Brand community and sports betting in Australia

Ross Gordon and Michael Chapman

What was the research?

This study explored the presence and use of the marketing technique of brand community (communities built around use, display of, or loyalty to a brand) in relation to sports betting. Macquarie University researchers investigated the mechanisms by which this form of sports betting marketing appeals to young adults who gamble on sport.

This study was funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation through an early career researcher grant under the Grants for Gambling Research Program.

How was the research conducted?

For the purpose of this study, brand community was defined as – a community of consumers formed on the basis of affection for, and connections to, a particular brand.

The study answered the following:

  • Do markers of brand communities exist in relation to sports betting brand marketing in Australia?
  • How do young adult gamblers interpret, and respond to sports betting marketing, and specifically markers of brand community in sports betting marketing?
  • What role do sports betting, sports betting brands, and sport play in the socialising and consumption practices of young adult gamblers?

The study employed the following methodology:

  • a content analysis of sports betting advertising (during live televised sports and on company websites) and
  • 10 focus groups with a total of 50 young adults (aged 18 to 30 years old) who gamble.

The content analysis of sports betting advertising included:

  • five selected televised National Rugby League (NRL) and five Australian Football League (AFL) matches in September 2013 (in season and finals matches) where researchers reviewed the matches for the amount, screen time, type, size, location, and theme of any sports betting brand-marketing activity
  • five leading sports betting brand websites: TAB, Tom Waterhouse, Sportingbet, Sportsbet, and Centrebet and
  • NRL and AFL websites.

The focus groups were made up of small friendship groups in both urban and regional Victoria, and explored:

  • participants' awareness, response and interactions with sports betting brands and
  • the role of sports betting, sports betting brands, and sport in their socialising and consumption practices.

Limitations

  • One dimensional study: This was an exploratory study, and only considered one dimension of consumption communities relating to sports betting – specifically how brands use community markers and the responses of young adult gamblers to these activities.
  • Findings may only relate to young adults: While the findings are indicative of the way that young people interact with sports betting advertising, the findings may not apply to other segments of the population. For example, younger people or older segments may have different perceptions and interactions.
  • Focus on AFL and NRL only: This study focused on sports betting advertising and the AFL and NRL sporting codes. However, there may be different interactions between consumers and other types of sports betting advertising in other types of sports or sporting events.

What were key findings of the research?

Content analysis of websites

  • Sports betting, AFL and NRL website use marketing strategies to engage consumers in gambling activity, and act to enhance the sense of brand community experienced.
  • The creation of a brand community was more evident in the sports betting websites than on the football codes websites.
  • The sense of brand community was created by promotions.
  • The connection between gambling and sports were reinforced by the promotions offered on sports betting websites, but also through the integration of sports betting advertising on sporting code websites.

Brand community is more evident on sports betting websites.

Content analysis of live sporting events

  • A range of types of sports betting advertising was identified, including fixed advertising, dynamic advertising, commercial break advertising, integrated advertising, and team sponsorship.
  • There was a higher rate of gambling advertising observed in NRL matches than AFL matches.
  • Across the five AFL matches analysed, an average of 10 minutes and 52 seconds of gambling advertising was recorded in each session over an average of 93 single occasions on which gambling advertising was displayed.
  • Across the five NRL matches analysed, an average of 15 minutes and 38 seconds of gambling advertising was recorded in each session over an average of 225 single occasions on which gambling advertising was displayed.
  • A large amount of variation between matches was found and is due to variation between stadium advertising and team sponsorship, in particular whether the teams were sponsored.

Focus groups with young adult friendship groups

  • Participants talked about their first sports betting experience and how they were most often referred to sports betting by a friend. This created a sense of unity and shared experience in the friendship groups.
  • Advertising was appealing to the participants because it often aligned with their social and gambling consumption practices, reinforcing a sense of community.
  • Sports betting was seen as a part of the groups of friends interaction with a sport, for example, getting together at a pub or a friends place to watch a match and discussing their betting strategy.
  • Emotional engagement with a sport was enhanced when gambling was a part of the engagement.

How this research might be useful?

Sports betting promotion continues to be an important concern for the community, particularly its effects on young males.

This work provides some insight into the mechanisms that sports betting advertisers employ to create a sense of connection and community around a brand and a sport.

This work builds on previous work that investigated the quantity of sports betting advertising as well as some early conceptualisations of gambling advertisers by the target audience. It does this by highlighting specific mechanisms by which advertisers appeal to people who gamble on sports.

The study of this area is particularly important in light of the role social media plays and the general digital interactivity that is a feature of young peoples' lives and is increasingly being used as a channel for commercial messaging and transactions.

The findings from this study also have implications for policy makers and prevention workers in the design and development of future prevention programs targeting sports betting. These channels can also be developed to provide messages and information that heightens awareness about harm from gambling.

Want to know more?

The full report from the study is located here (PDF - 842 KB).

How to cite this research

Gordon, R & Chapman, M (2014) Brand community and sports betting in Australia. Victoria, Australia: Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.

GIRO research update

This summary is included in the February edition of the GIRO research updates.

GIRO research update - February 2015 (PDF - 391.5 KB)

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