A Study of 18-24 Year Old Males’ Engagement and Interactions with Sports Betting Advertising

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‘IT’S LIKE GETTING BOMBARDED’: A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF 18-24 YEAR OLD MALES’ ENGAGEMENT AND INTERACTIONS WITH SPORTS BETTING ADVERTISING AND SPONSORSHIP, IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE

CONTENTS

Abstract

Chapter 1:  Introduction

Chapter 2: Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

2.2  Advertising and Sponsorship in Sport

2.3 The Marketing of Harmful Products

2.3.1  Alcohol

2.3.2  Tobacco

2.4 Gambling Advertising in Sport

2.5 Gambling and the UK Context

2.5.1 Gambling Rates and Advertising

2.5.2 Regulation in the UK

2.6 Young Adult Males as a Vulnerable Group

2.7 The Gap for this Research

Chapter 3: Methodology

3.1  Qualitative Framework

3.2  Paradigmatic Stance

3.3 Participant Sampling

3.4 Methodological Practices

3.5 Limitations

3.6 Ethical Considerations

3.7 Validity and Subjectivity

3.8  Reflexivity

3.9 Data analysis

Chapter 4: Results and Discussion

4.1  Increased awareness of gambling advertising in the Premier League

4.2 The Ray Winstone Effect – The Ability to Recall                               4.3              Perceived Influence on Behaviour

4.4 “I think it’s a pretty weak effort from the government”

Chapter 5:  Conclusion

 

References

 

Appendices:

Appendix 1: Participant Information Sheet

Appendix 2: Interview Transcription

Appendix 3: Interview Question Guideline

Appendix 4: Informed Consent Form

Appendix 5: On-going ethical issues

 

Chapter 1: Introduction

During an interview in 2014, former England footballer and presenter of BBC’s Match of the Day, Gary Lineker expressed his concerns on a growing trend.

“The other thing that worries me is all the betting, advertising and sponsorship in sport. All you ever see is commercials for gambling and apps, it is really dangerous and I think we need to do something about both of them, alcohol and gambling”

For any regular watcher of the Premier League, the number of betting companies that appear are conspicuous, discernible and difficult to miss. The barrage of on-screen promotions and logos can be overwhelming; this might include Ray Winstone shouting at spectators to place their bets at half time, or where every player in a Stoke City Football Club versus Watford Football Club match is representing a betting company on their jersey. This research project captures the essence of Gary Lineker’s statement and seeks to uncover how young adult males interpret and engage with betting adverts and sponsorship in the Premier League. The extent to which this influences behaviour of the observer will also be evaluated.

Gambling represents a public health issue of growing concern (Adams, Raeburn, and de Silva, 2009; Collins and Barr, 2009; Livingstone and Adams, 2011). Although this behaviour can be a harmless recreational habit, it is easily developed into at-risk and problem gambling, the more severe end of the spectrum (Shaffer and Korn, 2002). Although there are clear risks gambling poses to the individual and their family, it has also been argued to have negative consequences to the wider community (Sakurai and Smith, 2003; Schwer, Thompson, and Nakamuro, 2003; Wheeler, Round, and Wilson, 2010).

Recent technological developments have enhanced gambling and sports betting: from physically placing a bet inside a betting shop to placing bets online and via mobile apps, otherwise known as remote gambling, which Thomas et al. (2012b) believe has opened a “Pandora’s box of gambling opportunities” (p.145.). Chambers and Willox (2009) emphasised the popularity of remote gambling since being introduced to the UK and underlined that usage had doubled between 2000 and 2005. The growth of remote gambling has consequently seen a development from the traditional sports better to a modern day one. The demographic has evolved from the working-class man (Hing et al., 2015a) of yesterday, to the younger adult males of today (Petry, 2003). This has resulted in gambling and sports betting companies identifying young males as a target audience for promotions (Milner et al., 2013). Young men can be argued to be targeted by betting companies as they are the most susceptible to become high risk and problem-gamblers (Delfabbro 2012; Hing et al. 2015b; Johansson et al. 2009; Williams et al. 2012a; Williams et al. 2012b).

Modern-day sport is fuelled by commercial deals, where betting companies pay in excess to be associated with a particular sport, team or league. This typically takes place where companies offer a fee to a particular football team or event to be named as their official partner. As well as sponsorship deals, betting companies utilise advertising slots with televised broadcasters to market their products to millions of home viewers. Advertising and sponsorship in sport has traditionally been used by companies to advertise products that are deemed to be potentially harmful, coming from the industries of tobacco and alcohol (Howard and Crompton, 1995).

The damaging effects from the sponsorship and advertising of such products have been widely reported and recognised, with many nations introducing subsequent restrictions or bans (McDaniel and Mason, 1999). However, the recent rise in sponsorship and advertising by gambling companies is an under regulated area in comparison in the UK and globally (Danson, 2010; Hing et al., 2013, McKelvey, 2004).

The prevalent rise in allegiance with sports betting companies from the regular UK football and international Premier League fan is hard to miss. The increasing trend of gambling companies and their involvement with the Premier League has been most apparent over the last four seasons. Gambling entities were accountable for 15% of club shirt sponsors in the 2013/2014 season, this has intensified to 50% sponsors today (Hall, 2016). Notably, this figure does not account for domestic broadcasters, such as Sky Sports and BT Sport, selecting betting companies as official sponsors of their Premier League coverage, which increases exposure to betting promotions even more so. This escalation can be attributed the UK’s lenient legal structure, whereby the introduction of the Gambling Act 2005 permitted the advertisement of gambling services, which was previously illegal (Danson, 2010). The new legislation is based on three key principles:

(1) The gambling industry should be free of crime;

(2) The gambling must be conducted fairly; and

(3) There must be effective protection for children and the vulnerable.

(House of Commons, 2003).

Although legislation states that betting logos on children’s merchandise and gambling advertisements during hours commonly watched by youth as prohibited, the third principle has somewhat been overlooked. The identified vulnerable group of young adult males are inundated by advertisements and promotions from betting companies based on their relationship with clubs and broadcasters.

The abundance of previous alcohol and tobacco sport sponsorship and advertisements has instigated a plethora of research evaluating the influence of such measures on users’ behaviour. However, as the phenomenon has arisen in recent times, research into the effects of gambling promotions during sporting events is within its infancy. It appears that only three previous studies have explored the impact betting promotions may have on spectators’ behaviour by Thomas et al. (2012a), Hing et al. (2013) and Hing et al. (2014). Although these studies also have the qualitative intentions to understand attitudes and potential influence, they have all been focused on Australian demographics within sports such as Australian rules football and rugby football league. Despite previous studies, Hing et al. (2015c) stress the need for further research to investigate how marketing tactics from betting companies affects young adult males specifically, based on them being the target and having the highest rates of problem gambling. Therefore, this study looks to explore a gap in research that casts a critical eye on how young males engage with and if they are influenced by betting promotions and sponsorship that are present during Premier League matches.

 

Chapter 2: Literature Review

 

2.1  Introduction

As stated by Markula and Silk (2011), the literature review “sets up the entire study as it makes the case for the research project within existing literature” (p.63). By exploring, reviewing and critically analysing the current literature surrounding advertising, sport sponsorship, betting and the combination of all three, I am able to legitimise and create credibility and place this paper within the sphere of published material. Therefore, the purpose for this literature review is not to produce a list merely describing the previous work on the given topics, however creating a critical review which entails questioning assumptions, probing claims and evaluating findings from previous research (Bell, 2005).

2.2  Advertising and Sponsorship in Sport

Advertising and sponsorship are similar forms of marketing communication. However, there are some key differences that distinct themselves from one another. Advertising can be defined as a facilitated form of communication with the sole purpose to persuade the consumer to act either immediately or in the future (Richards and Curran, 2002). Sponsorship is considered to be a more indirect method of marketing communication. Sponsorship goals are broader than advertising and can include: enhancing brand awareness, brand image and brand sales (Gwinner, 1997; Jones, 2010; Parker and Fink, 2010; Walliser, 2003). Both advertising and sport sponsorship are mutually beneficial business agreements and a relationship between two parties (Lagae, 2003). The relationship is typically based on the sponsoring company providing funds, goods or services in return for a particular set of rights and association with the sponsored property to be used for commercial gain (Sleight, 1989, p4).

The use of sponsorship commercially is a reasonably contemporary phenomenon that has turned into a major global industry over the past four decades (Meenaghan, 2001; Radicchi, 2014). Meenaghan (2001) highlights the meteoric rise of sponsorship from 1970 to 1999 comparing the £4 million sum invested in the UK (Buckley, 1980) rivalled to the $1,075 billion spent in the industry less than thirty years later (SRi, 2000). Global spending on sponsorship is predicted to reach $62.8b in 2017, a 4.5% increase from the $60.1b that was spent in 2016 (IEG, 2017). Of this, over two thirds of the total sponsorship spending accounted for global sports sponsorship revenue (IEG, 2017). Sport sponsorship is not alone as the annual report from industry experts IEG (2017) also predicts a 4.4% increase in advertising spending in 2017, rising from the 4.3% increase seen in the global spend in 2016.

