If rumours are to be believed then footballer of the year GarethBale will soon be sporting the Real
Madrid jersey, marking a world transfer record pegged at £100mn. The real winner though is bwin, the online gaming and betting company which has been the long-term (£16.8m-a-year) shirt sponsor of the team, donned by the likes of football superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. As bwin moves from the jersey to a digital partnership strategy with the club, Bale’s addition will boost the company’s brand value on multiple platforms. The buzz around Bale’s transfer is the latest in a spate of big-ticket advertising and sponsorship deals to be making headlines for the betting website.
Like bwin, online gambling companies are increasingly placing their bets on sports sponsorships, outpacing traditional sports mega-brands to the top branding spots, at unprecedented rates. One of the first clubs to kick start the trend was Middlesbrough’s three-year multi-million pound deal with 888.com in 2004. Since then, clubs have raised the stakes and signed on multiple deals with betting websites. Liverpool FC for instance boasts of multiple brand partnerships with PaddyPower, 188Bet and Turkish betting company Misli.com while Wigan Atlantic has rival companies 12Bet.com and 188Bet on board as sponsors. Other examples include West Ham United which has a long standing jersey sponsorship with gaming site SBOBET and Arsenal FC’s deal with Betsson. An article on Casino Top 10 has an extensive list on more football teams cashing in on online gambling companies.
To be sure, betting operators have been sponsoring sports team and events for decades but now it is the online gambling sector which has overtaken this space, indicating the sheer growth of the Internet gambling industry, despite recession.
The simple reason is that by associating their name with leading teams, betting websites are reaching out to their ideal demographics of men between the ages of 18-44, who are most likely to place bets on their website upon brand recall.
And it seems to be working as planned.
The UK Online Gambling Insights by Stickyeyes, a digital marketing agency, revealed that sports betting is the largest and fastest growing segment with the online gambling sector’s ‘in-play betting,’ in particular football betting, driving this growth. In 2012, online gambling broke the £2 billion mark, led primarily by sports betting, which now represents over 50% of the value of the market.
The report stated: ‘The rise of remote betting, i.e. online and mobile, has given major impetus to the football betting market with all of the leading gambling brands having developed promotional and sponsorship opportunities within this area.’
However, it’s not all smooth sailing for the online gambling industry. The last 18 months has seen tight regulatory control over operators with talks of a proposed “point of consumption” tax to be levied on online and mobile gaming companies ‘set to cream off 15 per cent of online gaming profits from the end of next year,’ news reports state.
Further, a report by Deloitte commissioned by bookmaker William Hill on the proposed tax scheme found that more than 27% of revenues would be unaccounted for, fuelling the unregulated market. Reduced cash-flow would consequently slash marketing spends impacting sports sponsorships and the overall UK economy.
It is therefore likely that we will see more prudent marketing activity from online betting companies and a stronger digital strategy in place to maintain its presence in sports.
bwin for one has a headstart – The company has signed on as the Real Madrid’s official digital partner. ‘The new digital partnership will position bwin at the centre of promotional activities for one of the world’s most popular football clubs and includes the integration of the bwin brand into Real’s website, social media and mobile apps, the creation of co-branded gaming products, match day perimeter board signage and access to players for marketing campaigns,’ an official press release said. Along with Real Madrid, bwin has signed digital partnership deals with Italian football champion Juventus as well as the Belgian’s football club RSC Anderlecht.
Going forward, stringent regulatory controls and tighter budgets will push online gambling companies to adopt fresh and innovative marketing tactics. An integrated communications and marketing strategy will be the key to a sustainable future in the volatile (and expensive) world of betting and sports.