‘Most gambling ads are disposable’: Why Ladbrokes and Coral are relaunching their brands

Ladbrokes and Coral are hoping to shift away from the gambling sector’s “disposable advertising” with a focus on entertainment they hope will build longer term brand affinity.

Bookmakers Ladbrokes and Coral are relaunching with new and more upmarket brand positionings and propositions in a bid to get ahead in a competitive sector.

The brands, both owned by betting company GVC, perceive rivals as having offers that are too alike to stand out, says Ladbrokes and Coral UK and Eire managing director, Dominic Grounsell.

The first visible representation of the new branding will be seen this evening (24 February) in TV ads for Coral. New ads for Ladbrokes will follow next week. Grounsell describes both sets of creative as having production values that rival Hollywood blockbusters in a bid to reflect the excitement of sports such as horse racing and the passion of those gambling on them.

The ads are the work of newly-appointed agency BBH. “We needed to step change the way that we are looking at our above-the-line communications,” says Ladbrokes and Coral marketing director Angela Porter. She says that BBH was chosen for its “exceptional heritage and pedigree in terms of TV advertising that changes perceptions… as that was the challenge we were facing.”

The agency was chosen after a pitch process run by Marketing Week’s sister brand Oystercatchers that took just three weeks, and has created seven ads in the three months since, says Grounsell. “We wanted to make as big a splash as possible in the year,” he adds, with the high speed launch means the new branding is ready in time for the horse racing at Cheltenham, one of the biggest events on the calendar.

Showing the passion behind gambling

Porter describes the new ads as entertaining and emotive. For Coral, they come under the tagline ‘For the passion of the bet’ and aim to show the emotion associated with placing a bet.

“We know that our Coral customers are really passionate about betting with us, and about the sports that they are playing with us on. And that’s very much the approach we have taken, to show the passion of the bet, the passion of the horse race, the passion of the kind of gaming and casino games that we have,” she explains.

Meanwhile, the ‘for-the-nation’ Ladbrokes brand is “about the excitement and social currency that gambling allows you. To show lots of different people across the nation wanting to bet with Ladbrokes”, says Porter.

The new creative look and feel will be replicated in all brand touchpoints, a reflection of the long-term nature of the project, says Grounsell.

We don’t want to make gambling ads, we want to make great ads that just happen to sell gambling.

Dominic Grounsell, GVC

“The transactional nature of the advertising in the category often means the ads become throwaway. You’re just moving from one offer-based mechanic to another. The ads themselves feel very disposable,” he says, adding that the big budget “filmic” nature of the new ads will give them a longer shelf life.

“You’ve got the two horse racing films we’re about to launch, which are as good as any Hollywood film in relation to showing a horse race… the quality of the production is at that level. And that was very intentional because… we don’t want to make gambling ads, we want to make great ads that just happen to sell gambling.”

The higher production values tally with opening recently of the brand’s concept stores in London and Birmingham, which Grounsell describes as “at the level of premium and aspiration that we’d expect”.

“There is a lot of appetite in our retail team to push that forward and to try and make the stores look as appealing as possible… we are a business with big ambitions,” he adds.

The company also recognises that, for its customers, gambling is all about entertainment. “Across both of the brands… the very nature of the industry we’re in, around sports and gaming, is all about entertainment,” says Porter. “The ads themselves are small pieces of entertainment, and not just a customer comms ‘buy it now’ message.”

Standing out in a crowded sector

Both Grounsell and Porter come from outside the gambling and gaming sectors, a factor which they believe has given Ladbrokes and Coral an edge against their rivals.

“[This] is a very aggressive, very competitive category. There are a lot of big brands spending a lot of money. But when you look across those brands and how they execute, pretty much everybody is doing the same things in the same ways, just with slightly different pictures and slightly different colours,” says Grounsell.

“What we are hoping to achieve with our new brand strategies is to reposition the brands in a way that allows us to stand out.”

READ MORE: How marketers are tackling the challenges facing gambling

“The people who work in gambling marketing have only ever worked in gambling marketing, so haven’t necessarily seen how brands can live and breathe across touchpoints in a holistic way,” he adds.

Despite this, some regulators are concerned about the success of advertising in the gambling sector, and would like to see heavier regulation. Even Ladbrokes and Coral owner GVC has called for an end to broadcast advertising for gambling services. So is the writing on the wall for this kind of campaign?

“We’re aligned to our corporate position in terms of how we deliver responsible gambling experiences for our customers,” says Grounsell. “As things currently stand we will continue to advertise to our customers in a way that is compliant with the regulations, and in line with our corporate agenda. And when that changes, we’ll change accordingly and we’ll adapt.”

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