Betting agencies have historically always had a sponsorship presence at sports games, and in contemporary society this is no different – with examples such as Bet365 sponsoring Sky Sports Boxing and 3 Premier League clubs agreeing shirt deals with betting operators for 2022/23 season. Label volunteer, Lorenzo Lo Vaglio investigated the debate behind this by interviewing 2 members of staff at Loughborough, what he found can be seen below.

The New York Times has recently published an article entitled “How Colleges and Sports Betting Companies ‘Caesarized’ Campus Life”, in which American Universities are reported to “partner with betting companies to introduce their students and sports fans to online gambling, in order to reap millions of dollars in fees”. Contemporarily, The Times published an article entitled “Big rise in gambling addictions putting suicidal young men in hospital: NHS lambasts ‘predatory’ betting firms amid 42% increase in demand for specialist clinics”. These two articles are the objective evidence of a massive spread of gambling and betting agencies partnership in the United Kingdom and North America.

Indeed, there are both positive (e.g., a big income) and negative (e.g., rise in gambling addictions and related suicides) aspects. For this reason, I asked for a point of view to two of the most prepared, credited, and esteemed experts of the topic, both lecturers here at Loughborough University. The first is Dr. Doyoung Pyun, Senior Lecturer in Sport Marketing and Management in School of Sport, Exercise and Health at Loughborough University, Editorial board member for Journal of Global Sport Management, Conference Reviewer for 2018 and 2021 European Sport Management Conference and researcher for a number of projects for the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.

The first question I asked Dr. Pyun is: “You published a research paper in 2020 in which you start by saying that “while advertising and sponsorship are conceptually different, many studies have used the same measures for both constructs”: could you explain to us what are the main differences or similarities?”

“Generically speaking, there are three main conceptual differences which are recognised in academic domain: the first is the nature, as sponsorship is more “philanthropic” whilst advertising is more based on the product itself, more “selfish”. The second is the intent, as sponsorship aims to obtain a halo effect of goodwill, whilst advertising has a more commercial intention. The third one is about what is known as “defence mechanism” of consumers to these two. Indeed, the sponsorship has a “low defence mechanism” (i.e., the consumer is willing to accept sponsors) whilst advertising has a “high defence mechanism” (i.e., the consumer is willing to refuse advertisers). “Different defence mechanism leads to different emotional reactions from consumers, that is consumer’s attitude towards sponsorship more than advertising, as evidenced by past studies in the generic marketing literature. For sport industries is not the same. Sports is considered as an attractive platform for both sponsorship and advertising due to the positive dispositions of sport such brand exposure, health image, emotional attachment, and many others (Pyun et al. 2012). So, Paddy Power, previously this company did not have a good brand image, but now it is quite there because they are highly involved with sports event. It must also be said that in sport industry, sponsorship packages often include advertising components.”

The second question was about the “World Cup in Qatar that has just started and, personally, I’ve seen many people getting involved in bets. What does attract people about betting? What makes betting agencies sponsorship so appreciated by sports clubs and events?”

“To answer the first question, we need to start from the second: what makes gambling sponsorship so appreciated and popular in sport clubs? Let us consider the Big 6 in PL and their sponsorships. Many studies revealed that sponsoring, for instance, brands considered unhealthy in the public opinion, risks to divide the fans. This leads to a growth in revenue, but it clashes with a brand (a PL team) image (e.g., Newcastle’s terminated the sponsorship contract with Fun 88). That is why the Big 6 do not sponsor betting agencies. Then, what really pushes sport clubs to sponsor betting agencies is the enormous amount of money that the agencies offer. Especially in football, is the minor and less-known sport clubs that sponsor betting agencies. Whilst in F1, for instance, there is a case, documented by ESPN, where a team decided to renew a sponsorship with Philip Morris (not exactly perceived as healthy) on the quiet and opted not to publicise the news. Tobacco advertising is banned in Formula One, but the sponsorship deal was closed for around $160 million a year. For example, you are a Newcastle fan, and it is your family sports team. All of a sudden, they brought gambling sponsor sponsorship Fund 88, but you do not like gambling companies because you have some negative public image, but they sponsor your favourite football club. This arise a certain discomfort in you, some conflict and, as you are human, you try to remove this discomfort. So, you can switch and support another team or not. Cognitive dissonance theory is a very popular management theory and explains why consumers try to remove any discomfort: if the loyalty is low, they are likely to switch to another team, whilst if their loyalty is higher, more actively consume sponsors’ products. I did another research where I documented this phenomenon and that these companies are testing the impact of this mechanism, known as image transfer. To answer your first question, about why there are so many people involved with gambling, unfortunately there is not enough research about it yet, but we could assume that fans of a team with a gambling sponsor would exhibit more active gambling consumption behaviours than those of a team without a gambling sponsor, and it would evidence the image transfer effect works”.

The last question I asked him was about a study he “conducted over 713 participants, in 2022, published on the Journal of Gambling Issue which demonstrates how gamblers should not be treated as a homogenous group, but there are some common scientific elements that may help somebody to recognize him/herself as a pathological gambler?

“In the paper you quoted we looked at sport gamblers, non-sport gamblers and non-gamblers. Sport gamblers showed higher scores in pathological tendencies than the other two groups and this finding is one primary reason gambling companies are so interested in football. That is why we concluded in this article that sport gamblers should be given greater attention in terms of prevention and treatment, because there is still loyalty towards the team and cognitive dissonance theory perfectly explains this. That’s why they are more, or more problematic gamblers compared to other.”

