Edition #2: Gambling today

Close up of social media icons
Close up of social media icons
Photo: iStock

From likes to losses: sports betting marketing on social media

Everyone knows there is lots of sports betting advertising going on. For several years now, it's been unavoidable on commercial TV and radio. But as sports betting has moved online, its marketing has entered this space as well.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, have all rapidly increased in popularity over the last decade. YouTube, founded in 2005, now has more than one billion visitors a month and its videos are easily shared through myriad social networks, including Facebook.

The foundation was aware the gambling industry was using social media for marketing, particularly to reach young people, but knew little about how it was using it. Earlier this year, we commissioned research to build our knowledge about social media in sports betting marketing.

How YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are used to make betting part of the furniture

Published this month, The marketing of wagering on social media: An Analysis of promotional content on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook delves into the sports betting industry's use of social media and the engagement it generates.

Download the report (PDF - 1950.2 KB)

The research team was led by Associate Professor Samantha Thomas, then at the University of Wollongong, now at Deakin University in Victoria.

The report examines how six of the major sports betting companies used YouTube, Twitter and Facebook in September 2014 and April 2015.

YouTube stands out in in terms of reach, especially for Ladbrokes and Sportsbet. The former generated over 832,000 views of its videos a month and the latter almost 221,000.

Teenage boy lies on couch engrossed in his smart phonePhoto: iStock

Overall, the researchers found a complex range of strategies with a high volume of messages. Many of these messages, often designed to engage or start conversations rather than simply make an offer, would be difficult for unwary or vulnerable people to distinguish as marketing.

Humour, parody and commentary on sporting events, including live events, were used to embed gambling companies and betting within the recreation of watching sport. All six companies used former stars, team logos and even fun cartoons as part of their promotions.

Some companies used social media in a manner more akin to conventional media, to offer promotions and odds. Others, such as market leader Sportsbet, seemed more about becoming part of the furniture of sports spectating.

Humour, parody and commentary on sporting events were used to embed gambling companies and betting within the recreation of watching sport.

An important observation made by the researchers was that, because the internet is so unregulated, online advertising could incorporate elements prohibited in traditional broadcast media. These included associations between alcohol consumption and gambling, and constant use of terms linking gambling to 'value' and 'winning'. Combined with a general lack of harm minimisation content, this sets off alarm bells.

New report reveals the mechanics behind the ads

Responsible gambling and the promotion of responsible gambling posits betting as spending money for the thrill you can experience during the time of thinking you might win. That you will not win is the most likely outcome and you should know and accept this.

Gambling industry promotions that paint betting as something to do recklessly, and which is always good value, or will most likely have successful outcomes, undermine responsible gambling.

That you will not win is the most likely outcome and you should know and accept this.

As well as looking at content and strategy, the researchers developed valuable coding frameworks for understanding this new phenomenon of gambling marketing on social media. The frameworks reveal the mechanics of the strategies and provide clarity to assist in developing responses. They will be a valuable resource for the foundation and others seeking to reduce harm from gambling.  

Teenage girls on couch on their smart phonesPhoto: iStock

The foundation will predominantly use the report findings in developing education and awareness-raising programs and campaigns. However, the information will also be useful for government, regulators and many others in the areas of public health and academia.

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