Why You Can't Market People In To Betting

Sometimes when someone tells you something about marketing that is so obvious you hadn't really thought of it before, it kind of sticks with you.

So, I'll always remember an experienced marketing exec from a sports betting company admitting to me, off the record, that the biggest problem the industry has is people generally either gamble or they don't. There's obviously a massive middle ground of people who'll join in the office sweepstake for the World Cup or put a couple of quid on the Grand National. However, such occasional gamblers are actually more of a drain on the industry than a boon. Accounts are created that are never used again until the person requests a reset for a forgotten password in a year's time, twenty minutes before they get underway at Aintree. 

In terms of regular customers, people generally are gamblers or they aren't.

So, the task Brothers and Sisters is being given, by Betfred, to broaden the appeal of gambling is actually a lot more challenging that it would appear, I believe. As the Premier League football season starts and various well-known brands tell us to get in on the action, the vast majority of the budget, in above the line, is likely to reach people who just aren't gamblers and never will be. 

It's very tempting to refute this and, funnily enough, making the statement goes against an internal voice that keeps saying that with the spread of 'in game' betting offering smartphone users more opportunity than ever to guess the winner at Ascot or the next goal scorer, massive growth just has to be out there.

But, this isn't just a hunch from me, nor a battle weary gambling marketing exec, it's actually in the figures.

Deloitte is a good authority here and to shave a few per cent off here and there, to make things simpler, their latest figures have Asia and Europe (excluding the UK) each accounting for about a third of all gambling and betting. The USA has a 10 per cent share, as does the Rest of the World and the UK weighs in with an 8 per cent share. Given American restrictions on sports betting, it's not surprising that the UK has a similar sized market despite having something like only a fifth of the population.

Where the surprise comes in, though, is when the experts look at UK online sports betting figures. This is the market the big names in gambling have been fighting hard to win over as people have moved from the bookmaker to the web and the phone in their pocket. 

In monetary terms, there is a modest rise in revenue across sports betting over the next two to three years -- in fact, it's worth noting that sports betting is the same size as interactive casino games, poker and bingo combined.

However, the inconvenient truth is, as far as Deloitte's projections are concerned, online has peaked since 2012 at around a third of total sports betting. Come 2017, Deloitte still estimates that it will account for a third of the market. Not only has online reached a plateau, sports betting in general is only estimated to have very modest growth between 2012 and 2017.

Indeed, the Deloitte summary of its latest figures suggests operators are probably a little 'over confident' about mobile.

So, as one very well known brands turns to a new agency to broaden the appeal of gambling and, more specifically, sports betting, I am reminded of the single sentence that summed up one man's many years in the industry.

It will come to my mind throughout the coming weeks and beyond as the start of the new football season see ad spots screaming at us to grab our phone and 'get on it' with offers of odds and bets for the season and upcoming games.

There's about to be millions spent on putting a seasoned campaigner's summary to the test.

If people really do fall into two separate camps of gamblers and non-gamblers, it could be a very expensive test.
2 comments about "Why You Can't Market People In To Betting".
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  1. P G from UM, July 14, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.

    Sitting with an 8 year old and a 9 year old last night watching the World Cup led to some discussion and these thoughts. If you look at the time of day that these ads are aired, at least in the UK, and the way in which they seek to normalise betting as an acceptable, and even sociable, past time then it is not much of a stretch to imagine that future generations may see betting differently and that the idea that there are those who bet and those who don't may become outmoded. Perhaps the ROI on these ads will arrive when today's kids are old enough to bet. Reminds me of the tobacco industry.

  2. Sean Hargrave from Sean Hargrave, July 14, 2014 at 11:23 a.m.

    That may well be a good point. My generation was never peppered with adverts encouraging us to bet like today's is so perhaps future generations will consider it quite normal. I still think, though, there will be the risk averse who will never bet.
    For now, I think these campaigns are more about winning over existing gamblers than instantly creating new ones.

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