As in all sports, sponsorship within football is extremely prevalent and contributes immensely to club revenues. This is especially relevant for sponsors of European and Premier League football clubs. The 2016/2017 season sees total spending on European club shirt sponsorship come to $930 million, a 13% increase from the 2015/2016 season (Badenhausen, 2016). This total is heavily weighted to the Premier League as the shirt sponsorship revenue comes to $370 million, which is 40% of the European total.

There has been a rise of betting companies involved with shirt sponsorship in the Premier League, Danson (2010) notes that in the 2009/2010 season seven betting companies were club shirt sponsors. However, this trend is only growing with sports betting companies accounting for ten out of the twenty shirt sponsors of Premier League clubs this current 2016/2017 season, including both national broadcasters securing betting sponsors. The reason for concern is highlighted in previous research demonstrating the power advertisements and sponsorship of products such as alcohol and tobacco can have on behaviour.

2.3  The Marketing of Harmful Products

While there has been very little research into how sports betting advertising and sponsorship influences sports viewer’s attitudes and behaviours, there are numerous studies that consider the marketing of potentially harmful products. It has been widely recognised that the most noticeable sponsors and advertisers within sport in recent times have been the potential harmful products of tobacco and alcohol (Howard and Crompton, 1995). In response to this well-known phenomenon there has been much scholarly research published on advertising these detrimental products. This research has also shaped changes in policy, including the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 in the UK. Regulatory restriction on alcohol sponsorship and advertising is however far more lenient than tobacco, since there are no safe levels of tobacco consumption (Hing et al, 2013). McKelvey (2004) bridges the link between these addictive products and gambling due to the potential for harm it possesses. It has been suggested when commencing research on gambling behaviour and perceptions, it is key to build upon the existing literature concerning the effect of alcohol and tobacco advertising (McKelvey, 2004; Monaghan et al., 2008). Although the repercussions of gambling are somewhat elusive and effects difficult to measure (Orford, 2011), it is still comparable to alcohol and tobacco. Jones (2015), argues that although there may not be obvious physical consequences from sports betting and gambling, the negative effects are similar to those of alcohol and tobacco in the ways that there are “personal costs to problem gamblers and their families; costs associated with obtaining money to gamble; costs associated with treating problem gamblers” (p.7). Taking this into consideration, previous research conducted on the effect alcohol and tobacco advertising and sponsorship has on attitudes and behaviour is of importance to this research project.

 

2.3.1  Alcohol

There has been a plethora of research that conclude there is a positive relationship between exposure to advertising and alcohol consumption (e.g. Connolly et al., 1994; Ellickson, et al., 2005; Snyder et al., 2006; Unger et al., 1995). Results from a study conducted by Collins et al. (2007) showed that 36% of 11 to 12 year olds exposed to alcohol advertising were more inclined to drink than those who were exposed to lesser levels, as well as a 50% increase on their likeliness to drink alcohol. More relevant to this project, a study carried out by Wyllie, Zhang, and Casswell (1998) confirms the power adverts hold during sporting events, as youth were much more likely to recall alcohol brands if they were advertised during a sporting occasion. Governmental regulation introduced to alcohol advertising in the US has proved to have a positive outcome according to a study from Hacker and Stuart (1995). They found that after decreased alcohol advertising in the US the number of fatal crashes and binge drinkers among young people had dropped significantly. This study therefore highlights the power government intervention can have. Many more studies add further evidence to the argument that the advertising of certain harmful products does indeed influence society. These include Stacy et al. (2004) whose results show that the intentions to consume alcohol is higher having been exposed to advertising. Nelson and Wechsler’s (2003) research takes it a step further from the intention to consume the consumption where results showed increased consumption post exposure to alcohol advertising. One study of particular relevance is that of Smith and Foxcroft (2009), their results suggests that there is a relationship between amounts of exposure to alcohol advertising and the amount of alcohol consumption. The relevance to this study is that the study focused on young people, including those aged between 18-24, as well as being conducted in England.

2.3.2 Tobacco

The research conducted on tobacco advertising and the influence it has had in the past is a well documented area (e.g. Evans et al., 1995; Pierce et al.,1998; Tye et al., 1987; Unger, Johnson, and Rohrbach, 1995). The findings of a study conducted by Schooler et al. (1996), suggest just how significant the exposure of tobacco advertisements has on behavioural intentions. The results showed that children were 2.2 times more likely to try smoking if they owned promotional materials and 2.8 times more likely if a tobacco company had sent them mail. Although the findings are overwhelming, it needs to be noted that the advertisements mentioned in this study are physical promotional items such as sunglasses and t-shirts compared to broadcasted advertisements, which this study is interested in. Sparks’s (1999) study into the public issue of tobacco sponsorship in sport concluded that the sponsorship of cigarette companies can not only increase brand awareness among children but also support a positive brand image amongst the youth market. One particular study by Ledwith (1984) highlighting the effect advertising has at sporting events included tobacco companies and the effects on British children. The results showed that tobacco companies that were at the time associated with sporting events through sponsorship were the most recollected by the 880 children participants. The work of Evans et al. (1995) takes the advertising of tobacco one step further from brand awareness and positive brand image to behavioural traits. Their results supported the assumption that tobacco marketing is a strong stimulus in adolescents to commencing the habit of smoking.

As stated by Cornwell and Maignan (2013), the majority of alcohol and tobacco advertising research centres attention on the influence it has on children. Despite not specifically focusing on the young adult male demographic, literature still emphasises the power advertisements have on a vulnerable group and the potential to influence behaviour. Subsequently from the overwhelming findings of previous research, there has been a change in policy whereby the general advertisement and sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies was banned in the UK in 2003 through The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002.

 

2.4  Research into Gambling Advertising

At this moment, there is little research that has been conducted into the influence gambling advertising has on gambling behaviour, with even less knowledge on the effect that gambling sponsorship may have on sports fans.

Regarding gambling sponsorship and the influence it may have, it appears there are only two studies that have explored this area. Johnston and Bourgeois (2015) examined perceived influence that sport sponsorship by gambling companies has on their behaviour, as well as other children and adults. The results suggest that sponsorship by gambling companies is effective, with participants perceiving the partnership as positive and showing intent to use the sponsors to place bets.

The second study looking into the effects of betting companies using sport sponsorship is by Hing et al. (2013). The researchers had noticed the growing trend of gambling sponsorship in sport, and used Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) to investigate how the trend in an Australian football league may influence both attitudes and intentions towards betting and gambling. Their results were unanimous with full support for all three hypotheses, the most relevant of which suggests that there is a positive relationship between gambling sponsor and attitude towards gambling, as well as a positive association between with the intention to gamble. Despite this study having a small sample size that was non-representative, participants were all university students, this proves noteworthy considering that the sample for this study were all university students.

Despite their being more studies considering the effects of gambling advertising, it is still within its infancy. Thomas et al.’s (2012b) research examined both the length and frequency of sport betting marketing techniques from within the stadium and televised broadcasts of Australian Football League (AFL) matches. Their study exposed the sheer amount of betting advertisements with results showing that within the stadium there was an average of 341.1 minutes of marketing from sports betting companies per match. In comparison, the home viewer was on average exposed to 4.8 minutes of sports betting adverts. Although this study highlights how relentless sports betting companies marketing strategies are within the sporting sphere there are certain limitations that need to be identified. This research can only be considered a glimpse of the sports betting marketing activity in the AFL as it was only conducted over a single round and not a season or even not several rounds. Although, this glimpse shows the prevalence of betting advertising among AFL in Australia, it can be comparable to the Premier League based on the amount of betting sponsors, as well as regulation on betting advertising in both nations being very similar (Monaghan et al., 2008).

Additional work by Thomas et al. (2012a) adds knowledge to the attitudes towards the frequency of gambling advertisements. The results found that both men and women acknowledged that sports betting advertising is specifically targeted towards men. Young adult males were specifically uneasy on how gambling and betting was portrayed as socially acceptable by presenting it as fun, glamourous and harmless (Hing et al., 2013; Lamont et al., 2011). As well as being targeted, young adult males also felt they were being bombarded by betting adverts and that their presence was unnecessary and unavoidable. Consequently, the young male interviewees were concerned about the symbiosis between sports and gambling today, this relationship has been labelled as the ‘gamblification’ of sport (McMullan, 2011, p.4).

A study by Hing et al. (2014) further adds to the literature surrounding gambling advertising and specifically whether this has any implication on habits and behaviour. Although

admittedly the results showed that advertising of gambling had limited role to play in attracting new users, the research provides an initial indication that gambling advertising through the internet does increase overall gambling behaviour mainly among those who have previously gambled. Although this research wasn’t within the sporting context, further work by Nirelee Hing and others explores this area.

Previous research has found it difficult to suggest that there is causation between exposure to gambling and betting adverts during sporting events and problem gambling (Hing et al., 2014). Despite this, the gambling helpline in Australia however has seen a spike in help seekers for sports betting related problems when these promotions and adverts are most apparent (Hunt 2013; University of Sydney Gambling Treatment Clinic 2011; Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, 2013). This is echoed by the work of Hing et al. (2014a), whose research does not show a causality, but however shows a relationship between increased exposure to sports betting adverts and a higher likeliness with the intention to bet on sport. This relationship has further substantiation by Hing et al. (2015), who probed whether exposure to televised betting adverts during sporting events can predict sports betting intention. Their findings were similar to previous studies, that the televised sports betting adverts either maintained or worsened people’s gambling behaviour. A more recent study by Hing et al. (2015) proves the most important. The research explored sports bettors’ responses to sports betting adverts, not just seeking intention to bet but whether it influences the physical behaviour. Results suggested a positive relationship, where exposure to betting adverts drove participants to bet. Despite being a recent phenomenon, the studies that have been carried out undeniably suggest that betting sponsorship and advertising in sport is in fact fuelling consumption, which could result in a rise of problem gamblers.

