Among the flurry of transfer rumours and club tours to far flung destinations in the pursuit of new territories and fanbases, one of the standout talking points of football’s close season was Paddy Power’s ‘unsponsoring’ of several UK football club shirts.
The topic of football clubs and their reliance on gambling sponsors is nothing new but the bookmaker’s campaign, which split opinion both inside and outside the industry, put the issue front and centre once again.
“As a sponsor, we know our place, and it’s not on your shirt,” Paddy Power’s managing director, Victor Corcoran said when it was confirmed that the now infamous Huddersfield Town kit launch had been a hoax.
The involvement of sponsors 32red.com in Wayne Rooney’s transfer from Minnesota United to Derby County also generated plenty of discussion but, regardless of which side of the fence you come down on, it’s irrefutable that the goalposts have shifted when it comes to gaming sponsorship and football.
Many operators should now be questioning whether they’re getting enough bang for their buck with shirt sponsorships and what else can be done to supplement their marketing spend.
Apart from the negative publicity that can accompany clubs and their betting sponsorships, it’s vital operators aren’t just blinded by the lure and razzmatazz of seeing their logo on the front of a football shirt. Instead, sponsors have to be smart and ensure they’re activating deals digitally as well as utilising the latest AI and Machine Learning technology to properly tailor their marketing efforts.
When we speak to operators about ad:s – our holistic marketing solution for bookmakers – these are key aspects we highlight because they are what will help companies stand out in what is clearly now a saturated marketplace.
More than half the teams across the Premier League and the Championship now have betting companies as their shirt sponsors, forcing organisations to come up with all-encompassing, strategic plans if they are to maximise their investment and convert audiences into revenue.
Whether it’s clients such as Real Mallorca and Sporting in Gijon in Spain or Enyimba in Nigeria, the global impact of using football as a vehicle for advertising is undeniable. Different countries and continents will have nuanced relationships when it comes to betting on the sport but the beautiful game’s proclivity to gambling has been decades in the making.
It is why football shirt sponsorship will always be a popular choice for betting operators as it puts their brand right in the thick of the action, in front of a primary target market.
However, what Paddy Power may have inadvertently highlighted for many bookies is the importance of activating partnerships away from jerseys.
In contrast to Paddy Power’s slogan, many operators do still see their place as being on the front of a shirt but also increasingly want to add to that presence digitally or in stadiums.
In a crowded, diverse and international marketplace, bookmakers should be leveraging social, digital and broadcast potential as well as other physical opportunities such as perimeter and stadium advertising if they are to enjoy big returns on their investment.
While 32red.com’s financial backing for Rooney’s arrival at Pride Park may not necessarily be mirrored too much elsewhere and is likely to add weight to the ‘Against Modern Football’ bandwagon, it has captured attention and most likely gained new subscribers.
Both social and digital advertising offer the chance to connect more closely with fans globally and also bring more opportunities to engage with users away from matchdays. Digital and social marketing is also more conducive to measurable, tangible results when it comes advertising efficiency, another area where we believe ad:s can play a role.
With the use of industry and user data, programmatic advertising is designed with the aim of efficiency in mind.
Being able to target advertising to users based on the content, sports and teams they are interested in can dramatically alter the way betting operators advertise themselves to both new and existing customers.
By analysing both behavioural insights and conversion data as well as using Machine Learning to adjust bidding strategies, bookmakers can fully optimise their campaigns in real time.
Throw in the ability to prospect and retarget potential customers and bookmakers have the opportunity to drastically improve their marketing spend and ultimately improve their bottom line.
A recent BCG market evaluation showed the gross gaming revenue globally to be around €30 billion, with that expected to be bolstered by $4bn from the US market by 2022. Around a quarter of that is spent by operators on marketing and advertising meaning targeting and increased efficiency can help bring substantial savings.
The debate around betting advertising – and how much is too much – will run and run, as will the wider discussion around social responsibility and gambling. While Paddy Power’s move has undoubtedly stoked those fires again, operators need not start from scratch.
Front-of-shirt sponsorships have always been, and will remain, prime real estate. However, new opportunities are emerging, bringing the chance to better target spend as well as make bigger moves into previously unchartered territory.
Being able to back up your glitzy, eye-catching football shirt deal with targeted, data-driven marketing to improve your advertising efficiency is something that should appeal to bookies of all shapes and sizes.
In fact, rather than it being a case of saving shirts, saving money will always be the slogan of choice for the majority of operators.