Sports betting giants turn to sexual imagery and mateship to normalise gambling

Posted: April 4, 2016 by Beaner in Gambling addiction, Sports betting
Tags: , , , , , , ,

April 3, 2016

Farrah Tomazin

Sports betting agencies are adopting similar marketing techniques used by the powerful tobacco lobby to convince people that online gambling is an intrinsic part of Australian culture, new research suggests.

As the Turnbull government prepares to unveil reforms to crack down on foreign bookmakers, a study has found that betting giants are increasingly using gender stereotypes, fan rituals and images of mateship to “normalise” online wagering through highly targeted advertisements.

“The same playbook that we saw in tobacco and alcohol is happening again,” said Samantha Thomas, a public health academic at Deakin University, which led the study.

“It’s being depicted in advertising as though it’s part of Aussie culture – this idea that if you’re a true Aussie bloke, you go to the pub, you hang with your mates, you watch your sport and now you also gamble on sport as well. We should all be smarter about the way these companies seek to normalise their product.”

The study analysed 85 advertisements from 11 local and international gambling companies, including Ladbrokes, Sportsbet, William Hill, Bet365 and Crownbet.

It found that over three quarters of ads used imagery relating to sports fan rituals (such as images of fans cheering for their teams at stadiums or while watching TV); about half contained symbols of mateship (such as gambling being something you do with your friends at the pub); and about a quarter objectified women (who often appeared in the ads playing a subservient service role to men).

One Sportsbet ad for instance, described the bikini as “one of man’s greatest inventions” while a man poked the breast of a woman in her bathers as she sat by a pool. In another ad by Betfair, a James Bond-type character in a suit played table tennis with a woman wearing a bikini while the voiceover states: “When you have power, you can do what you want. With whoever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, as many different ways as you want.”

The research found 10 main types of “appeal strategies” were used by betting agencies to market sports wagering, including sexual imagery; thrill and risk; sports fan behaviours; mateship; winning; social status; adventure; patriotism; happiness; and power and control.

But experts say the ads should serve as a cautionary tale, particularly in the lead up to the Olympics, which Associate Professor Thomas warned could end up being “one of the biggest betting events the world has ever seen”.

The research is likely to add to concerns about cashed up bookmakers pumping millions of dollars into advertising and corporate sponsorship in the hope of securing a bigger foothold in the lucrative sports betting market.

However, Sportsbet chief financial officer Ben Sleep said he “categorically rejects any comparison of our business to those of tobacco companies.”

“It has been proven that every single cigarette does you harm whereas it is only a very small percentage of consumers who are at risk of developing an issue with wagering. Sportsbet is continually developing world’s best practice harm minimisation measures and strategies to help consumers enjoy our product safely,” Mr Sleep said.

Betting companies are trying to normalise online gambling as an everyday part of Australian culture.

Standard Media Index figures show that in the first two months of this year, the gambling industry had spent $27.3 million on advertising. And as The Age reported on Saturday, football fans have been bombarded with ads since the AFL season opened last week, with more than one in six ads promoting gambling during round one.

A spokesperson for the Australian Wagering Council, which represents the sportsbetting industry, said the ads informed consumers of the identity of licensed Australian-based providers so they could participate in “highly controlled and consumer protected” betting, while avoiding the dangers of illegal offshore operators.

“AWC members recognise community concern in relation to wagering advertising and agree that advertising should always conform to accepted social standards, and not promote harmful behaviour,” the spokesperson said.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/sports-betting-giants-turn-to-sexual-imagery-and-mateship-to-normalise-gambling-20160401-gnwnen.html#ixzz44p541CdP

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