2.5  Gambling and the UK Context

2.5.1 Gambling Rates and Advertising

One of the world’s fastest growing industries is gambling (Binde, 2006), whereby sports betting is a rapidly developing subdivision of the market (Thomas et al., 2012b). The UK’s sports betting market is one of the most developed globally (Humphreys and Perez, 2012), as can be seen from statistics released by the Gambling Commission (2015). The statistics show that the industry is growing, with Total Gross Gambling Yield increasing from £11.2bn in 2014 to £12.6bn in 2015. According to the Health Survey for England carried out in 2012, 62% of the population have gambled, which has resulted in the UK achieving fifth highest gambling losses globally, with $23.6 billion in 2014 (H2 Gambling Capital, 2014).

The high rates of gambling in the UK, could be the cause for a significant increase in gambling advertising. Research from the UK’s media regulator, OFCOM (2013), shows an increase of almost 600% television gambling adverts between 2005 and 2012 (Sweeney, 2013). The research also confirms an increase in sports gambling and betting advertising on television. In 2007, there was 11,000 televised gambling adverts compared to 2012 when there were 91,000. The presence of gambling adverts in the UK is also demonstrated through the increase in expenditure by gambling companies. Between 2012 and 2015, there was a 46% increase in spending, from £81.2m to £118.5m (Davies, 2015) on televised adverts. As well as the UK having high gambling rates, the main reason for these increases can be attributed to the Gambling Act 2005. Although the act was revised with the introduction of the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014, laws in the UK are still extremely lenient compared to other countries (Howley and Rohsler, 2014).

2.5.2 Regulation in the UK

Danson (2010), whose work examines gambling sponsorship in the UK, explains that the reason for such an eruption in gambling sponsorship is due to the UK’s introduction of the Gambling Act 2005. Previously, it was illegal for overseas gambling companies to advertise through sponsorship, before the act came into being in September 2007 (Danson, 2010). Since then, the act makes it possible for the gambling industry to advertise if the company is licensed in Britain as well as the European Economic Area. The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 is a revision of the Gambling Act 2005, which sees somewhat tighter laws on the advertising of gambling companies. Howley and Rohsler (2014) believe that this amendment would have led to Premier League gambling sponsorship to be a thing of the past, however this prediction has not come to fruition. Monaghan and Derevensky, (2008), explain the reason for the failure in Howley and Rohsler’s prediction, as there still lacks any law enforcement regarding the frequency of betting adverts and sponsorship during sporting events. These thoughts are seconded by Maclean and Bonington (2008), whose belief is also that current regulation is not enough. They go on further that the reason for this is because clubs and leagues are allowed to judge for themselves whether sponsorship deals are appropriate. This has resulted in half of Premier League clubs deeming sponsorship by betting companies as appropriate, in return for remuneration of between £1.5m to £6m a year (TOTALSPORTEK, 2016).

Betting brands have utilised the change in legal framework in the UK and the global reach the Premier League provides through sponsorship and advertising. Half of Premier League shirt sponsors are now betting companies, with each clubs having an assigned betting partner (Hall, 2016). Asian gambling companies in particular have taken advantage of the law change and global platform the Premier League offers. Examples include Pilipino betting company Dafabet and their allegiance with Burnley F.C and Sunderland A.F.C and Chinese company, UK-K8.com’s partnership with West Bromwich Albion F.C (Hall, 2016). It is clear why Asian gambling companies are using the Premier League to promote their products, as 40% of the league’s loyal viewership and fan base comes from Asia (Fraser, 2009).

Team loyalty has been a technique harnessed by betting companies to promote their products (Derevensky, et al., 2010; Lamont et al., 2011; McMullen, 2011). This has been the case in the Premier League with previous research demonstrating how loyal football fans are to the products associated with their club through sponsorship. The results from the Premier League National Fan Survey in 1995 showed that 30% of fans showed a preference to brands that are associated with the club (FA Premier League 1995; Monaghan et al., 2008). Although this survey can be argued to be outdated having been conducted over twenty years ago, it demonstrates how loyal the Premier League fan is. Since the introduction of the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014, this survey proves relevant as each Premier League club has a betting partner, as well as ten clubs having betting companies as their shirt sponsor.

Although, it can be argued that the UK has the most developed regulators in place within Europe (Danson, 2010), As mentioned in Chapter one, it can be hard not to notice the presence of betting companies when watching a Premier League match. Monaghan et al. (2008) explain how the regulations put in place in the UK are mostly concerned with the protection of minors. Despite one of the three objectives of the Gambling Act 2005 being to protect children and vulnerable groups from being exploited by gambling, it seems that young adult males are not considered as vulnerable. Jones (2015) explains how advertising rules regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regulate that adverts are not targeted to anyone under the age of 18, with no mention of any protection of young adult males.

2.6  Young Adult Males as a Vulnerable Group

As mentioned in Chapter one, traditionally the demographic associated with betting is that of an older working class man (Hing et al., 2015), however the development of technology and the alternative betting streams it has enabled, has made betting more accessible to a different population (Foley-Train, 2014). According to recent research the modern-day sports bettor is more likely than not to be male adult from the ages between 18-34 years old (Hing et al., 2014). A study conducted by Humphreys and Perez (2012) explored what characteristics sports bettors tend to possess in Spain, Canada and the UK. The results showed that in all three countries the sports bettor tends to be male, with 88% being male in Canada, 60% in Spain and 79% in the UK. Further research agrees that young adult males tend to bet more than females (Sproston et al., 2012; Wardle and Seabury, 2012). However, it needs to be noted that the statistics used in the work of Humphreys and Perez (2012) were taken from surveys conducted between the years of 2002 and 2005, which cannot be considered representative of today’s betting population.

To strengthen the suggestion that young adult males are a key demographic for betting, two studies have investigated on a global scale the characteristics of online sports bettors. The results of LaBrie et al.’s (2007) study adds further knowledge that young adult males dominate the sports betting demographic, with 91.6% in over the 85 countries. Adding to this research Wood and Williams (2011) also investigated the characteristics of those who bet on sport, the findings reflected those of LaBrie et al. (2007), where results showed 92.7% of sports bettors were male compared to only 7.3% of females.

Having identified that young adult males are the main demographic betting on sport, there is research that narrows the sports bettor profile down even further. The results from a study by Hing et al. (2016) suggest that the demographic of “vulnerable sports bettors for higher risk gambling” (p.638) are not only young adult males, but also those who are in full-time education. The results showed that those who were full-time students had a much higher Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) scores compared to those who were self-employed, retired or sickly and disabled. This has been validated further by Palmer (2013) whose study found a clear demographic with those involved in sports betting, as previously noted it included younger adult males, but those who are from a higher socio-economic background and those who have been educated at a higher level. Further research among the student population from Hing et al. (2014b), propose that those who are exposed to gambling advertisements had a higher chance of not only forming a positive association with gambling sponsors but to be more interested in using the gambling company that was a sponsoring a sports team. These findings are relatable to this study as the sample used were all young adult males who were being educated at university level from a high socio-economic background.

With research identifying the young male adult being the main population who engage with sports betting (Korn et al., 2005; LaBrie, 2007; Milner et al., 2013; Palmer, 2013; Wood and Williams, 2011), betting companies have targeted this demographic. Thomas et al.’s (2012b) study explains how young adult males feel targeted by excessive gambling adverts during sports events. As well being targeted, the participants from Thomas et al.’s (2012b) study found it to be impossible to be interested in sport without being beleaguered by betting adverts (p.120). The study even found that young adult males were only involved in sports betting to avoid social exclusion due to the pressure of it being such a normalised and discussed habit.

Multiple bodies of research have found that most vulnerable group in becoming high risk and problem-gambler, are young adult men. (Delfabbro 2012; Hing et al. 2015b; Johansson et al. 2009; Williams et al. 2012a; Williams et al. 2012b). Findings from the work of Monaghan and Derevensky (2008), describe how young adults perceive themselves as immune to the detrimental impacts of activities such as smoking, drinking alcohol and gambling, as they fail to foresee possible detriments from these activities (Fischer et al. 1993; Fox et al. 1998; Leventhal et al. 1987). The participation rates released by the Gambling Commission (2015) confirm that young adult males are a vulnerable group that are becoming more heavily involved with gambling.

The released information, indicates that male problem gamblers between the ages of 18-24 year old had increased from 0.8% to 1.1% between 2013 and 2015. Not only did it show an increase in problem gamblers within young adult males but also a decrease in low risk gamblers. The participation rates showed that low-risk gamblers between the ages of 18-24 had decreased by 3.9%. These UK statistics therefore suggest that young adult males are developing from low-risk gamblers to problem gamblers. With the increase in male gambling in the UK as well as the increase in gambling sponsorship and advertising in sport, research into the relationship of the two is justified.

