UK online gambling operator Gamesys is reducing its marketing exposure for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the UK’s advertising watchdogs are warning sportsbooks to mind how they promote their new eSports betting markets.
On Thursday, the Gamesys Group issued a trading update for the first quarter of 2020, during which revenue increased nearly one-fifth year-on-year to £155.3m. The company credited “strong growth” in Asia, a “solid performance” in the UK and “healthy double-digit growth” in the US. Trading to date in the current quarter is “broadly in line” with its Q1 trends.
Gamesys used the release to acknowledge the fact that the “unprecedented COVID-19 crisis” meant that people – including children and those with problem gambling tendencies – were now spending a greater amount of time at home and consuming more media, be it TV, radio or other platforms.
As such, Gamesys has decided to “suspend untargeted customer marketing” and will cease all UK TV and radio advertising “until current social restrictions are eased.” The company will continue to market its brands online although it will suspend “direct-mail marketing and untargeted digital advertising.”
Furthermore, Gamesys has temporarily pulled its Jackpotjoy branding from its sponsorship of the Loose Women TV program and will donate the sponsorship opportunity to Women’s Aid, a domestic abuse charity. Gamesys is also donating £200k to Women’s Aid to enable the charity to increase its live chat capacity (some reports have put calls to domestic abuse lines up 25% since the UK’s lockdown began).
Gambling operators’ marketing efforts have been a hot-button issue for a few years now but the focus has ratcheted up significantly in recent weeks. Gamesys will likely be applauded for this proactive step, even if there is a whiff of opportunism about it (and a way to atone for previous social responsibility shortcomings).
ESPORTS MARKETING UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
Thursday also saw the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) issue yet another reminder to gambling operators about ensuring their ads are “socially responsible,” while the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) issued an Advice Notice to bookmakers “making it clear that eSports betting-related advertising must comply with rules that also apply to other forms of gambling advertising.”
The pandemic-related mass suspension of live sports has forced bookmakers around the world to delve into hitherto uncharted territory such as Belarusian football, Russian ping pong, virtual sports and the brave new world of eSports. CAP wants operators to be particularly careful how they market eSports betting on social media.
Lo and behold, the eSports marketing rules turn out to be pretty much identical to marketing rules for other betting markets, which these days essentially boil down to ‘don’t do it,’ with a particular emphasis on restraining the antics of brand ambassadors, social media influencers and for god’s sake keep an eye on your marketing affiliate partners.