Gambling advertising is saturating sport

If you watch sport at stadia or venues, at a local bar or pub or enjoy sport from the comfort of your own home, chances are you will have seen several gambling brands.
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Whether it be shirt sponsorship, pitch-side advertising, TV commercials, or promotions on social media, gambling brands are using every channel available to promote their products to sports fans.

The saturation of gambling sponsorship and advertising in sport is now having a substantial impact on sports fans across Greater Manchester and we believe now is the right time to begin phasing out gambling sponsorship to protect fans from harm and secure the future of our sports clubs.

It is essential that we begin dissociating our much-loved sports from the gambling industry to help de-normalise at-risk sports betting. There needs to be an emphasis on upstream approaches to prevent harms and as with other public health issues such as addressing obesity and tobacco, reducing the volume of marketing and advertising is a central pillar to a strategy that can have a tangible impact.

The Against the Odds campaign has produced a white paper that marks the start of a journey towards phasing out gambling sponsorship across all levels and all types of sport, to help protect children, young people, and vulnerable adults from gambling harms.

Project overview

The Against the Odds campaign is aiming to shine a light on how our favourite sports and teams are being used by the gambling industry to promote harmful products.

Following the weakening of laws to protect individuals from gambling harms in 2005, and the digital revolution that has unfolded in the time since, gambling operators and betting firms have taken advantage of new technology and our love of sport to make vast amounts of money.

Starting at the bottom of the sporting pyramid, Against the Odds is building a grassroots movement towards phasing out gambling sponsorship and advertising in sport, to reduce exposure of gambling promotions and counter the normalisation of betting on sport. We’re asking for support from all corners of Greater Manchester, so whether you’re a red or a blue, league or union, or you use a bat or a stick, if you’re involved in running a club or a sports organisation, we’re counting on your support to reduce gambling harm! To find out more about how your club or sports organisation can join the movement, click here.

Gambling harms

Harms associated with gambling include poor mental health and wellbeing, relationship breakdown, difficulties at work or school and financial difficulties. Harms may be experienced directly by the person who gambles or indirectly by family, friends, and colleagues of someone who gambles – often called “affected others”.

One in 15 Greater Manchester residents are now experiencing the harmful impacts of gambling, when harms experienced by affected others are considered – that’s almost 190,000 people. More than the combined capacities of Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, Lancashire County Cricket’s Old Trafford stadium and the AJ Bell stadium – home to Salford Red Devils Rugby League team and Sale Shark’s rugby union side.

Gambling is often described as a hidden harm, because unlike smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol to excess or misusing substances, the signs and symptoms of gambling harms are much more discrete and much easier to cover up.

Gambling may not be the sole cause of these harms, and in some cases, gambling may be a used as a coping mechanism for some other form of stress or adversity. However, we know that gambling disorder can make underlying issues worse.

We also know that there are multiple social, environmental. and commercial influences which drive gambling related harms – including sports sponsorship and advertising.

Harms can accrue very quickly, but we know that recovery can take a long time, with some harms leaving an intergenerational legacy. The economic burden of gambling across Greater Manchester is estimated to be at least £80m in 2022.

Gambling sponsorship

Sports sponsorship is a widely used tool in contemporary marketing practices due to its ability to enhance brand awareness, massage brand image, and ultimately drive sales and increase or maintain market share.

Whilst many sports clubs, leagues and national governing bodies receive sponsorship revenues from a variety of different industries, academics have noted that unhealthy commodity industries – those that promote unhealthy products such as tobacco, alcohol, and gambling services, amongst others – have a certain proclivity in terms of investing in sports sponsorship. Gambling sponsorship of sport was made possible in the UK following the liberalisation of gambling laws in 2005, allowing gambling operators to advertise their products and services more freely.

This led to a normalisation of gambling culture or “gamblification” of sport that saw large corporate gambling brands become heavily involved with large spectator sports such as football, both codes of rugby, cricket, boxing, and tennis. For the first time gambling brands were able to sponsor sports clubs, leagues, and broadcasters directly and in large numbers.

In the 2016/17 and 2019/20 seasons, half of English Premier League clubs featured a gambling brand on the front of their shirt. In these seasons, 290 of the 380 fixtures featured at least one club with a front-of-shirt gambling sponsor.

In addition, although some clubs do not feature a front-of-shirt sponsorship, almost all English Premier League clubs have held a partnership with a gambling brand in this period, with some clubs, holding up to five partnerships in a single season. These partnerships often include pitchside advertising and social media promotions as part of the contract.

Signs & Symptoms

Over half the population of Greater Manchester has participated in some form of gambling in the past year, and one in 15 residents have either directly or indirectly been affected by gambling harms.

So, would you know how to spot if your own or someone else’s gambling is causing harm? Gambling is often described as a hidden harm and quite often, the signs are not clear. We’ve broken down some common behaviours to help you consider if someone needs further support.

Signs to look out for if you’re concerned about your own gambling:
  • Preoccupation

    Do you spend a lot of your day thinking about gambling? Does it distract you at work, or divert your attention when spending quality time with friends and family? Thinking about or planning to gamble can be an early warning sign that you could be at risk of harm.

  • Withdrawal

    Choosing not to take part in social activities with friends, family and/or colleagues to place a bet could be a warning sign.

  • Escape

    Life can be hard, especially following the pandemic and with the cost-of-living crisis hitting us all. Using gambling to forget your other troubles could be a sign of adversity and potential harm.

  • Chasing loses

    Many people gamble in the hope of winning some extra money. But if you lose money gambling, you could end up trying to make back the money you’ve lost. This is one of the most dangerous situations as it can lead to significant losses.

  • Lying

    If you find yourself being dishonest about how much you have spent or hiding how late you are on your bills, then this could be another warning sign. Falling behind on payments on mortgages can be incredibly challenging.

  • High-risk products

    Around one in two adults play the national lottery and many others may put a bet on their local team to play every week. However, if you start switching to higher risk products, such as in-play sports betting, or even online slots and casino games, it may be time to seek help.

Signs to look out for if you’re concerned about someone else’s gambling:
  • Mental health and mood

    People may say they are feeling anxious, worried, guilty, depressed, or may even come across as upset, irritable or aggressive. Gambling may be part of or a symptom of adversity driving poor mental health which is affecting their mood.

  • Relationship breakdown

    If individuals begin having regular arguments with friends or family, particularly concerning finances, this could be a sign they are experiencing harm from gambling.

  • Conversation topics

    People who gamble regularly may also talk about betting a lot. They may also be particularly interested in statistics, player and team form which may could be a sign they are spending a lot of time researching their next bets.

  • Borrowing money

    Individuals who may ask to borrow money, are suddenly selling valuable possessions, or are not paying bills may be doing so to fund their gambling behaviour – they may even be chasing losses.

  • Sleeping problems

    If someone is chasing losses and losing money, and subsequently is anxious about their situation, they may have difficulty sleeping. People who gamble online may also bet late into the night, reducing the amount of sleep they get.

Get support

If you are seeking advice and information for yourself, a family member or friend about gambling harms, please click the button below to get support.
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