 

2.7  The Gap for this Research

Lamont et al. (2011) discuss how within the current landscape of research surrounding gambling and sport sponsorship there is a lack of studies considering the effect it has society, and the need for further research to be conducted. The rationality of this project is also confirmed by Hing et al. (2014a), that notice the scarcity of research that considers the effects of gambling advertising on three key areas; market demand, market share and the consumption. Within the recommendations of their study, it is suggested that further research is needed specifically on how marketing techniques are perceived by young adults, and whether they may persuade them to gamble. More recently, Lamont et al. (2015) have highlighted the influence gambling promotions may have on sports viewers as an area of not only high importance, but a topic where investigation has been non-existent. However, in reply to Lamont et al. (2015), it appears that there have been three empirical studies that have explored the influence of sports betting advertising on gambling behaviour. These studies by Hing et al. (2014a, 2015) and Thomas et al. (2012a) as well as Thomas et al. (2012b) have recommended for further research on how sports betting marketing could affect both the behaviours and attitudes of specifically young male sports fans. Their call for further studies highlight the infancy that sport gambling research is currently in, and with the majority only considering an Australian context. This has led to research focuses around sports such as Australian Rules and Rugby League with a complete vacuum of relevant research among the UK context and more specifically within Premier League football.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3: Methodology

 

This chapter will be outlining the way the research was conducted. It will cover why qualitative research was more appropriate than quantitative while discussing the chosen methodological practice. The philosophical positioning, sample of participants and any ethical issues and limitations to the study will also be examined.

3.1  Qualitative Framework

Traditionally, quantitative research is often considered among scholars to be more valued and respected (Cresswell, 2003) than qualitative research due to its objective nature. This form of methodology is widely used within sport and physical culture for research that requires the collection of numerical data, is deductive in nature and can be observed through a positivist lens (Atkinson, 2012, p.164). However, as this project is in pursuance of understanding and capturing intangible concepts such as personal experiences, feelings and emotions of participants, the chosen method of qualitative research proves to be the most pertinent approach (Gratton and Jones, 2010, p.30).

3.2  Paradigmatic Stance

Research within the realm of social science is guided and supported by a researcher’s paradigmatic standpoint. A paradigm can be defined to be a set of beliefs that provide a lens or frame to conduct research (Weaver and Olson, 2006). Thus, this project follows a critical paradigmatic position as it seeks to understand the power relations that occur between betting companies and young male football fans. The aim of critical research is to critique and transform political, social, economic, ethnic, gender and cultural structures which exploit humans (Guba and Lincoln, 2005). Delving further within the critical paradigm, it is accepted that there is an imbalance of power due to certain ideologies being cast upon individuals as a way of life that is deemed normalised (Markula and Silk, 2011, p.40). Within this study, the group who is deemed to be powerful are the betting companies. They have the financial capital to invest in advertisements and sponsorship deals for the intention to broadcast their own ideology to exploit the marginalised demographic of young adult males.

Historical realism is often identified as the ontological positioning accompanying the critical paradigm, therefore it is highly appropriate to use in this study. This ontology assumes that reality has been shaped by several aspects among society, politics, economics and culture throughout history by powerful groups (Guba and Lincoln, 1994, p.110). Research enables the acquisition and production of knowledge, otherwise known as an epistemological standing (Atkinson, 2012, p.61; Nelson et al., 2014, p.10). A subjectivist epistemological approach was considered essential due to the collection of data being co-created through a two-way process between the researcher and participant. It is also important to note that both researcher and participant are interactively connected, which results in the researcher’s beliefs affecting the study, this results in discoveries being ‘valued mediated’, as noted by Guba and Lincoln (1994, p.110).

 

3.3  Participant Sampling

The participants for this research project were male, aged between 18-24 and with previous experience in sports betting, specifically on the Premier League. The rationale behind this is due to young adult males being identified as a vulnerable demographic for sports betting, as previously recognised within the review of literature. It can then be considered that purposive, criterion-based and convenience sampling were all used.

The sampling would be considered purposive since participants were hand-picked based on their relevance to the study (Denscombe, 2010). While all qualitative research falls under purposive sampling following the selection of information-rich candidates (Patton, 2005, p.230), it would also situate among criterion-based sampling as participants were chosen due to obtaining particular experiences and characteristics (Sparkes and Smith, 2013 p.70). The criteria that participants were chosen by was based on age, gender and having experience of sports betting, as previously mentioned.

The chosen participants can also fall under the category of convenience sampling. Convenience sampling is defined as participants being chosen due to their accessibility in terms of location and being the target demographic for the researcher (Gratton and Jones, 2010, p.112). Although it is argued to be a less thorough approach, it was deemed necessary. Firstly, in terms of the study location, as all participants were students at the University of Bath. Secondly, due to being one of the country’s leading universities for sport it was suitable to find males who have a keen interest in football with experience of betting within the desired age bracket. Lastly, my own personal position of being part of a sporting society and being a final year researcher studying a sport orientated degree, means that I am well situated among the target demographic. As aforementioned convenience sampling has been argued to be less thorough, Marshall (1996) however argues on behalf of convenience sampling as it is less costly in time, money and effort (p.523). It is important to note that participants were not solely selected for being accessible, each participant engages with sports betting and shed valuable information on their personal experiences and how they engage with marketing techniques of betting companies.

Using these sampling techniques, ten individuals were identified as qualifying for the criteria needed as well as being consensual to take part in the study. All participants used in this research project have been given pseudonyms to hide identity and maintain anonymity due to the sensitivity surrounding individuals betting behaviours.

 

3.4  Methodological Practices 

The qualitative researcher has many methodological practices at his disposal such as textual analysis, focus groups or ethnography (Markula and Silk, 2011, p.5). However, after assessing all methods interviews were considered the most satisfactory to gain pertinent data. Interviews are defined to be a form of communication via a collaborative conversation between both investigator and interviewee for the purpose of producing information rich data (Byrne, 2004, p.207). It is of high importance that the methodological technique chosen relates to the researches paradigmatic stance (Markula and Silk, 2011, p. 82). Following this, studies that find themselves situated within the critical paradigm use dialogue between researcher and participant as the most appropriate methodological approach due to the transactional nature of the study (Guba and Lincoln, 1994, p.110). The conditions chosen also suited interviews due to the project having a low pool of participants, data being intricate and due to the exploratory nature of the research rather than searching for objective truths (Veal, 2006).

Within the practice of interviewing there are a further three subgroups that comprise of structured, semi-structured and unstructured interviews (Nelson et al., 2014, p.161). Semi-structured interviewing was the practice utilised, mainly based on the flexible approach to questioning. For instance, the interviewer will have a set of questions to ask, however the order of questioning may adapt dependant on responses. Probe questions are used when entering a topic of interest and importance to gain more in depth answers (Denscombe, 2010, p.175). This allowed interviews to flow naturally rather than sticking to a rigid structure that allowed for more in-depth, honest answers.

Ahead of meeting participants, an interview guide was created that highlighted the key areas of discussion and the general direction, although the order of questioning tended to be fluid. Encompassed within the interview guide included three separate lines of inquiry comprising of main questions, follow up questions and probes. Main questions, as defined by Rubin and Rubin (2005) are the “scaffolding of the interview, the skeleton of it” (p.7). This refers to the core questions the interviewer has pre-prepared where the objective is for the person to speak about their own experiences and how they understand the topic in question. The main questions were purposively open-ended as it stimulates in depth accounts and understanding, opposed to close-ended questions that elicit a yes-no response. an example of a main question used would be “How do you feel about betting and the Premier League being so closely linked today?”.

Ensuing a response, follow up questions were solicited to explore key areas and themes in further detail. For example, “would you feel that you are targeted by betting companies?” would be asked after touching upon engagement with betting adverts. This ensured that the deepest thoughts and knowledges of the interviewee were expressed. Thirdly, probing was used as a technique to gain further detail from answers through what Gratton and Jones (2010, p.161) refer to as ‘clarification probes’ and ‘elaboration probes’. This allowed any points made to be clear of any ambiguity and misunderstanding. For a more extensive thorough response elaborative probes, such as “could you tell me a bit more on that?” were used.

3.5  Limitations

Although semi-structured interviews hold many strengths, there are still limitations that need to be addressed. Topics that participants may find hard to speak openly and truthfully about can result in lack of rich data. This is particularly relevant for male participants who can come across uncommunicative and reserved (Presser, 2007). Adler and Adler (2001) describe several techniques to overcome reserved responses. To overcome this limitation, the participant was made to feel comfortable and at ease by two techniques. Firstly, speaking of my own experiences with sports betting, both positive and negative, and the use of humour.

A way to have enriched data collection further would have been the addition of utilising visual and photographic methods during interviews. Showing participants either photographs or videos of several different betting advertisements and sponsorship deals could have resulted in the male participant feeling more comfortable. This would have led to an open discussion of their feelings and experiences towards betting by aiding self-disclosure and providing space from a sensitive topic (Oliffe and Bottorff, 2007, p.853.). In addition, the use of photos and videos of betting marketing techniques has the potential to spark discussion of different personal interpretations as they are being experienced at that moment, rather than trying to recall a time they have seen adverts or sponsors.

