Betting and Gaming in Sports – Stephen Pearson

February 3, 2011

I have worked closely in both sports and gaming sectors over the last 7 years and witnessed the changing face of the sports sponsorship market which has been dominated by brands from the betting and gaming sector.

It’s natural that these brands would align with powerful brands such as the Premier League clubs who enjoy global exposure and indeed reach into markets where betting and gaming itself may be illegal.

What is interesting is the different views of the governing bodies on betting and gaming. Whilst the Football Association in England have been on the hunt for a betting partner for a couple of years now, UEFA and FIFA are quite anti the category and do not wish to have a betting partner in their portfolio. This is somewhat a strange decision on the basis that all of the football family in these federations, i.e. the clubs have embraced betting and gaming and play in UEFA competitions with betting companies on the shirts. Betting companies would be knocking at the door of UEFA if they could sponsor the Champions League and UEFA can’t mask the fact that betting companies are a part of nearly everyone’s daily lives whether they actively gamble or see adverts for betting companies everywhere they look.

Taking the Premier League, every single club has a betting partner and several of the clubs have betting companies on their shirts. It’s still a market dominated by sports betting companies. iGaming embraces sports betting, poker, casino, bingo etc but there are no poker only companies sponsoring clubs, despite the natural synergy to their demograph (18-35 year old males) and their ability to finance. If reports are correct Pokerstars who control probably 40% of the poker market and generate in excess of £1million each and every day could easily have afforded a £20million Liverpool or Manchester United shirt sponsorship.

Betting companies have focussed heavily on football but it’s hard to watch any sport these days without coming across a betting company being involved. This naturally leads to clutter and confusion in the minds of consumers. British punters for years were used to high street brands such as Ladbrokes and William Hill. Now they are faced with a cocktail of brands with similar names such as 118Bet, 188Bet, fun88, 888.com.

Igaming remains an interesting sector to watch in sports sponsorship and undoubtedly will continue with a focus on football. Despite the various moral interpretations of various governing bodies, igaming companies are here to stay and will play an important part of sports marketing revenue for years to come. Betting companies will also need to influence more the exclusive category clauses to ensure their brands stand out in this crowded market.

About Stephen Pearson

Stephen Pearson is founder and CEO of Sports Media Gaming Ltd, a specialist sports and online gaming marketing company. Prior to SMG Stephen held senior commercial roles with UEFA’s exclusive marketing partner TEAM marketing and was the first appointed Commercial Director of the FA Premier League. Stephen has brokered some of the highest value sponsorships in international football such as PlayStations sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League and shirt sponsorships with Premiership football clubs including Tottenham’s sponsorship by Thomson Holidays. He has also consulted for many of the world’s leading online gaming brands and successfully created and ran the world’s first million dollar backgammon event. www.sportsmediagaming.com .

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