Aside from the usual fantastic array of betting options offered by the industry, Sunday’s English Premier League football fixtures may not have had too much significance to the iGaming world. But when those in the industry look a bit closer, they’ll see that this, like many others, was a day of Premiership football which had strong ties to online gambling.
The six sides in action were Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic, Stoke City, Bolton Wanderers, Fulham and Tottenham Hotspurs. Every one of these can be strongly linked to online gambling companies and they’re certainly not the only ones in the Premier League.
Online gambling, particularly sports betting, has strong connections with sport and for that reason the two industries tend to collide on a regular basis.
The first match to kick off on Sunday was between Wolves and Wigan and was broadcast live on Sky Sports. No one who tuned in to watch will have had to look two hard to see the names of Sportingbet and 12Bet emblazoned on the two sides’ shirts. Sportingbet’s two-year partnership with Wolves was signed in August 2009 and has means the company’s logo can be seen on Wolves home and away shirts. A similar deal was penned earlier this year between Wigan and 12Bet.
The English Premier League may seem like a strange place for 12Bet, a company who predominantly targets Asia and has little presence in the UK, to advertise but it actually presents a sensible option for them. Ed Ware, founder and CEO of 32Red who sponsor Premier League side Swansea City, reveals: “Asian-facing operators are using UK football club sponsorship as a platform to establish credibility in their home markets.”
This is a testament to the global popularity of the Premier League that operators with barely any UK presence advertise on the other side of the globe. It’s becoming a more commonly used tactic as 12Bet certainly aren’t alone. The company they replaced as Wigan sponsors were another Asian-facing operator – 188Bet.
188Bet sponsored Wigan for two seasons from 2009 to 2011 and were the third company to sponsor two Premier League teams at the same time. Their other sponsorship was with Bolton Wanderers, a deal which is still ongoing.
Wanderers were next to kick off on Sunday in their fixture against Stoke City – who are of course no strangers to online gambling given their relationship with the Coates family of bet365. Wanderers’ deal with 188Bet was agreed in 2009 and was extended in April this year. In a press release announcing the extension of the deal, CEO of 188Bet Andy Scott said: “We’ve been thrilled with the success of the team this season.”
This is a factor that Ware and 32Red believe is important when delving into sports team sponsorship. Ware says: “Success on the pitch can do nothing but good for the deal we have but nearly as important for us is the style in which the team play their football and the manner in which the club conduct themselves with partners like us.”
Ware is quick to add that 32Red have been lucky with their sponsorships with current partners Swansea and past partners Aston Villa. Villa narrowly avoided relegation in their first year with the 32Red brand on their shirt before finishing 11th and 6th in the next two seasons. Swansea has been promoted the Premier League and currently sits tenth in the league – perhaps clubs will soon catch on to the idea of the luck associated with 32Red.
The final match on Sunday was between Fulham and Tottenham Hotspurs. This was the first game of the day not to involve any iGaming shirt sponsors. However anyone who tuned in to watch the game or attended will have done well not to mention the large bet365 logos appearing every so often on the electronic boards surrounding the pitch.
Despite not currently having any iGaming shirt sponsors, these two teams have done deals with online gambling companies before. Interestingly, both have been with online gambling companies as Fulham wore the Bodog brand name on their shirts (Bodog currently sponsors West Bromwich) while Spurs did the same with Mansion Casino.
This goes some way to proving that sports team sponsorship is by no means a no go area for non-sports betting operators. Genting currently sponsor Aston Villa while 32Red are the only pure-play online casino sponsoring in the Premier League.
Ware admits that the links between sports betting operators and football are more extensive but believes there is a place for casino and poker operators in sports sponsorship.
He adds: “We feel that with a distinctive and memorable gaming brand we have a chance of the activity paying off. The sheer size of the audience is one thing, but we also believe that those watching the game are more likely to be prepared to bet with cash on the outcome of the game. Therefore they may be interested in betting on casino games too.”
“It’s not an exact science by any means, but we think we have a fighting chance based on these two factors, plus the power of a short, simple and memorable name.”
The smaller operators out there who can’t compete financially with some of the firms listed above may have concluded that there’s nothing out there for them. This is where the betting partner concept comes in, allowing online gambling companies to promote themselves through a clubs various sponsorship and media outlets. All top clubs offer opportunities such as this so you don’t have to be as big as Betfair and deal exclusively with Manchester United – there are opportunities that can mirror the size of smaller gambling companies.
Having said that, it’s important to be selective when looking at a team to sponsor Ware warns: “In the UK it is very hard to find a sport with which you can get involved with at a low level and still expect a good ROI if you are in the online gaming space”.
He notes 32Red haven’t always had such high success with their sports sponsorship, adding: “We have tried rugby and boxing and these are difficult sports to get a ROI with if you are in our game. Obviously darts is popular with just about all of the larger operators but it’s not the cheapest thing to get involved with.”
Despite the limited space available, sport and in particular the Premier League remains a fantastic opportunity for online gambling companies. Two of Sunday’s games were played on live TV while highlights of all three were shown on news programmes and football shows later that day. So, regardless of which teams were successful on the pitch, you can be sure that all of their online gambling sponsors were winning off of it.