It is also important to note that this study is not nationally representative as all participants were students at the University of Bath. Young adult males may engage with sport betting as well as interpret advertising and sponsorship in a different way dependant on level of education and what part of the country they are from.

3.6  Ethical Considerations

A social science researcher must acknowledge the ethical considerations and responsibilities that must be undertaken towards those involved in the project, as poor ethics in research can hinder a study (Flick, 2009, p.36). For a research project to ensue there are several ethical obligations that must be followed. The first step was to gain clearance from the university Research Ethics Committee (REC). Due to the nature of the study, with participants speaking of their own personal thoughts and activities in regard to sports betting, a participant information sheet was provided to each subject. As the objective of this research is to understand and unfold the experiences of a male demographic between the ages of 18-24, the need for parental consent was redundant. However, informed consent was secured by forms being given to and signed by every participant, as it is the most important ethical consideration (West et al., 2010). The informed consent form was based on each person involved with the study having autonomy to either accept or deny offering their information on the topic in research, as well as having the choice to withdraw any information post interview.

Due to utilising a small pool of participants, their identity has been kept anonymous using pseudonyms. Matthews and Ross (2010) note the importance of information given not being able to traced back to the individual. To ensure this, care has been taken on using quotations from interviews by not repeating any detailed personal information. The final measure taken to ensure sound research ethics was to secure the confidentiality of sensitive data through a password protected laptop that only myself can access.

3.7  Validity and Subjectivity

Validity of an experiment or study can be defined as the extent to which a method produces correct data (Kirk and Miller, 1986). Cho and Trent (2006) highlight the importance of validity due to an increase in issues among qualitative work. When assuring validity of a project, the notion of rigor is a recurring theme of past academics including the work of LeCompte and Goetz (1982) and Whittemore et al. (2001). Bearing this in mind, a criterion has been put in place to keep any predetermined ideas that result in misrepresentation of data to a minimum. The criterion followed to ensure validity of the project was to consider the truth value, applicability, and consistency (Appleton, 1995).

Sandelowski (1986) states how the credibility of qualitative study hinges on the truthful portrayals of participant’s experiences. Therefore, the truth value was maintained by interviews being transcribed word for word to show a correct reflection of their thoughts and experiences. Applicability is comparable with external validity among quantitative research (Keele, 2010), whereby findings fit frameworks external to existing research (Guba and Lincoln, 1981).

The recognition of any elite bias or holistic fallacy that may be prevalent in the study is paramount. Keele (2010) discusses how elite bias may include choosing interviewees of high-status, and although this did not occur, accessibility of participants falls within elite bias which has been covered among convenience sampling. Failing to reach data saturation and displaying data collection as complete is known as holistic fallacy. However, this was not the case for this study due to the emergent themes recurring multiple times. As the data collecting instrument myself, consistency of data collection was determined using practice interviews for technique and skills to develop sufficiently. Furthermore, the same recording device was used for each interview and each interviewee were asked the same main questions, thus increasing reliability. The consistency of holding interviews in a private yet familiar setting lets participants speak openly about a sensitive subject and disclosing personal information with the knowledge that it won’t be overheard by a bystander (Marshall and Rossman, 1999). Therefore, the use of empty lecture theatres as the interview location increased was utilised to increase reliability.

 

Neutrality is often discussed when speaking of validity of research, referring to the absence of bias from a study. However, due to the subjective nature of interpreting data (Sinkovics and Alfoldi, 2012) and my own personal experiences relating to the researched subject it is challenging to fully remove myself and my beliefs from the research (Maxwell, 1992). Taking this into account, an effort was made to overcome any bias in several ways to reach ‘completeness’ (Wodak, 2009) of the project. Firstly, by maintaining a neutral stance while conducting interviews and restricting myself from voicing any of my own opinions or thoughts during the data collection stage. Secondly, by examining all transcribed data and coming to a well informed and impartial conclusion.

3.8  Reflexivity

The concept of reflexivity refers to how researchers take note of how they themselves shape the research process and how the research process may shape them (Palaganas et al., 2017). As Finlay (2002, p1) argues, researchers must contribute to ‘self-aware analysis’ which improves the trustworthiness and reliability of the research. Therefore, to ensure reflexivity and the legality of my findings, I took into account my own experiences, feelings and social status when interpreting data.

 

3.9  Data Analysis

Krauss (2005) argues the importance of a study’s methodological approach aligning with the researchers ontological, epistemological and paradigmatic stances. Having previously covered the study falling within a critical paradigm, it is paramount that an appropriate approach is chosen. Taking this into consideration the decision to follow Johnson et al.’s (2004) analysis process of dialogic interpretation was made. The analytical process will follow four “dialogic moments or aspects” (p.234) which consist of recalling, listening around, close reading and representing self and other as clarified below.

  1. ‘Recalling’

This initial stage of analysis starts during the data collection period itself, specifically for this study during the interviewing of participants. Initial assumptions and hunches of the researcher are either confirmed or questioned. Although as Markula and Silk (2011, p.106) suggest this aspect can be mundane, there is potential to excite or concern the researcher when a piece of data supports or impugns their predetermined assumptions. Recalling is therefore initiated through memory, and although memory can be selective it selects what was considered as noteworthy (Johnson et al., 2004, p.234).

  1. ‘Listening Around’

Markula and Silk (2011, p.106) note how this second dialogic aspect is similar to Ritchie and Spencer’s Framework (1994) as it consists of the researcher becoming familiar with the raw data. In doing so all interviews were transcribed fully since it allowed a comprehensive understanding of data with the advantage of being available to analyse further. Following the transcription of data came the clustering of repeated segments of significance that form themes (Groenewald, 2004), this is otherwise known as coding or indexing. As Groenwald (2004) explains, themes among data are shaped by combining units of meaning together, therefore the use of colour coding proved suitable making them visible and easily located. Thomas et al. (2012) and Hing et al. (2014) as mentioned in the literature review, used a similar method as thematic analyses were conducted by transcribing all interviews and identifying and coding significant themes.

 

  1. ‘Close Reading’

Having recalled noteworthy hunches, transcribed and coded data, the third dialogic aspect undertaken was close reading. Having a strong grasp on key themes and possible arguments, these ideas were further developed by creating a clear argument for the importance of the research. Within this dialogue, the concentration was on how identities and meanings are produced among existing research and how these ideologies are spoken of as well as silenced to exemplify the power differences (Markula and Silk, 2011, p.107). The use of reviewed literature on advertising and young males as a vulnerable group, therefore helped shape my argument.

  1. ‘Representing Self and Others’

The fourth dialogic moment is focused on representation. This final stage is concerned with the physical writing up of the research as well as being mindful of the issues that come with critical research writing. There are several aspects that make up this final dialogue that include recognising myself among the research, not representing the dialogue as a monologue and including other’s voices and being self-reflexive (Johnson et al., 2004, p.239). Dialogue appose to monologue has been ensured by the transcription of interviews and the attachment in the appendix. Ways in which self-reflexivity was guaranteed has been covered in the section ‘reflexivity’.

 

Chapter 4: Results and Discussion

 

As stated in Chapter three within the ‘data analysis’ section, the use of Johnson et al.’s (2004) process of dialogic interpretation was used to understand data based on its suitability for critical qualitative research. This chapter focuses on the final process of ‘Representing Self and Others’ as it is the physical illustration of the research uncovered. Prior to this stage, data has been coded and organised for key themes to be clear and easily accessible, a coded transcript can be found within the Appendix. This section juxtaposes the primary research findings with the literature review research; the interconnectivity of these phases is vital to the research hypothesis (Markula and Silk, 2011) and can supplement further knowledge to what is considered a topic in need of further study. Several key topics examined within the literature review formed a framework for the interview questions and was discussed with the participants. However, additional areas such as social media, celebrity endorsement and the ability to recall adverts were not originally prompted through interview questions, adding value to the topic area. Figure 1 summarises the key themes and subsequent sub-themes that emerged from the interview data.

  1. Theme one: Increased awareness of gambling advertising in the Premier League
  • Increase in betting adverts on television
  • The use of sport sponsorship
  • Social media
  • Being targeted

 

Theme two: The Ray Winstone Effect – recalling different techniques

  • Most participants noted the use of celebrities to sell the product, with Ray Winstone being mentioned several times
  • The promotional techniques used were recalled by most participants from ‘risk free’ bets to cashing out
Theme three: Perceived influence on behaviour

  • Sport sponsorship and its influence
  • The influence of advertising on friends and young adult males
  • Perceived influence it has on their own betting behaviour

Theme four: Thoughts on further restrictions

 

Figure 1. Key themes and sub-themes which emerged from the interview data

4.1   Increased awareness of gambling advertising in the Premier League

All participants were aware of gambling adverts being present while watching the Premier League on television. Not only were they conscious of the presence of betting but also its prevalent increase. When interviewees were asked how prolific betting is when watching football, responses focused on the frequency of television adverts and promotions.

 

Josh: I say, yeah, there’s adverts for betting everywhere.”

Jonny: “It’s a joke how many there are nowadays…”

Nick: “…they are nonstop…”

Freddie: “…they can promote a bit almost excessively…”

Laurie:The sheer volume of adverts catches my eye.”

