Head of Data Products, UK

As we enter a new year, it’s a good time to look back at how consumer perception regarding the gambling industry, both online and offline, has shifted, and what that means for the next twelve months.

In previous columns I have explored the impact negative stories concerning both the industry more generally and specific companies, has had on brands within the gambling sector. These have included the furore around fixed-odds betting terminals, Gambling Commission rulings regarding advertising to vulnerable customers, and ill-judged marketing campaigns. 

The good news is that while our data suggests that the industry is suffering from something of an image problem among the public, it does not seem to have turned off the public, or bettors themselves, from considering gambling.

In all cases, both online and offline, every bookmaking brand that YouGov track has seen their net Impression score (do you have a positive/negative impression of a brand?) decline over 2017 (in most cases very slightly), whether that is because they have been in the headlines themselves, or damaged by association. It should be noted that the scores are declining from an already weak position.

However, negative headlines do not seem to be impacting on the number of UK adults that would consider using leading gambling brands. Only Paddy Power and BetFred saw very marginal decreases in their respective Purchase Consideration scores among the general population. Looking elsewhere, most brands either consolidated their score or improved it slightly. The brand that most improved on this metric was Bet 365.

When analysing those that do actively gamble online at least once a week, there is a rosier picture for a couple of brands in terms of Purchase Consideration. While scores across the sector have remained relatively stable BetVictor has seen its score rise by 5 points, while Bet365 has recorded a 3 point increase.

Looking specifically at the online sector, efforts from brands to increase their profiles have paid off. For example, BetVictor has increased its Awareness score among all respondents (whether you have heard of a brand) by 7 points over the last year (from 23 to 30). Similarly, SkyBet’s score has jumped from 48 to 52, a rise of 4 points, while Bet 365’s score has risen by 3 points (59 to 62). If this increase was to continue in the year ahead, established, traditional high-street rivals will have cause for concern.

As we know, gambling brands go about advertising in various ways, though many of the industry main players do so on a large scale. Of course, gambling brands are – and have been criticised in some quarters for being – a ubiquitous presence during sporting broadcasts on commercial television, as well as in and around stadiums, or on the kit being worn by players. Other brands have become masters of the PR stunt in order to attract headlines. YouGov’s Ad Awareness metric indicates that Paddy Power consistently held the top spot in terms of campaign recall over the last year among all of the main bookmaking brands YouGov tracks, peaking at 15% in mid to late April.

Of course, tempting new customers remains the challenge, as does differentiating a brand from another, when almost all market so aggressively. Those brands looking to expand this year will be conscious of possible government intervention in the sector, if public pressure is enough to precipitate reforms. Escaping negative press will be difficult, but those that do manage to project a better image will be one step ahead in appealing to those that haven’t previously considered betting.

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