188BET has signed two “official partnership” agreements in the past seven days with Aston Villa and Chelsea, while rival Betfair has snared Premier League champions Manchester United in its first foray into football for six years.
188Bet is still relatively unknown outside Asia which provides about 80% of its revenues, and appears to be using football sponsorship to build brand recognition fast, signing two shirt sponsorship deals with Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic earlier this summer.
Sport and gambling have always, of course, been intrinsically linked, but what opportunities does football in particular offer betting firms?
Richard Arnold, commercial director at Manchester United says his club provides “a massive marketing opportunity for any company”, adding that such partnerships “drive activity and visibility” for brands.
“United can be used to reach out to many target demographics” he says.
It is not only the Premier League champions that provide such a springboard. England’s finest league clubs are crammed full of foreign “assets”, marketable and recognised globally.
Pippa Collett, managing director of Sponsorship Consulting, says the global appeal of the Premier League provides online gaming companies with significant opportunities.
“The global TV coverage of the teams helps the betting companies to build brand awareness much more efficiently than any advertising campaign could,” she says.
As 188BET pointed out upon signing its latest deal with Chelsea, the club’s “global reach” will allow it to “fully establish itself throughout the UK and across all key markets.”
Oscar Nieboer, global brand and marketing director at Betfair, agrees with the sentiment, pointing out that football’s growth and international attractiveness leaves horseracing, the brand’s traditional core market, “a poor second”.
It is not simply about building recognition and exploiting appeal, however. Such deals provide revenue streams from gaming through club sites and in some cases grounds.
Collett says that such exclusive arrangements are not only potentially fruitful for betting sites, it is also easy to directly identify the effectiveness of the sponsorship strategy.
“It is a bit like pouring rights for beer brands or kit manufacturers with official merchandise, there are direct routes for the betting firms to generate revenues from the clubs’ fan bases and because this is hard-wired to a specific club, it also makes it highly measurable in terms of calculating return on investment.”
It is still early days for the online gaming sector and its burgeoning relationship with football. There appears to be little doubt that an association with a Premier League club will increase brand recognition, but will it necessarily lead to an increase in yield and revenue in an increasingly busy market?
Collett believes the grwing number of firms entering the market will only benefit the sector as a whole. “In market-building terms, having many firms in the Premier League is helping to grow the online betting market faster, which benefits them all.”