 

As well as noticing the frequency of betting adverts, several participants noticed how betting companies are advertising specifically before games had started and during the half time break of the Premier League matches.

 

Hugo: “Yeah, who wouldn’t? At the end of the day it’s mad how many adverts there are. I reckon at half time when you watch Premier League football nowadays you get three to five about betting.”

 

Charlie: “They pop up every single break, first advert, probably last advert before kick-off, first advert at half time, you probably get four betting adverts at half time…”

Laurie: “If you watch a Premier League game, half time is back to back to back gambling adverts…”

Tom K: “In every single match you watch there’s adverts before the game, there’s always an advert, and then at half time you get four or five betting adverts, its huge in the sport right now.”

Although all participants noticed an increase in televised betting adverts, there were a smaller number aware of betting companies utilising sponsorship within the Premier League. When participants were asked whether they notice any sponsorship trends in the Premier League some spoke of airlines and car manufacturers, however several noticed the increasing trend of betting companies.

Tom B: “I suppose there has been an increase in betting companies, actually definitely! West Ham they are Betway or something, there is definitely an increase in betting companies when looking at it.”

Laurie: “I would say that betting companies is a massive one, top of my head I think like Stoke is Bet365, Tottenham had like Mansion casino before so have Bournemouth. In terms of the actual clubs and the shirts there’s a lot of betting companies involved.”

Freddie: “I’m aware that Stoke’s stadium is now called the Bet365 stadium and BetVictor are a big sponsor of Liverpool.”

Nick: “In terms of trends I’d say betting companies is probably the most prominent one in my eyes.”

 

The theme of increased awareness correlates with the work of Thomas et al. (2012), whose research explored the attitudes and interactions of Australian adults with gambling marketing tactics. Having interviewed 100 participants, the first theme identified was an increased awareness of gambling advertising. More specifically their findings showed that male participants were most aware of betting and gambling advertisements. Interviewees in Thomas et al.’s study believed the increase was due to gambling and professional sport being naturally embedded within one another. McMullan (2011) refers to this interconnected partnership as the ‘gamblification’ of sport (p.4), whereby the avoidance of sports betting advertisements for viewers while watching sport is now impossible. The awareness of an increase in betting sponsors are comparable to the results of an additional study conducted by Thomas et al. in 2016, where 65.7% of respondents were able to recall the name of a betting brand that were sponsors of a sports team, compared to 90% of participants of this study who were able to recall a betting sponsor in the Premier League. As the study from Thomas et al. (2016) used child participants, the findings of this study suggest that young adult males are engaging even more heavily with betting sports sponsorship.

An interesting and slightly different response was put forward by one of the interview participants: not only did he notice the trend of increasing sponsorship of betting brands in the Premier League, but he compared it to another popular European league, the Bundesliga.

 

Alex: “Yeah and its more so betting with the Premier League for some reason than betting for instance the Bundesliga, I think it’s much more the phenomenon here than elsewhere.”

 

Importantly the term ‘phenomenon’ was used, highlighting the success that the gambling industry has had in English football. Palmer (2007) also uses the term ‘phenomenon’ when describing the rise of both sports betting and its advertising at sports events. Later in the interview Alex refers to the rise and existence of this phenomenon as based upon “some changes”.

Alex: “It definitely has grown over the years, if you look back five or ten years ago they definitely weren’t as big and they definitely weren’t as in involved as they are now, so there’s definitely been some changes.”

These findings highlight the increasing footprint betting companies have in sport, as well as the Premier League today. This can be attributed to the change in the UK’s legal framework, permitting excessive betting advertising and sponsorship. Danson (2010) highlights these changes and notes that “the explosion” in sponsorship by betting and gambling companies is enabled by the lenient changes in advertising laws. Further findings discussed within this paper as well as further research could be a call for a change in current laws within the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014.

Within the theme of increased awareness of betting advertising, an unexpected sub-topic that emerged was the presence of betting advertising and promotions on social media channels. The likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were spoken of on multiple occasions, where interviewees regularly noticed betting companies utilising social media platforms as an additional channel to promote their products. The findings show that as well as betting advertising on television and via sponsorship deals, young adult males are also engaging through social media advertising. Palmer’s (2013) research into sports betting mentioned this as a tactic betting companies are using to target vulnerable demographics such as children and young adults, due to their engagement with social media. This topic had not been deliberated during the literature review, based on similar studies considering sports bettors and their engagement with betting advertisements having no mention of engagement through social media channels. The five participants below speak of their interactions and engagements with betting advertising through various social media platforms. Nick mentioned the heavy presence betting has on his news feeds when online, despite not following any betting related accounts. These findings therefore illustrate that further research may be justified to consider the impact of social media on the influence of betting.

 

Hugo: “On Facebook you see Bet365 down the side definitely. On Instagram I know there’s a load of adverts on their as well, when you scroll down now you see adverts during your feed and on Facebook, down to the sidebar when you scroll down I know that Bet365 has popped up.”

Tom B: “Paddy Power are very prominent on social media, they interact a lot.”

Tom K: “You have all these advertisements and you go on a computer and Facebook and it’s like sign up now and get five quid free bets.”

Charlie: “On Facebook they pop up on the side…”

Nick: When scrolling through Instagram on a match day they’re there, not because I follow them, I guess because they’ve paid to specifically target a young guy who’s a sports fan.”

Interestingly, Nick’scomment highlights that although he does not actively follow betting companies on social media, he feels that he is being specifically targeted by betting companies. Additional to this, others shared Nick’s feelings and believed they were being personally targeted by betting companies, with one participant referring to the concept of targeted marketing. Laurie spoke specifically of how he and his peers are being targeted;

Laurie: “You can see they’re going after that market, the kind of people who might be down the pub on a Saturday with their mates, they’re trying to make it so it’s part of your Saturday routine. I suppose as much as would be going to the pub and getting a pint, you bet on the football.l”

This finding emphasises that betting companies are normalising the behaviour through broadcasting the ideology that betting should be part of a young, male adults’ sports watching routine. Tom K, Tom B and Jonny also spoke of being personally targeted, the notion was further developed into the unavoidable nature of sports betting advertising when they watch Premier League football, or, as previously mentioned, the ‘gamblification’ of sport.

Tom: “It’s ridiculous! Betting adverts are before the game, after the game, they’re incessant.”

Tom B: “…you can’t get away from it…”

Jonny: “…it’s like being bombarded.”

 

The language that is used by these three participants is of high importance; it shows how they find betting advertising as unavoidable and that they consider themselves as being targeted. As covered in section (vi) of the literature review, this is based on young adult males being the clear target market for betting promotions (Korn et al. 2005; Milner et al. 2013). These findings correlate with the findings of Thomas et al. (2012). Their study gives insight into the views of young Australian adults on sports betting advertising, where their results demonstrate that young males consider the promotions to be unavoidable, as well as the volume and frequency as unnecessary. Specific findings from their research were extremely comparable to the findings of this study. Thomas et al. (2012) mention that participants used language such as ‘in your face’, ‘through the roof’, ‘bombarded’ and unable to ‘escape’ or ‘avoid’ (p120), similarly participants of this study used language such as ‘incessant’, unable to ‘get away from it’ as well as the identical description of being ‘bombarded’. These words and phrases emphasise how participants believed promotions are being directed at them personally, while feeling they are helpless in avoiding them. These findings suggest that young adult males believe that they are the clear target market for betting advertising, which aligns with the works of Korn et al. (2005) and Milner et al. (2013). Taking into consideration that 18-25 year old males are identified as a sub-group most at risk of becoming problem gamblers (Delfabbro, 2012; Williams, West and Simpson, 2012), these findings are concerning.

4.2   The Ray Winstone Effect – The Ability to Recall

The second major theme that was apparent in all interviews was the unexpected ability to recall specific televised adverts and techniques used during Premier League matches. When discussing betting adverts, participants could not only recall the names of betting companies involved in the Premier League but also recall the specific tactic that the company used. After having asked whether participants associated any betting companies with the Premier League, Bet365 was mentioned by every participant. These results show that Bet365’s partnership with Sky Sports is working on the desired demographic, with all participants showing their engagement through the ability to recall the brand’s name.

 

Tom K: “Bet365 is the most obvious one…”

Jonny: Well Bet365 is everywhere when I watch Chelsea play, so probably them.”

Laurie: “Bet365 sticks out in my mind, just because it’s always on TV…”

Tom B: Bet365 had a deal on in-play…”

Charlie: “I think the two biggest ones are Bet365 and SkyBet, I can imagine it’s their association with Sky and Bet365 because of their sponsorship.”

As mentioned in section (v) of the literature review, Bet365 receive wide coverage through Sky Sports, due to their sponsorship of Premier League football coverage. For the 2016/17 Premier League season, Sky Sports will broadcast 126 live matches, accompanied by further Bet365 adverts before, during and after the matches. Therefore, each participant will be exposed to tens, if not hundreds, of Bet365 television adverts throughout the year. Subscribers to Sky Sports, BT Sport or non-subscribers who watch highlights on BBC will also be exposed to the brand through its double sponsorship of Stoke City F.C. The logo is emblazoned on the club’s shirts while the ground is named the Bet365 Stadium, as several of the interviewees observed.

