A question of trust for gamblers

Gamblers are spoilt for choice as online operators vie with high street bookmakers for their custom, but research shows that punters feel more comfortable with established, bricks-and-mortar brands

Bookmakers and casino operators are ramping up their efforts to attract consumers as gambling grows in popularity in the UK. In the space of a few weeks there has been a spate of activity in the sector: Ladbrokes has appointed a new head of UK marketing for its retail arm (MW August 25), Paddy Power has signed deals to become the official online betting partner of Premiership football clubs Arsenal and Liverpool, while the Football League has signed a sponsorship deal with PokerStars (both MW August 18).

According to the Gaming Board of Great Britain, Britons staked &£63.8bn from 2002 to 2003. Gambling is clearly big business, not least as a revolution is under way in the UK with the rise of the online sector and deregulation of the industry via the Gambling Bill. Recent research by QuickWise into gambling habits reveals that of 3,310 people questioned, 29 per cent were interested in gambling (including the National Lottery), 23 per cent said they had gambled within the past year and 20 per cent said they had gambled in the past four weeks. QuickWise then focused on those who have gambled in the past month, or “regular gamblers”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly among regular gamblers, the National Lottery is the most popular form of gambling, with 61 per cent of respondents buying a lottery ticket. The next most popular way to gamble was via betting shops (31 per cent), then online sports betting (22 per cent), online poker (14 per cent) and online casinos (14 per cent).

Ladbrokes is the most well known betting brand, with 64 per cent of regular gamblers spontaneously citing the brand. The National Lottery was the next most well known (58 per cent), then William Hill (50 per cent), Coral (27 per cent) and Paddy Power (nine per cent). New entrants fared less favourably: for instance, 11 per cent named 888, ten per cent cited Betfair, four per cent Party Poker and two per cent Victor Chandler. Seventy per cent of regular gamblers could spontaneously recall advertising for gambling operators – National Lottery advertising was recalled by 32 per cent of respondents, 12 per cent could recall ads for Ladbrokes and 888, and 11 per cent William Hill.

Ladbrokes’ presence is reflected on the internet, with 12 per cent of regular gamblers saying they log on to Ladbrokes.com, followed by William Hill (ten per cent) and Betfair (nine per cent). The most popular online casinos are 888.com, with nine per cent of respondents saying they have used the site, followed by Ladbrokes (five per cent) and Jackpot Joy (four per cent). Online poker rooms are also popular, the most frequently visited sites being 888.com and Party Poker, with five per cent of respondents saying they have used them.

As part of the QuickWise research, respondents were asked to review advertisements for 888.com and Victor Chandler. Once prompted, 73 per cent of respondents could recall seeing the 888.com ad and the overall impression of the ad was 70 per cent positive. Only 13 per cent of respondents could recall seeing the Victor Chandler ad, the overall impression of which was 64 per cent positive.

After seeing the 888.com ad, 20 per cent said it would encourage them to use the service, but 39 per cent said the same of the Victor Chandler ad. Victor Chandler benefits from having a bricks-and-mortar presence, instead of offering just online services. Interestingly, when prompted with a set of brand values to help assess the ads, only 21 per cent said they felt 888.com was trustworthy, compared to 29 per cent who felt Victor Chandler was trustworthy, while 35 per cent said 888.com was reputable compared to 28 per cent for Victor Chandler. In terms of which brand respondents felt safe with, 26 per cent felt safe with 888.com and 30 per cent with Victor Chandler. On these issues – trust, reputation and safety – gamblers are still undecided how they feel about betting brands.

Bricks-and-mortar brands, such as Ladbrokes and William Hill, dominate the gambling sector and peoples’ minds. Online brands have yet to establish a strong brand identity, which will be pivotal to their success, as consumers are more likely to trust a brand with a clear identity and strong presence. Marketers of the online gambling brands need to focus on building a trustworthy image if they are to take share from established operators.

The online gaming industry has grown rapidly, but recent reports suggest this growth is slowing. As the number of new players plateaus, it will be ever more important for the likes of 888 to build on their brand equity if they are to attract people to their online portfolios.

Trends is edited by Nathalie Kilby. Michelle Mercer and Rosaleen Goldrick, marketing director and research director at Quickwise, contributed to this week’s Trends Insight.

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