Vegas casino gambling is one of the most competitive, crowded and fast-paced commercial sectors in the market today. There are multiple products and options that range from land-based casinos to online casino venues, lottery products, online sports betting and more. It’s almost impossible to get through a day without seeing some type of advertisements for these products – on TV, on the Internet, at live games and more.
You may not notice but the industry is in a state of flux. In the UK, the maximum limit per spin on FOBTs (fixed odds betting terminals) was slashed from £100 to £2. In New Zealand, strict new advertising rules were instituted that limit what a gambling product can promise and what it can’t promise while in the United States, lottery and sports betting rules vary widely from one state to the next.
Now UK gambling operators are facing a new challenge that will come into play when the 2019/2020 football season launches this summer. There’s a new whistle-to-whistle advertising ban that means that gambling ads cannot be shown in the UK from five minutes before the event begins tol five minutes after the event finishes and during live sports coverage.
A good percentage of the focus on the change in marketing is focused on the UK. There, gambling brands came under intense pressure after it was revealed that 90 minutes of adverts were shown during World Cup coverage in June and July 2018. In addition, a video assistant referee (VAR), which reviews decisions made by the referee with the use of video footage, will have a big impact on in-play betting to the pitch. That innovation is expected to have a big impact on in-play betting.
All of these changes are encouraging gambling brands to diversify and explore opportunities further afield. Several operators, including Ladbrokes, Betway and Paddy Power Betfair, are intent on entering the U.S. market now that a federal ban on sports betting has been lifted. Betting companies who receive the appropriate state licenses can enter the US market, offering endless possibilities for sports wagering.
Gambling marketers must address these issues, along with the increasing interest in esports and the rise of interest in women’s sports, to get their message across. The sheer pace of change is creating confusion and disarray. One of the biggest challenges involves the digital landscape where revenue generated by online betting is eclipsing retail offers.
Many marketers are shifting towards a digital-first strategy, though it will mean competing against gambling operators who have been digital-only all along and whose brand is intricately linked to online products in the minds of consumers.
Commenting on the situation facing marketers, Elen Barber, CMO of the Kindred Group, parent company of 32 Unibet and Red said “The pace of change that has happened in the online world and online gaming is faster compared to anything else in any other industries out there and that creates a great opportunity.” The Kindred Group is trying to stay one step ahead by promoting the development of a voice-controlled sports betting prototype that is designed to understand gambling slang.
The techniques, insight and technology being used in the gambling industry has given it the reputation as having one of the most advanced marketing sectors. Betway marketing director Paul Adkins explained that his company is channeling “a lot of resource and focus” into its mar-tech stack to ensure it can take advantage of the latest technologies.
“Offering live odds across our digital creative is the easy bit, but it’s simply not possible to compete effectively online anymore unless you can automate as much of your digital marketing as possible,” Adkins said. “Whether that’s from dynamic creative optimization through to AI-driven programmatic media buys, by using this approach, we ensure that we are targeting the right people, with the right message, using the right channel, at the right time, which is crucial to our success.”
Marketing and Regulation
Successful marketers must know how to change their tactics when challenges occur. This is one of the issues that UK advertisers faced when the whistle-to-whistle ad ban was introduced. The gambling operators themselves agreed to the ban following public outrage over the revelation that 90 minutes of ads were shown during the football World Cup. Anti-gambling activists say sport's use of ads during the matches "normalizes" betting.
Iain Corby, deputy chief executive of GambleAware, one of the non-profits that was particularly outspoken about the live sporting events’ ads, said “There’s no evidence that gambling advertising causes problem gambling, but equally there’s no evidence to reassure us that it doesn’t. So obviously we’re pleased with these new regulations, which will reduce the amount of gambling people see and, in particular, will give parents the opportunity to sit their children down in front of a football match and they won’t see TV gambling advertising.”
Now marketers will be faced with upping other forms of advertising --social media, YouTube videos, perimeter boards, shirt sponsorships, etc – to make up for the lack of TV ads. For instance, Ladbrokes Coral is producing a show, “Kick Off,” that’s live-streamed every weekend. It’s hosted by football influenced True Geordie and reaches Geordie’s 1.5 million subscribers. The show has produced numerous new sign-ups, money deposited and clicks on the Ladbrokes site.
Head of social at Ladbrokes Coral, Elliot Hackney, said “We’re actually in the process of getting a Nielsen report into how much that media value of the show actually is to us. We’ve got the sign ups and what those accounts are worth to us. Every season customers are coming back and we have clicks and impressions, the standard social numbers which are huge for the True Geordie.
Dan Towse, head of brand at Marathonbet, feels that having a strong brand identity is the best way to make a mark in a market rife with a notorious lack of loyalty and competing odds. Towse feels that, in order to stand out, gambling operators should build their brand through a consistent message and excellent customer service.
He explained his technique. “Brand identity is extremely important. When you think about how cluttered the market is, the need to cut through is more difficult than it has ever been and you do need to have that consistency. More importantly, over and above the tone of voice, is what sits behind the brand. What sits behind your above-the-line stuff is so extremely important for consistency.”
Betway’s thrust is to market towards three core values – authenticity, share-the-thrill and everything-is-possible. This positioning was the basis of Betway’s new ad campaign – The Hunch – that strove to create something to which gamblers could relate. The focus for Betway campaigns is on achieving credibility, trust and awareness.
Paul Adkins, Marketing and Operations Director for Betway, said “Over the years, the creative in the gambling industry has become increasingly focused on offers. These offers are often delivered through shouty ads that have become stereotyped and stale. The online gambling customer is more sophisticated now and we’ve moved on from where we were previously, which is where the new campaign is focused. Because everyone can identify with the concept of having a hunch, it helps us to build a more emotional connection with our customers rather than simply barking out offers.”
Adkins believes it is important to be clear about what you want to achieve. “Valuing sponsorships can be a bit of a dark art, like attribution in the digital world but we have several different models which we use to get as accurate a picture on performance and value as possible. We do our due diligence and create a bespoke strategy for each territory we enter to achieve our objectives.”