Josh: “Bet365 now sponsor Stoke, the Stoke stadium is named after, it’s now the Bet365 Stadium…”

Freddie: “I’m aware that Stoke’s stadium is now called the Bet365 Stadium…”

Laurie: “…top of my head I think like Stoke is Bet365…”

Alex: “I somehow have a feeling Stoke and Bet365…”

 

The ability of several participants to recall Stoke City F.C’s partnership with Bet365 may not seem important, however previous studies suggest otherwise. Hing et al.’s (2013) findings supported the hypothesis that gambling sponsors are positively associated with attitudes to gambling. More importantly, the results indicated that those who supported clubs with a gambling sponsor were directly and positively associated with the intention to gamble. Although none of the interviewees of this study support Stoke City F.C, the likelihood of their team being associated with a betting company is extremely high. This notion is attributable to betting companies possessing ten Premier League shirt sponsorship deals, as well as all clubs collaborating with a specific betting partner. Although, the hypothesis of Hing et al. (2013) was not tested in this study, the possibility that participants had a positive association with a certain betting company, based on any involvement with the supported club, is extremely high. Therefore, further research should consider the ability to recall betting brands that sponsor in the Premier League and attitudes that participants have towards those brands.

 

As well as Bet365, several other betting companies were recalled, such as William Hill, Betfair, BetVictor and Sky Bet. The ability to recall betting adverts was not originally thought to be of high importance whilst the interviews took place, however the work of previous researchers proves otherwise. Past studies have established a positive correlation between being able to recall betting adverts and severe gambling problems (Binde 2009; Boughton and Brewster 2002; Derevensky et al. 2010; Grant and Kim 2001; Korn et al. 2005). Therefore, the ability of participants of this study to recall both the brand and a specific technique represents a cause for concern. The participants from this study and their capability to recall and being among the sub-group most likely to become problem gamblers is therefore worrying, considering the exposure of betting companies to a Premier League watcher.

As well as being able to recall a number of different betting companies present during a Premier League match, the capability to list each company’s specific tactic used was significant. The different techniques cited were abundant, with several mentions of ‘risk-free bets’, ‘price boosts’ and ‘cashing out’. The knowledge of what is offered by each company is important as past research has linked the ability to recall adverts and purchasing behaviour. Results from Trivedi (2013) suggested that adverts on television have a high impact on consumer’s purchasing behaviour. Although, not specific to betting, it illustrated how the recall of adverts can shape the viewer’s behaviour.

Tom B:Premier League, they always have price boosts or money back if the game is a nil nil draw. They are always just trying to entice you.”

Charlie: “Sky Bet always do like the pundit’s tips or price boosts, Bet365 offers a deal like in play offers at half time.”

Freddie: “The classic promotion was through Bet365 where they offered a risk-free bet.”

Therefore, applying the results from Trivedi (2013) to the results from this study, it is suggested that participants are actively engaging with the televised betting adverts, and may in fact have an influence on purchasing the product of betting without realisation. Tom K was the most knowledgeable of all participants on what specific tactics that betting companies used, with the ability to name the distinguishing factor that three different betting brands offered.

Tom K: “…so they all have a distinguishing factor, with bet365 I’m not sure it would be streaming the live games but Betfair is to cash out, they pioneered that in the industry and that’s what they advertise in most of their things and obviously, Paddy Power have the new thing where if you have an acci [accumulator] and one of the legs is losing you can just sub that leg out and take a reduction in your return.”

Recall was not limited to betting brands and content of adverts: seven of the ten participants mentioned the use of celebrities to endorse gambling and betting products. This finding is concurrent with that of Thomas et al. (2012), whose study also reported on this trend, as well as its concerning nature. The use of celebrities to endorse products represents a popular marketing technique, as it increases brand awareness and positive feelings towards the brand or product (Biswas, Biswas, and Das, 2006; Keller, 1993). However, Lamont et al. (2014) noted that the use of celebrities in influencing any intentions to gamble or actual behaviour to gamble is unclear. The majority of interviewees believed that the technique of celebrity endorsement does not have an influence on their own behaviour, although there was acknowledgement that it might work on others.

 

Freddie: “I think BetFred have Stuart Pierce, Bet365 have Ray Winstone, I think Ian Wright has done some stuff with he might be like BetVictor or something, you know they always seems to bring in some ex-player, which I don’t feel has that much of an effect on me but it’s still quite cool.”

 

Although Freddie stated that the use of celebrities does not influence his betting behaviour, he does refer to this specific technique as being “cool”. This demonstrates that utilising celebrity endorsement does in fact influence him as a viewer, as he held a positive attitude towards such a strategy. This positive attitude towards either the celebrity figures themselves or the use of them within advertisements, could have an influence on behaviour unknowingly, based upon the positive connection being made. Thomas et al. (2016) found this technique to be extremely effective, with children participants believing that it would influence future behaviour. Their results also showed that using celebrities creates a positive link with betting, as one participant mentioned that using someone famous “making it seem cool” (p.27). Using role models to endorse gambling can therefore normalise the behaviour and make it seem acceptable based on high-profile individuals telling you to place a bet, as mentioned by Charlie.

 

Charlie: “I think using people like Klopp, who people look up to probably normalises it, it conveys that he’s betting.”

Charlie furthered his thoughts on how the use of celebrities normalises betting, and that it represents a successful technique. Tom B paralleled Charlie’s thoughts on the successful use of “iconic” Ray Winston as well as praising it as clever.

Charlie: “Some people will look up to Klopp, and it normalises betting, definitely. Using people like Ray Winstone is a good marketing ploy because it’s a distinctive advert.”

Tom B:Ray Winstone definitively catches your attention as an iconic voice. You could be in a different room and hear his voice and you would almost straight away know what the advert is so I think it’s clever marketing, so they almost when you’re watching a film with Ray Winstone you’d be oh like Bet365 straight away, which is clever!”

 

Charlie and Tom were accompanied by five other participants who were able to recollect Bet365’s use of Ray Winstone as a technique. Although there was no suggestion the use of celebrities had an influence on betting behaviour, the ability of seven out of ten interviewees to recall Ray Winstone specifically suggests that engagement levels with betting adverts and specifically Bet365 adverts is high.

Josh: “Ray Winstone is with Bet365, the whole bet in play thing, in play with Ray so he talks about what’s going to happen next.”

Charlie: “Bet365, they’ve got a distinctive advert with Ray Winstone.”

Nick: “It’s like I’m being followed around by Ray Winstone, every time I watch a match he’s there telling me to bet.”

Hugo: “Bet365 have Ray Winstone, massive isn’t he, like on every other advert.”

Tom K: “…so you know whoever that bloke is, the Bet365 bloke who comes on, Ray Winstone shouting at you about in play odds”

 

4.3  Perceived Influence on Behaviour

Arguably the most important finding was the perceived influence that the participants believed it had on gambling and betting behaviour. This included influence on themselves, friends and the general young adult male population. Towards the latter end of interviews main questions centred around whether participants believed that the betting adverts would have an influence on betting behaviour. The first line of questioning was centred around whether they believed it has influenced friends of theirs who are young adult males or if they thought it would influence the demographic as a whole. The general response was overwhelming, with Josh being the only participant not believing that televised betting adverts during Premier League matches would have an impact on behaviour. The other nine participants however, believed that the televised promotions that occur before and during the match would impact the demographic, with some speaking of time that friends had been influenced. Both Laurie and Hugo spoke of friends and their interaction with televised betting adverts.

Laurie: “…definitely, I think it would be hard to find a friend of mine that hasn’t ever bet before, off the back of one of those adverts.”

Hugo: “Yeah definitely, some friends of mine I know have for sure!”

 

Interestingly Laurie didn’t stop there, he went onto to describe a specific advert by Ladbrokes. He explained how the advert depicts a group of friends in a pub watching the football, while placing bets on their mobile phones. Further into the conversation he spoke of how this advert normalised casual betting by making it relatable to himself and his friendship group. Binde (2014) explains that betting advertising that associates itself with success, fun and friendship leads to the attitude that gambling is the acceptable norm, which in return results in increased participation. The advert that Laurie and his peers observed, portrayed the ideology that betting is part and parcel of a young adult male friendship group. The advert is therefore used a normalising device as Laurie and his friends can relate to the narrative, which results in them participating in sports betting as a group. This findings adds further knowledge to the results of Thomas et al. (2012), that young men find gambling socially acceptable based on the ideologies being disseminated by betting companies. Charlie also highlighted how himself and his friendship have accepted the ideology that betting on sports with your friends is the acceptable norm.

Charlie: “Yeah, I’d say pretty much everyone I know that bets, if there’s a promotion on we all talk about it and everyone will get on the promotion together, I know most people bet on price boosts or promotional deals, yeah…”

This quote from Charlie represents how both he and his peers are influenced by promotions that are advertised on television. Not only does this give an insight that young men do in fact place bets subsequent of viewing an advert, but it is percieved as a social occasion. These findings support the discoveries of Thomas et al. (2012), where peer group discussions of young men led to bets being places so that they were socially accepted by their peers. Although there was no mention of peer pressure, the results from Charlie’s interview suggest that betting on sports is done as a group activity, therefore not being involved would result in not being socially accepted by the peer group, which would align with the findings of Thomas et al. (2012).