The second is Dr. Argyro Elisavet Manoli, Senior Lecturer in Sports Marketing and Communications here at Loughborough University. She is the Associate Editor of the Journal of Strategic Marketing and the Scientific Chair of Sport, Media, and Communications of the European Association of Sport Management. She has spoken in all European Commission Expert Groups, to the European Commission Cluster Group, and delivered a speech to the European Parliament on the Financial Aspects of Corruption in Sport in November 2017. She has also conducted research and authored the European Union Policy Report Mapping Corruption in EU Member States.

My first question is: do you believe that there is a lack of corporate social responsibility in sport clubs that do allow betting agencies to sponsor to sponsor such events?

“I do not think they are connected. Macro economically speaking sport organizations are part of the society. One could argue that sport has a little bit more responsibility because it is a social need the social good. But even if you do not see it like that, it is a profitable industry that should return something to the society, as they have the power to do that. People are emotionally connected, so they should be doing more. They should be also doing more practical things, like to focus on the direct society around them rather than aim for something higher. They should also care for the environment, for social and sustainability, they should care for issues of violence. There is a number of things that fall under the “more should be done”. Betting is unrelated to it because it is a different industry, it uses sport as an avenue. So, what happened in Greece 15 years ago is that the main betting provider, at the time, used football clubs to promote their own initiatives by putting rather than putting their logo, they were putting the CSR campaign logo on the shirts, and they were doing a number of initiatives around it. But I do not think that one contradicts the other. I think that it would help because sponsorship is not always perceived as a positive thing, so by using sport they can make it a positive thing, but that does not kind of obstruct sport from doing more CSR. It would help sport have the money and they added pressure in theory to do more CSR. So, if betting wanted to, they could assist to make a difference. But they could also do other things without sport. So as any industry banking should be doing more, CSR insurance should be, you know, there is a number of industries that should be doing more in CSR.”

The second question is: in 2017, you and Dr. Kenyon published a research paper entitled “Brand consistency and coherency at the London 2012 Olympic Games”. Do you believe that the presence of betting agencies in Sport fights with the coherency of what a sport Club should aim to represent? So, is it appropriate? Does the sponsor embrace the sport values?

“That’s a bigger question. Should betting be allowed or not? So, there are betting rules and laws in every country, and they differ. So, what is considered to be illegal in most European Union countries, is legal, for instance, in Malta. Malta allows for online betting providers to operate a bit differently and if we are to accept that betting is a legal business, then why shouldn’t it? Why is a beer company allowed to sponsor their products and not a betting company? We must figure out where we draw the line, so the line was drawn against cigarette companies and against hard alcohol companies. But one could argue that again, especially in this country, has devastating effects, the same as betting. I do not know if we can find a simple answer to that. I have never placed a bet and I do not like betting personally, but that is my personal opinion. I have worked in football clubs that were sponsored by betting providers and we were not encouraged to bet internally. Similarly, I would say that I am not really comfortable with the beer advertising either. There is a number of other things, like, should cryptocurrencies be advertised? It is a high-risk product that people do not know how to use, and they might be encouraged to buy cryptocurrencies without knowing should fund tokens exist. It is very subjective. I do not know if we will draw the line there or not. Sport nowadays widely seems to accept betting as a part of sport. They also seem to accept Crypto and Soft alcohol, so for as long as these are acceptable, then the betting agencies are acceptable too. For instance, Dr Piggin has done research on why should chocolate companies like Cadbury be advertising to young kids. So, they should not sponsor sport events targeting at a young audience where we know that this country and the number of other countries have issues with child obesity. Again, where do you draw the line?”

The last question I asked her if she could “talk to us about the corruption and financial crimes that, you know, you researched on in Greece. What was the main problem around it? It was he about the corruption or it was the corruption as a mean for different purposes, not corruption itself?”

“Well, there is a corruption OF sport corruption, corruption IN sport and corruption THROUGH sport. The truth is that corruption exists in sport for as long as sport has been around. Early cases of corruption are to be found back to the ancient Olympics first documented case of match fixing is in 326 or 328 BC in the ancient Olympics when he bribed his opponents and then we have cases of in the mayors another. We have found evidence of the managers, the coaches, arranging matches or match fixing has been around forever. Corruption has been around forever. So, this is a bigger question: Why corruption exists? I think because we exist as humans, and we find the opportunity to do it. It is a rational theory. We find the opportunity. We do it. That is, it. That UK there has been match fixing cases in the UK and it is just another setting in which we can deviate from the role that we should have. It does not differ from other environments apart from the fact that we are more emotionally involved and therefore we as fans are willing to turn the blind eye and forgive and forget. And that is the problem with corruption in sport. Whilst if a bank was found to be corrupt, we might have not put our money back in the same bank. We would not feel that need to protect or justify the behaviour. Fundamentally, the corruption in other settings is just we as people as fans change how we view corruption in sport. Hence why there is all this kind of suggestion from FIFA and from Interpol that it is organized crime that infiltrated the sport, whilst we have already documented cases of corruption being endemic in sport, it exists within it. We as humans exist and as such, we have tried to destroy it within it. So, I think it is just a different setting.”

Edited by: Jasmine Trapnell (Sport Editor)

Designed by: Sarim Mangi (Head of Design)


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