Recent seasons have seen a huge change in football shirt sponsorships, with betting companies now adorning the strips of a large number of teams across various leagues.
In the Premier League alone, around half of the 20 teams have a betting firm on their shirt, while many others have been quickly snapping up official partnerships with gambling companies.
Football teams used to be heavily sponsored by alcohol companies but now, in the Premier League, there are no booze brands on the shirts of any of the division’s clubs.
Filling the gap has been betting companies, with firms like these having only started to get involved in the sport over the course of the last 15 years or so.
One of the factors has been the rise of the internet, fuelling the growth of online betting. This has helped to spread gambling across the globe and many companies based outside of the UK now see a shirt sponsorship on a Premier League team’s shirt as a short cut to success.
Dafabet, ManBetX and Ope Sports are among the foreign betting firms who have been able to boost recognition of their brands as a result of getting involved with the Premier League.
Case study – William Hill
They are really innovative with their online products, but William Hill is yet to join in with a Premier League shirt sponsorship. This may be due to the fact the company already has strong brand recognition in the UK, so the firm does not need to spend huge money on its marketing.
Virtually Reality In-Play Betting
Instead, William Hill opted to head to Spain to become a shirt sponsor, agreeing a three-year deal to partner with La Liga club Malaga. The firm has also dipped a toe into sponsoring English teams, having paid to have its branding for new omni card, William Hill Plus, on Notts County shirts for their FA Cup match against Oxford City.
Announcing that deal last December, Liam McKee, William Hill’s head of retail and sponsorship marketing, said: “Partnering with Notts County is a great way to amplify the launch and show our support to clubs across all levels of English football.” William Hill is also very involved in Scottish football, along with its sponsorship of sports like horse racing and boxing.
Biggest clubs steering clear
What is perhaps most interesting about the rise in betting sponsorships in football is that no companies have yet been able to secure a shirt deal with one of the top elite clubs.
Whether this is due to the vast sums of money involved – Manchester United are reported to be earning in excess of £50 million a year from their deal with Chevrolet – or as these clubs are unwilling to partner to publicly with a betting brand remains to be seen.
The sort of sums involved with sponsoring a club such as Manchester United would be prohibitive to a lot of betting companies, who have mopped up deals at a lot of the smaller teams in the Premier League instead.
Betting companies, especially those who do not already have a solid base in the country they are targeting, will simply find it too hard to raise the funds to secure these types of deals.
What’s next for sport sponsorship and betting?
It seems likely that the link between the betting and sport worlds will become increasingly close over the next few years. However, there have been some initial signs that things could be changing here as well.
For example, the FA announced it would be cutting short a deal with Ladbrokes as its official betting partner, the governing body deciding it would be inappropriate to link with a gambling company. This move appeared to be partly in response to criticism from former England international Joey Barton, who was given an 18-month ban for breaking betting laws.
Martin Glenn, chief executive of The FA, said when the news was confirmed: “We would like to thank Ladbrokes for both being a valued partner over the last year and for their professionalism and understanding about our change of policy around gambling.”
In the UK, the Labour party and anti-gambling campaigners have called for betting companies to be banned from sponsoring football teams. Pressure in this area is expected to keep growing. But will that stop football clubs from signing megabucks deals with betting brands? Maybe not.
Only a year ago, Everton announced a massive new deal with Kenyan company SportPesa, whose name will adorn the Toffees’ home and away shirts for a total of five seasons. The firm are reported to be paying in the region of £10 million a year to Everton for the agreement. SportPesa also has a deal in place with Championship club Hull City.
Betting companies also have to be careful when they have a deal with a football club. Betway – who pay more than £10 million to be the sponsor of West Ham – had to apologise for a social media faux pas. Hammers player Michail Antonio was described as “an accident waiting to happen” in a message posted from the official Betway social media account.