Gambling sponsorships halve as clubs meet social responsibility demands

Professional sports clubs are increasingly turning away from sponsorship agreements with betting and gaming companies, as the construction and engineering, automotive and financial services sectors increase their market share.

According to the latest figures from Caytoo, the gambling industry accounts for 8.1% of all sponsorships across football, rugby and cricket.

Holding the top spot two year ago, the industry has now seen its share of sponsorships almost halve from 15.3% to 8.1%, a drop which Caytoo notes ‘has been driven entirely by football’.

Although gambling remains the most prevalent sponsor for the world’s most popular sport, it has still seen its share decrease by more than half from 32.7% to 15.2%.

“This change has been driven by the greater demand from society for professional sports to be more socially responsible when it comes to their fans and communities,” said Alex Burmaster, Head of Research and Analysis, Caytoo.

“In addition to gambling’s drop, alcohol has seen the second biggest reduction in prevalence while Environmental Services and Healthcare are among those with the biggest increases.”

Continuing, Burmaster made reference to the recent termination of online sportsbook BK8’s contract with Norwich City FC, following outcry by fans over ‘sexually provocative’ marketing campaigns shared across the operator’s social media channels.

“A prime example of this change is Norwich City FC,” he added. “At the beginning of our research the club signed a deal with Asian betting firm BK8 but by the time the research finished Norwich had terminated the deal due to public pressure over the sexualised nature of BK8’s marketing activity and replaced them with Norfolk-based Lotus Cars who recently announced a £2.5 billion investment to move to producing only electric vehicles.”

Although gambling sponsorships have been identified as a significant revenue driver for football – in addition to other sports – several Premier League clubs held a meeting earlier this year to discuss future marketing and branding arrangements.

Ties between professional football clubs and the betting and gaming industry come under increasing scrutiny as a result of the review of the 2005 Gambling Act, of which a blanket ban on gambling sports sponsorships has been predicted as ‘the most likely outcome’ of the review,  and reportedly has the support of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet.

In comparison to gambling, the IT Services and Software, Automotive and Telecoms sectors have seen the largest increase in the number of main sponsorships, with each sector increasing its number of partners by eight, five and four respectively.

This has been attributed by Burmaster to the COVID-19 pandemic, which he argued has accelerated the shift to a more digital world and the increasing dominance of companies operating in that space’.

Of these IT Services and Software sponsorships, the bulk have focused on women’s sports, which is responsible for six of the eight agreements, which the researcher noted ‘shows how increasingly important female professional sport is seen as a way for companies to gain exposure and recognition’.

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