Author: Sebastian Scheplitz
Much has been said about the undoubted lengths that iGaming providers and marketers go to connect with their target audiences.
Professional sport has become more than just leisure – it is now a multi-billion euro industry amid its boom, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that unceremoniously abbreviated much of the sporting calendar in 2020.
Try picking any football team from the top two tiers of the English football system randomly.
More often than not, their kits will be festooned by the advertising and branding of online sportsbooks sponsoring football teams one way or another.
Even the most casual observer of any televised mainstream sport these past several years will have been exposed to advertisements by betting operator sponsorships.
If you are wondering which sports are getting so much attention from these iGaming and online betting businesses for multi-billion euro sponsorship deals, this video will surely give you a good head start:
Gambling Sponsorship in Football
It’s no secret that the most successful clubs in football are the ones that spend the most. After all, scared money doesn’t make money at all.
Neither is it a secret how much the casino and gambling industry is becoming increasingly involved with professional football.
Betting operator sponsorships are being signed left and right by iGaming providers and online sportsbooks sponsoring football teams across leagues and continents.
The largest, most well-known online casinos and sportsbooks inject hundreds of millions of euros into football.
Through sponsorships of football clubs by sports betting operators, online advertising, television ads, and a host of other means, there is not a single person involved with football that hasn’t had some form of interaction with an online casino or sportsbook.
See, iGaming operators can pay upwards of several million to advertise with a top-flight football club.
With the exposure that a club in the Premier League enjoys, for instance, with multi-billions of euros in TV deals and revenues, it makes it a worthwhile and profitable venture for operators.
The sport’s enduring popularity all over the world will keep it that way.
Understanding the Need for Sponsorships
Football clubs often have a lot of revenue streams, especially the big ones. But the needs are often just as many.
Football features some of the highest-paid athletes in the sports business. Football clubs also run junior and youth squads, corporate social responsibility initiatives, and other responsibilities that require a sizable chunk of investment.
Moreover, running a football club takes investing massive amounts of resources into their facilities, offices, training, coaching, and players to improve their quality or keep it running at a high level if they already are.
A football team could have the best talent in the world; however, if it can’t maintain them or nurture them, it would all be for naught.
This is why the sponsorships of football clubs by online betting operators and online casinos are a tried and tested way for ballclubs to diversify their income streams further.
It also provides football teams the financial flexibility to run their operations as they see fit.
The financial capability to afford better training facilities, improved stadia, and merchandise puts football clubs at a tremendous advantage simply because in football, money talks.
We’ve seen what happens when a club “hits the lottery” by having massive wealth influencing its success.
For instance, in the English Premier League, with its billion-euro partnerships and global popularity by featuring the most successful clubs in the UK, it’s abundantly clear that giving teams more resources means driving an infinitely higher level of competition.
However, as with any other deal, it takes a mutually beneficial one for football teams to benefit from betting operator sponsorships.
It’s not just about getting more money to flow in the front office – the contract terms and the sponsor’s reputation are just as crucial to brokering a deal that works for everyone.
What’s in It for Both Sides?
Football has come a long way over the past several decades. Obscene amounts of money are being made by players, coaches, managers, and front-office executives, and there are no signs of that changing.
For instance, European football is among the most-watched worldwide, with the English Premier League taking the lion’s share of the viewership, ratings, and revenues.
We already know how much gambling has become an integral part of football, and nowhere is this more apparent than football teams’ kits adorned with online casino and sportsbooks brands.
Consider this: online betting operators sponsor 70% of professional football teams across the top-flight European leagues, while 25% of them have betting companies’ logos emblazoned on their shirts.
In England alone, 17 out of 20 Premiership clubs are partnered with at least one online betting partner.
Additionally, 17 out of 24 clubs in the Championship have partnered with online casinos and online sportsbooks sponsoring football teams.
For instance, these ten Premier League clubs had an online casino or a betting operator as their main shirt sponsor for the 2019/2020 season.
