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.