Although it is an interesting finding that nine out of the ten participants believe that young men do place bets from televised adverts, the following finding proved more important. Again, nine out of the ten participants agreed that betting advertising had influenced their own betting behaviour, with Josh being the only one not believing he has been influenced.

Alex: “I think they definitely have an influence of when I see them, I’m like ah I could put a bet on right now.”

Tom K: “Yeah definitely! So, like the suggestion to you, a reminder that you could bet on a match inevitably forces you to bet every once in a while.”

Charlie: “Yeah, if a deal pops up that I think is good, I’ve put money on before based on an odd at half time or the promotional deals or the price boosts, quite often I’d put one of those on.”

Laurie: “I have a few times bet because of the Bet365 promotion, it was a conscious direct decision after I saw the advert…”

Nick: “I guess so, I suppose it’s inevitable when you’re watching a match and you see a good deal…”

Jonny: “Most of the time that’s the only reason I place a bet, I did one just at the weekend.”

 

These findings overwhelmingly suggest that young men are being heavily influenced by betting advertising in the Premier League. Interestingly, there was no mention by any participant in regard to betting sponsorship and the influence it may have, all answers focused on televised betting adverts. These findings show that the participants are actively engaging with televised adverts in a multiple of ways, from being able to recall adverts to placing bets due to the promotions advertised. The findings that 90% of interviewees believe that televised adverts during Premier League matches adds further knowledge to current betting research. Specifically, the results are further evidence to the studies of Hing et al. (2015a), Thomas et al. (2012) and Hing et al. (2015b) that exposure to sports betting adverts drives consumption. This research however is the first to investigate the influence betting advertising has on young men who watch the Premier League, with further research needed to support the suggestion for any regulatory change.

 

4.4  “I think it’s a pretty weak effort from the government”

After having explored the rise of betting advertisements and sponsorship in sport, the various tactics that are used and the realisation these may influence behaviour, participants were questioned on their thoughts regarding future restrictions. The final main question of each interview was whether the participants believed there should be intervention for increased restriction on betting advertising and sponsorship in sport. The views were mixed, some participants believed that it is the individual’s choice to bet and gamble, however the majority believed there is a need for further regulation to protect the population and young males. Charlie, Alex and Hugo spoke on this topic in the most detail, with all of them believing that current regulation is not enough. Both Alex and Hugo reside in countries where restrictions on gambling and betting are extremely tight. Both spoke that betting and gambling is much less common place in their home countries and believe that amount of advertising and sponsorship surrounding sport in the UK fuels the high consumption rates. This echoes the beliefs of Danson (2010), that described legal work in Britain regarding betting and gambling advertising and sponsorship as permissive. Subsequently they both believe that change to the current legal framework in the UK is much needed. Interestingly, Alex alludes to advertising of betting as immoral and compares to the likes of alcohol and tobacco, where restrictions are far more severe.

Hugo: “They’re so hidden, you want to be educated almost forcefully, I think before you start, so you don’t fall into one of these traps that sends you down the wrong path.”

Alex: “I mean we’re back to that question of morality, I think to some extent, I think you know, you kind of have to, the fact that alcohol and tobacco are not on TV for instance is a good thing.”

 

Others spoke on the ineffectiveness of the current disclaimer at the end of each advert and further restrictions could help what was described as a “huge societal problem” by Tom K. Charlie spoke in the most detail on this topic, with mentions of current responsible gambling efforts and what he feels would be an effective intervention by the government.

 

Charlie: “There’s never an advert telling people how much they’ve lost is there? You only ever hear of people’s winnings. There’s anti-smoking adverts and anti-alcohol adverts I don’t really see any anti-gambling… I always look at the adverts and they’ve obviously been forced to put in this like ‘if it’s no longer fun stop’ sign at the end and that’s just a forced thing, by the time it gets to that you’ve stopped watching the advert anyway, I think it’s a pretty weak effort from the government to try and promote responsible gambling… The best way to stop people betting would be to stop promotions and the in play offers. If the government were to do anything that would probably be the best place to start, cracking down on the special offers, as they’re usually what sucker you in.”

 

These findings that current regulation being described as a weak effort from the government is profound. Charlie furthered his thoughts on the lack of government intervention, and believes that stopping specific betting adverts during the matches would be the best place to start. These thoughts are echoed by multiple researchers who believe that there is a palpable need for tighter restrictions on gambling promotions during televised sport. The concerns of Charlie and other participants correlate with the research of Derevensky et al. (2010), Lamont et al. (2011), McMullan (2011) and Thomas et al. (2012), whereby restrictions are needed as televised gambling adverts fuel gambling problems. The findings of this study would suggest this hypothesis as 90% have been influenced to place bets.

From a critical point of view, there is a clear intention from betting companies to idealise and normalise the behaviour of betting through several tactics, whether it is celebrity endorsement or depicting as part of a young male’s football watching routine. From the results of this research project it seems to be having the desired effect, as the vulnerable group of young men are engaging with the betting adverts and consuming the advertised product. Not only do the findings of this study suggest that betting adverts are driving betting consumption, but also young males believe that current regulations are inadequate with the need for a change in government regulation.

 

Chapter 5: Conclusion

 

This study seems to be the first to examine how young men interact with betting advertising and sponsorship during Premier League matches, and whether it may have an influence

on behaviour. Empirical data was collected by interviewing males between the ages of 18-24, with experience in betting and regular watchers of the Premier League. This provided further knowledge into the recent phenomenon of betting advertising and sponsorship in sport, and the effects it may have. The results suggested that young men are aware of the increased presence betting companies have in the Premier League, as well as believing they are the being targeted by betting companies. Participants showed higher levels of engagement with televised betting adverts than sponsorship as each interviewee could recall brand names, offers used by each betting company or names of celebrities used for endorsement, or a combination of all three. Results suggested that televised betting adverts are driving consumption, as 90% of participants admitted that it influences their betting behaviour, as well as believing they effect young men as a demographic. However, there was no suggestion in results that gambling sponsorship has had any influence on participant’s behaviour.

As well as results adding further suggestion that young men are being influenced by televised betting promotions, unexpected findings of the study may warrant further research. The unexpected results of participants being able to recall betting adverts and specific promotions may be of interest in further research. This is may be the same for the finding of participants being aware of betting advertising via social media channels. There was suggestion that there was also engagement with betting being promoted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with further research needed to examine the influence this marketing technique may have.

While the work of Thomas et al. (2012a), Hing et al. (2013) and Hing et al. (2014) has educated researchers on the impact betting promotions have on spectators’ behaviour, it is surprising that it has not been explored in the UK or more specifically within the Premier League. The limited research, therefore strengthens the case for this study, as it appears only these studies consider the effects gambling advertising may have on gambling behaviour. A further strength is that these studies do not exclusively focus on young men, despite them being the target market for betting promotions and the sub-group most at risk to developing sever gambling problems, as mentioned in section (vi) in Chapter two.

However, as there are strengths within this study naturally there are also limitations. As the sample size was restricted to a modest ten participants, results cannot be considered generalisable to all young males across the country. However, provides an insight into how these marketing techniques has the potential to impact on gambling behaviour. An additional limitation is that data is subject to recall biases, this is based on being retrospective as well as self-reported.

As previously mentioned, the unexpected findings of ability to recall and promotions through social media may advocate further research into the effects both may have on vulnerable groups. Specifically, with betting advertising through social media the effect it may have on youth’s attitudes or intentions, as social media plays a significant role in ‘Generation Z’s’ purchasing behaviour (Fromm, 2016). With the ever-growing trend of betting companies’ presence within sport and the Premier League, it is of high importance for further research to examine the effects on society this is having. The two most vulnerable groups, where effects are needed to be understood are among children and young adults, specifically males as this project has investigated. A more in depth understanding of the effects betting advertising and sponsorship may have would add further strength to the recommendations to a change in current regulation.

The legal framework of the present laws is set out in the Gambling Act 2005 and the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014, however the ASA have listed the official advertising rules in the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code). The laws seem to neglect young adults as a vulnerable group, and focus its efforts on protecting children. However, based on evidence suggesting that young adults are the most vulnerable to developing problem-gambling habits, as well as evidence from this study suggesting they are influenced by televised adverts, the following are recommended alterations to the current BCAP Code rules.

17.4.4

exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of under-18s or other vulnerable persons

Recommended

exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of under-24s, or other vulnerable persons

17.4.5

be likely to be of particular appeal to under-18s, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture

Recommended

be likely to be of particular appeal to under-25s, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture, including sport

17.4.6

feature anyone who is, or seems to be, under 25 years old gambling or playing a significant role. No-one may behave in an adolescent, juvenile or loutish way.

Recommended

feature anyone who is, or seems to be, under 25 years

21.2

Advertisements for betting tipsters must not be likely to be of particular appeal to under-18s.

Recommended

Advertisements for betting tipsters must not be likely to be of particular appeal to under-25s.

21.10

Advertisements for betting tipsters must not state or imply that success is guaranteed or that players could forge a long-term income by following the advertiser’s tips.

Recommended

Advertisements for betting tipsters must not state or imply that success is guaranteed or that players could forge a long-term income by following the advertiser’s tips. There must be reference to the ability for losses, with previous examples used

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