly against it were aged 65 and over. Which, given the increasing pressure on industry the findings were surprising.

With the whistle-to-whistle ban coming into action this season, which prevents gambling companies showing adverts during live broadcasts, should this increasing pressure on shirt sponsorship come to fruition then there’s becoming increasingly limited ways for operators to engage supporters, so how do they do it?

Going Digital

Second screen engagement should now be in the conscious of every marketeer; advertising has changed drastically in the last 15 years and the success of all marketing activity must include how the conversation is taken to social.

Increasing pressure is coming on the gambling industry for advertising could social media soon be the only significant means of engaging customers during these events?

The landscape is ever-changing and consumers are now desensitised to seeing brands occupying space on social media, so having a significant presence and engaging content is absolutely vital for succeeding.

With 25% of fans on Twitter during live matches, 41% on Instagram and 23% of fans on Facebook, it's hard to argue there's a better opportunity for operators to capture and engage their consumers that during live sport. However, currently about a quarter of those fans feel brands can be unauthentic on social.

It was this in mind which allowed us to further increase Fansbet's presence on social media leveraging key sporting events and creating bespoke content that would be more than wallpaper on a user's feed with a 2,400% upturn on impressions.

Facebook and Amazon are the latest digital companies to get their hands on sports broadcast rights and if this ever-increasing shift for sport going digital then there's no time like the present to start thinking about your presence in this landscape.