Granted, the top six Premier League clubs have more prominent companies as their main shirt sponsors, such as Etihad (Manchester City), Standard Chartered (Liverpool), or Chevrolet (Manchester United).
Additionally, in Spain, 95% of La Liga clubs have betting operator sponsorships, while in Germany, all 18 clubs in the Bundesliga do.
From looking at the figures, what we can say without a shadow of a doubt is that more and more clubs will have some partnership with an online casino or sportsbook – because it is far too profitable not to.
The Premier League represents an enduring global allure and marketing opportunities for online casinos and sportsbooks, as well as an opportunity to be linked with the top teams and be seen on billions of TVs worldwide.
It is expensive, but the benefits are well worth it.
Find more statistics at Statista
According to figures from the Agence France-Presse (AFP), punters worldwide wagered almost €1.1 billion (£1 billion) on every Premier League fixture.
That’s huge money for sportsbooks!
Furthermore, the English Premier League’s global reach of billions worldwide is a literal goldmine for online casinos and sportsbooks.
For most people, watching football is synonymous with betting on it. That’s why iGaming revenues have skyrocketed.
The betting industry in the United Kingdom, for instance, generated a gross gambling yield of €15.8 billion (£14.3 billion) per year (between 2018 – Sept 2019).
Contrary to what others may believe, iGaming sponsorships are always welcomed and cherished business for football clubs.
Regardless of the type, any kind of sponsorship will always be another income stream, especially for clubs that may not be as financially well-endowed as others.
Sports clubs offer different pricing tiers for potential sponsors depending on the visibility of the sponsor’s logo.
Front jersey placements generally cost the same regardless of sponsor and regardless of size. It’s all a matter of which sponsor wants to pay the price.
Sports clubs also offer different kinds of partnerships to a wide array of potential sponsors.
This includes “official refreshment partner” for brands like Coca-Cola, Gatorade, or Red Bull, or “official betting partner” for online sportsbooks.
These typically cost less than front jersey placements – but it’s just in the nature of being emblazoned on the jersey.
Gambling Sponsorships in Basketball
The trend continues in other professional sports, where sports betting sponsorships in basketball leagues have come around.
For instance, in the EuroLeague, 12 out of 18 teams are sponsored by betting companies. Even the EuroLeague itself is sponsored by betting operators.
The trend has spread to the other side of the Atlantic. Sports betting sponsorship with the NBA is taking off after being virtually forbidden prior to changes to sports betting legislation in 2018.
The NBA took this one step further by becoming the first professional sports league to forge a gambling partnership with casino operator MGM in the 2018/2019 season.
Nearly half of the league’s teams (13 of 30) have now allied with casinos, lotteries, or sportsbooks. As sports betting restrictions are relaxed, the trend is set to rise in the coming years, just like the following graph shows.
Gambling Sponsorships in Other Sports
Betting sponsorships are not limited to any particular sport – in fact, it is plausible to believe that it can just as easily expand into different sports.
In the United Kingdom, for instance, 12% of its sport is sponsored by betting companies.
While tennis has banned player betting-related sponsorships, significant betting sponsor activity can be seen in other sports such as snooker.
“Effective immediately and until further notice, ATP World Tour and Challenger tournaments are prohibited from entering into, renewing or extending a sponsorship arrangement with any company or person associated with betting on tennis.”Chris Kermode, ATP executive chairman and president
Betting operators have shown that they are willing to sponsor sports that are popular in other regions.
For instance, Betfair has sponsored plenty of sports competitions in leagues across Europe, including cricket, rugby union, horse racing, and esports.
More recently, the NFL announced that it will allow sportsbook sponsorships for its 2020 season. Prior to that, it was the only major North American sports league not to have a sports betting partner.
However, since wrapping up a sponsorship with Caesars Entertainment as its first casino sponsor, things have been moving fast.
In September 2020, the NFL announced that it was partnering up with 888sport as its official UK betting partner and Betcris as its betting partner in Latin America.
