Marketing of gambling (products)

I just spent long football weekend together with my former colleagues Antti, Erkko and Mika with whom we took care of marketing of sports and horse betting business in ”good old days” here in Finland. We used to have real funny time at the office and we managed to make excellent marketing campaigns. I believe that quite many middle-aged sports fans still remember our ”Maailma on erilainen vakioveikkaajan silmin”-campaign (you could find those Football Pools themed ads with Google or from YouTube…). We didn’t only toot our own horn but also tried to find out ideas for gambling marketing. It’s not easy task at all, but we had interesting discussion about that.

Gambling has always been ”dangerous” business, almost like alcohol and tobacco. Now attitudes against gambling have become even more negative due increase and awaremess of gambling problems. That has effected on marketing and communication a lot. Many countries have lots of restrictions for marketing of gambling products. Italy decided to have total marketing ban of all gambling products. There are similar rules for all gambling verticals like casino, sports betting and lottery. It seems that some countries might follow the example of Italy.

Veikkaus has still possibility to use marketing as a tool to promote its business in Finland. Gambling products have been divided to ”green” and ”red” games. Veikkaus is allowed to have marketing campaigns about ”green” games (for example lottery, football pools and scratch cards) which are not so dangerous ones. It’s not possible to have marketing campaigns of ”red” games (casino games, sports betting, horse betting etc.), but it’s allowed to give product information about those games and sometimes it’s difficult to explain the difference between marketing and product information.

It’s good that people understand better the risks of gambling and are aware of gambling problems. I think that regulator should set up guidelines for gambling operators and supervise those rules. Marketing should be one part of those guidelines (rules). I don’t believe that total ban of gambling marketing would be the best solution. The better one would be something like we have in alcohol business where companies are allowed to market ”not so dangerous” products but not at all those heavy ones.

I have said many times before that companies should know and understand their customers as well as possible. That’s the key issue also in marketing. If you know your customers’ main motivations for gambling, you could make better marketing for them. It’s totally different what kind of messages you should give for ”jackpot dreamers” than for people who is looking for entertainment. It’s another question should it be possible to market those entertaining casino games at all…

Sport is the most important reason for gambling for big group of customers. Of course some of them are dreaming to get big money from sports games and some of them are looking for entertainment by watching sports, but I would say that sport is specific reason to play money games. There are at least two quite separate groups inside sports betting customers. Sports punters are keen on gambling and they are trying to utilize their knowledge of sports to earn money. I think that there is no need to have any marketing actions for that group. The other group is much bigger one and it’s sports fans. For them sports at itself is more important than gambling, which is just ”extra feature” to get more excitement from sports.

What kind of marketing we should do for those sports fans? I don’t like ”buy now”- or ”win 1M€”-style marketing adds and especially in sports games area they are ineffective ones. If you would like to reach sports fans, you should concentrate on sports and try to offer them chance for insight. I think that me and my friends managed to do that in ”good old days” when we published for example ad which was copy of famous painting God’s Hand by Michelangelo and we added blue&white stripes and number 10 to that arm. It’s important that customer would get good feeling when he/she is watching those ads. You should also try to offer that same feeling when they are playing your games. If you manage to do that, you could have good but responsible gambling business.

We discussed also about the possibilities of social media, digital channel and retail network, but those ideas will be the theme of my next blog…

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