Every product has its own form of marketing that will appeal to the customer that the business is after. For some reason, the more that a car advert focuses on the offer rather than the actual car, for example, the more sales go up. What similar appeal factors are there for betting companies? Is it just about making people feel like they can win if they bet? If so, how do companies do that in line with the ASA’s rules.
Companies need to ensure that they catch the imagination of the viewer, but the Advertising Standards Authority has strict rules on not making people believe that they’ll become sexier or richer or more fun by gambling. These rules aim to protect children and vulnerable people, meaning betting sites need to find a way making their products look good without breaking these guidelines. Using social media is one of the main ways of doing so, but what else to they do?
It seems as though there’s a split down the middle for gambling companies, with those that use celebrities on one side of the divide and those that don’t on the other side. The likes of José Mourinho, Clive Owen and Ray Winstone have all appeared in gambling adverts at one point or another. The aim of using a celebrity is to appeal to both people who already enjoy a bet and those that don’t necessarily do but just like the celebrity in question.
It’s not as if using celebrities in adverts is something that is exclusive to betting companies, but it’s nevertheless quite interesting to see that some companies are so insistent on it whilst others steer clear. The companies that choose to use celebrities put them front and centre, as if the use of them is more important than what they’re trying to sell. That is likely down to the fact that a celebrity endorsement can increase sales by 4% or more.
An article in the Guardian in 2015 suggested that celebrities are used because they distract people from the content. The argument made in the column was that people are less likely to think about what they’re actually doing with their money if they are busy laughing at celebrities. Whether that’s true or not is obviously up for some debate, though it’s certainly a solid argument and explains why so many bookies use famous people.
The use of celebs in gambling adverts has caused a lot of controversy in recent years. In 2019 rules were announced that betting ads could not use celebrities or sports starts that appeared under the age of 25. Bans have even resulted from this. It seems likely these rules may go further in 2021 as new gambling laws are expected.
This particular method might well be specifically one used by Paddy Power, given the Irish bookmaker’s long history of causing controversy in order to drive up user numbers, but it’s one that is used from time-to-time nevertheless. Paddy Power caused headlines back in 2019 when they used Ryan Giggs’ brother Rhodri in one of their adverts about loyalty being dead; Ryan slept with Rhodri’s wife, which is why the ad was amusing.
The advert was actually banned because it appeared to suggest that you could achieve both financial security and boost self-esteem by gambling, whilst some complained that Giggs opening champagne and driving a sports car ‘glamorised gambling’. It was aimed at promoting Paddy Power’s Rewards Club, with the Irish firm almost certainly knowing that it would create controversy and they would earn headlines accordingly.
Whilst Paddy Power have long court controversy as an advertising technique, the same cannot be said of William Hill. Even so, the bookmaker did get in trouble with the ASA when it released an advert on Tinder that appeared to link successful sexual exploits with gambling. The advert said, “Stuck in the friend zone? You won’t be for much longer if you use this Cheltenham free bet offer” and was banned accordingly.
Targeting Specific Users
One of the chief adverting techniques used by gambling firms is to ensure that the individual adverts that they release target specific types of users. They will not use the same sort of sales technique for sports betting adverts as they would for an online casino, for example. Whilst some users will try their hand at both forms of gambling, the reality is that most people tend to stick to one form more often than not.
Casino players are usually more likely to be enticed into gambling thanks to an offer or promotion, which isn’t always the case with sports gamblers. It’s why sports betting adverts will commonly promote what features the bookmaker offers rather than how many free spins the user can get by signing up. By ensuring that the right type of user is targeted with the adverts, gambling companies can get people to stay signed up for longer.
Taking Advantage Of Social Media
Social media has completely changed the landscape for advertising companies. No longer are they restricted to the classic options of television and radio advertising. Instead, they can turn to the likes of Facebook and Twitter and offer a completely different form of advertising to the users of such platforms. Given that more than three billion people have social media accounts, the approach is a sensible one in terms of numbers alone.
As with targeting specific users, companies need to ensure that they’re picking the right kind of advert for the right social media platform. Instagram, say, is a purely visual medium and therefore the advert needs to work in that manner. Twitter, on the other hand, is about quick-fire opinion sharing and can be used accordingly. It’s key not only for companies to ensure that they pick the right style but also that they don’t get carried away with it.
By its very nature, social media is a lot more quick fire and tongue-in-cheek than traditional advertising. It is also a platform that is used by young people more than older users, so companies need to work hard not to break the rules when targeting them. Even using imagery that might appeal to young people is a no-no. Social media might appear to be like the Wild West, but advertisers still need to be careful when using it.
Using Cultural Reference Points
Whilst sports gambling companies are always more likely to point out that their In-Play betting is the best in the business or that you can Live Stream what you’re hoping to bet on, online casinos need to find other ways to appeal to users. One such way of doing is by using cultural references and pop culture ideas, largely taken from television and movies. This is most common in the branded slot machines that are released.
Anything that is seen as popular is always likely to appeal to a broader market, with the more popular something is the more likely it is to appeal. Branded games that feature Marvel characters, for example, will be heavily promoted by casinos. If a show like Game of Thrones is popular then that will be used and placed front and centre, with the more popular themes gaining more advertising time.
What Are They Pushing At The Moment?
The other key question that an advertising firm would ask a gambling company revolves around what it is that they’re trying to sell at the moment. Do they want people to sign up and use their In-Play betting? If so then an advert centered around that part of the company’s offering would be pushed out. Alternatively there might be a promotion that the company wants people to know about, which would then be made the focus of the advert.
Specific offer tend to be short-lived, but that doesn’t mean that advertising companies can’t focus on them to promote a betting company that they’re trying to sell. Equally, it’s not uncommon for betting companies to use the wares that a gambling firm thinks its best at as part of the advertising campaign for the simple reason that they don’t have any sort of shelf-life and the same advert can be used in the future.
‘We’re Just Like You’
The final technique often used by a betting company is to have characters that the people at home can relate to. The idea of ‘heeding your hunch’ will be put up in direct contrast to bettors who follow the numbers and do statistical analysis. Both types of punter are common, with those watching an advert at home likely to feel the appeal of seeing someone that takes their approach to betting on screen.
It helps the image of ‘just like you’ that so many football clubs have gambling companies as shirt sponsors. The subconscious idea of seeing a player wearing a shirt that advertises betting undoubtedly plays into the idea of betting being something that everyone does.
That is a fact that has been criticised by many, with football authorities likely to act in the future to stop betting companies from being able to sponsor shirts.