Unibet (a subsidiary of Kindred), on the other hand, sponsored the 2020 European Handball Championships, which demonstrates the fact that betting operators will sponsor events that they think will be beneficial to their bottom line, regardless of sport.
That’s because the potential revenues are too enticing not to.
We already know that sports sponsorships by online sportsbooks are a potentially lucrative business for the parties involved.
But, as we mentioned earlier, sponsorships (and endorsements) need to work for both parties in order to be successful.
And, as we will discuss, the success of betting operator sponsorships always relies on the finest of details.
One of these includes localization in order to get the linguistic and cultural milieu of the targeted market.
Localization includes ambassador marketing, which is one of the most common marketing strategies iGaming providers employ in order to drum up interest and gravitas for their brands.
Localization is Key
Localization is the process of adapting a product or a service to the language and culture preferences of the targeted local audience where it will be marketed and distributed.
The purpose of localization is to make your product or service adaptable to your customers to build trust. And it goes way beyond simple translation to achieve that. There are more than just linguistic factors to consider.
That includes local mores and folkways, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status to make it successful.
Localization is critical – it’s the devil in the details.
It’s about personalizing content to attract your target segment; this could be delivering relevant content marketing for sports betting websites or crafting a comprehensive and cohesive marketing strategy for online sports betting activities.
Major online casino conglomerates like Betfair, Bet365, and Betsson have gone so far as to sponsor local sports leagues to demonstrate that they are the top dogs in the region, even for sports that don’t enjoy as much coverage as football or basketball might.
We saw this with Unibet in handball and Betfair in cricket.
Localizing Brand Ambassador Marketing
Betting companies also employ localization when they use different brand spokespersons or ambassadors to attract local audiences.
That’s because some linguistic considerations need to be addressed when a brand ambassador doesn’t speak the language of the targeted segment.
For instance, having Conor McGregor as a brand ambassador makes perfect sense if a company targets Ireland or other Anglophone countries, as well as others where he has a following.
The same is true, for instance, if a company hired Franz Beckenbauer to market their services to the DACH region where he enjoys popularity for being one of the greatest German defenders ever to lace up a pair of boots. Makes perfect sense.
But if he had been hired to be the brand ambassador for the Chinese Super League, it might not work as well as it would in the Bundesliga.
That stretches to online sportsbooks sponsoring teams. An iGaming provider sponsoring Manchester United is an excellent move for the general European football audience.
But you will undoubtedly lose some Manchester City backers who may choose to take their business elsewhere.
A Question for the Future
For some people, the ubiquity of betting sponsorships poses a problem due to the harm it may cause to problem gamblers.
The same is true for young adults who may end up like the former due to the barrage of advertising that sportsbooks bombard them with.
Others argue that sponsorships provide a way for the gambling industry to redirect money back into the sport and keep sports clubs afloat.
We already know that betting sponsorship is one of the most eye-catching ways for iGaming operators to promote their brands.
But it could come to an end in the UK due to the long-awaited UK government review of the Gambling Act being imminent, as it has ended for other markets like Italy.
In Italy, all gambling-related marketing was banned in 2019, while a similar move in Spain appears imminent.
Will bans spell the end of betting brands in Europe? If so, how could the industry adapt to a major marketing vertical, and how can the sport recover from what would certainly take a massive chunk out of their funding?
The jury is out as of this writing.
Regardless, localization remains extremely important for the reasons we have already mentioned. Whether small or big, there is nothing that can’t be localized to optimize its result.
What iGaming brands and marketers should keep in mind is that every customer is different and perceives the world as such. They see it from their linguistic and cultural lenses.
It’s important to understand how localization can benefit iGaming brands. Hire local specialists to help your brand pivot to a new, exciting audience – and remember to keep it human.
That’s where localization leads to conversion. That’s what every brand wants – and needs.
How did you like Sebastian Scheplitz’s blog post “iGaming Sponsorship in Professional Sports: The 2020 Primer”? Let us know in the comments if you have anything to add, have another content idea for iGaming blog posts, or just want to say “hello.” 🙂