Rob Painter Non-Executive Director at FOTW Rob was Marketing and Brand Director of Sky Betting and Gaming for 6 years with FOTW as consistent partner agency. With the Betting, Better positioning, Sky Bet enjoyed market beating growth and became the UK’s most popular online sportsbook.

This time last year news broke that the major operators had uniquely and surprisingly coherently come together to agree to sign up to the ‘whistle to whistle’ ban for gambling advertising during live sport on TV. This was an unprecedented proactive move by an industry under pressure from the public, media, regulator and campaigners. The move could have been applauded but there was barely a ripple from the baying crowd. So should they have made the commitment, what is the fall out and what should gambling brands do to still build their brands with TV restricted by self-regulation?

The operators were really reacting to the furore after the World Cup, where the large TV audiences were ‘bombarded’ by gambling TV ads in what has been described as the normalisation of gambling for the young. However the industry had reacted to an exceptional three week period that occurs every four years with a sledge hammer response. The response did not consider that the BAU TV advertising cycle for gambling operators is about steadily accumulating audiences, with even peak live football reaching less than 1 million viewers. Children, which are the fair concern of all in this, are less and less likely to view Gambling TV ads as they are simply watching less TV. A recent report by ASA has backed this up, suggesting a 37% drop in gambling ads viewed by children over a 4 year period has mainly been driven by a shift in their media habits.

There was no relationship between advertising volumes and problem gambling but the lack of evidence was side stepped by everyone. Simply the broadcasters should have been given more time to come up with a solution that listened to concerns of the public and provide a pragmatic solution.

There are many more things operators can do to mitigate the risk of problem gambling and the chance of gambling advertising reaching the young and the vulnerable. TV advertising was the froth on the top that catches a headline or two but light on the real concern of problem gambling. The marketers of gambling operators were concerned. Their proven and best channel for  increasing marketing effectiveness by a staggering 40% – as quoted by Les Binet and Peter Field – had become hamstrung. Operators were accustomed to using TV to build their brands, to persuade, engage, excite, to mobilise a response. TV gives you your voice and personality. Without it, I fear gambling brands will become less relevant and less salient. It could have a detrimental long term effect on revenues and brand value. So what should operators do in response beyond reinvest? Here are a few views…

1. Buy around it 

There’s nothing better than TV. Supply has gone down and prices have gone up but you can still reach your audience – you just have to have more patience in it achieving what you need it for.

2. Double Down on Creative

Maybe we wouldn’t have been in this position if the ads had simply been better. Find creative that your audience will enjoy rather than reach for the mute button.

3. Double down on effectiveness

With fewer eyeballs on your ads you had better make sure they work very hard for you. You will need agency and internal teams well versed in all the tricks of Direct Response.

4. Sweat Comms planning

Too many marketing campaigns do not sweat every channel or assign clear phases and roles for each channel. Do this to make your money go further and get crystal clear about the role of TV, even if it is diminished as a quick reach building medium.

5. Content Production

Replace some of your TV spend with story telling through engaging content in social platforms. Don’t use your social channels for transactional communications; invest in high quality content to entertain your audiences and promote your brand promise.

6. Sports Sponsorships

If scale is hard to generate with TV look to the major sports events for you to be part of. They can offer great brand exposure to keep your awareness up even if these activations fall short compared to the persuasive nature of telly. The problem here is with the TV concession already made by the operators, the campaigners predictably moved sports sponsorship into their cross hairs!

7. Revitalise TV 

Gambling operators should be using TV to promote safer gambling. This should be allowed to run even during live sport on TV to maximum audiences. Surely this particular own goal could be ruled out by a VAR ruling?

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