Have Online Gambling Firms Scored in Russia?

We're now more than halfway through the 21st iteration of the iconic World Cup, with the 3-0 defeat of host nation Russia to Uruguay ushering in the final round of group stage matches.

If you thought that this (or indeed any) World Cup was solely about the football, however, you'd be sorely mistaken. This is particularly true in the digital age, where brands, promotions and personalities strive to leverage the on-field action to generate greater returns and inflated profit margins.

At first glance, you would consider online gambling firms to be leading the way in this respect? But how are they actually doing, and what can companies learn going forward?

Which Brands are Engaging Fans at the World Cup?

Sponsorship analytics firm Hookit has been analysing Facebook, YouTube and Twitter throughout the tournament, highlighting the standout players and the leading brands in the process.

As you would expect, there's a great deal of affinity between these results, with Ronaldo his sponsor Nike driving the most interactions and video views during the group stages. Interestingly, this means that the sportswear giants have emerged as the most engaging brand despite not being official tournament sponsors, while corporations such as Coca Cola, Adidas and Qatar Airways trail behind.

Even more surprisingly, online gambling and sports betting brands do not appear anywhere on the list of engaging firms. This comes despite a sustained and overt advertising presence, while it suggests that companies which usually thrive within the social space have failed to achieve a return on their marketing spend to date.

What Does this Mean for Operators?

The implications of this will be worrying to brands and the industry as a whole, particularly as it continues to come under regulatory scrutiny and braces itself for a hike in Remote Gaming Duty in 2019.

Not only this, but analysis from the BBC concerning ITV's tournament coverage has revealed that 62 out of 66 advertisement breaks during live games featured at least one sponsored gambling message. This confirms that operators have been keen to target customers who are engaged by live sporting events, only to see their efforts fail to resonate or successfully direct interaction online.

Now, it may be argued that this is simply indicative of the typical gambler's online journey, with individuals likely to respond to an advert by placing a wager rather than necessary interacting with the brand through Twitter. It may even be suggested that some punters like to keep their gambling activity private, making them unlikely to share the details of their wagers with social media users.

These circumstances do not apply to everyone, however, while it's also fair to surmise that brands such as William Hill achieved far greater levels of interaction during the Euro 2016 tournament in France.

So what exactly is the issue? The most logical assertion is that television has been saturated with online gambling adverts, in the same way that online channels have been overwhelmed by sponsored messages that often appear overly promotional and lacking in any kind of differentiation.

Given that some studies have already revealed that we're exposed to around 4,000 adverts per day online, further saturation of the digital space during major tournaments or events is only likely to prove counter-productive and cultivate a degree of cynicism among fans.

This may well be an important point for online gambling brands to consider as the World Cup continues, while it could encourage them to adapt their strategies in the longer-term.
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