Sports Betting Apps and Their Stealth Advertising
There are suddenly around a dozen sports betting apps in Canada. As I watch the NHL playoffs, it seems like there are many more.
We've gone from seeing ads for beer, coffee and cars to ones for apps that allow us to make bets on games with just a few taps on a phone. It's not the ads that are annoying though, it's the way TV networks are sneaking ads in, while trying to make them look like information.
It's stealth advertising. We're watching commercials that don't seem like commercials.
I saw somebody on Twitter the other day say something like “With all these ads for sports betting apps, I long for the day when you could watch sports on TV and see the same Tim Horton’s ad over and over again.”
I got a chuckle out of that because you can’t watch the NHL or NBA playoffs without seeing some sort of advertising for sports betting apps. Lots of it.
But it’s not just the typical 30-second ads that annoy me. I can handle the ads for the sports apps. What annoys me is the subtle advertising TV networks are using to slide in ads for betting apps that look like a form of information. It’s the betting app version of the infomercial.
A couple of weeks ago, I had TSN Sportcentre on and they were talking about the favourites for the Hart Trophy. The announcer pointed out that a certain betting site (I can’t remember which one) had Auston Matthews of Toronto as the favourite to win and quoted the odds from the site. She then mentioned a couple of other players and gave the betting apps’ odds for them to win the award.
This is advertising. Just because it doesn’t look like an ad doesn’t mean it isn’t an ad, because it is. TSN has signed an advertising agreement with the betting app. That agreement likely states the number of times odds from that betting app will be mentioned on Sportscentre and how it will be done. The only difference is, it doesn’t look like an ad.
It’s a subtle, but effective way to increase advertising revenue without adding commercials.
Ads That Don't Look Like Ads
The boom in betting app business is coming at a great time for sports networks after two years of much slower than normal advertising revenue because of COVID. With many games being played in empty or near empty arenas, fewer fans were watching at home and advertisers have pulled back or received “make ups” from the networks. Add to that, the number of games and events that have been cancelled or postponed and you can see why sports networks have found a gold mine and are mining it.
That’s all changed with full arenas and stadiums again, which leads to more viewers and that translates into more advertising revenue. The biggest portion of that ad revenue now doesn’t come from pitching beer or cars, it’s sports betting apps.
The problem is, there are only so many advertising slots that can be sold during games. As a result, sports networks are getting more creative.
On TNT during NBA basketball playoffs, when Charles Barkley gives you betting tips for games that night, a sports betting app sponsors that segment and pays for the advertising.
When betting odds scroll across the bottom of the screen for games that night with the logo of a betting app next to them, the betting app is paying the sports network like it would for any other ad.
When Cabbie Richards on Sportsnet interviews a betting expert to get his picks for the night, bet365, a sports betting app is paying for the advertising.
The segments are designed to make it look like the station is giving people the necessary information to make informed decisions on how they bet their money. What it really is, is advertising in disguise and a way to get in more ads per minute.
#97 Becomes a Pitchman
Eyebrows were raised recently when Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid became a spokesman for BetMGM, a betting app owned by the casino corporation of the same name. He became the first active player to be connected with a betting app in any of the four major sports in North America.
MGM is betting that the greatest player in hockey will help drive business in Canada, along with Wayne Gretzky, who is also endorsing the app. BetMGM says McDavid will appear in marketing campaigns, promotions, social media content and fan events.
The difference between McDavid and everyone else who is shilling for betting apps on TV is, he’s still playing and has many good years left. I’m sure he faces different rules than former players and sports announcers when it comes to making predictions on games.
While it’s ok for Charles Barkley to make betting predictions, I can’t imagine players like McDavid will be allowed to say something like “I see the betting line for goals in this series for Sidney Crosby is 3.5. I’ll take the over on that because I think Sid is going to light it up.”
We’ve moved from an era where Pete Rose was banned from getting into baseball’s Hall of Fame because he made some bets on baseball, to where Connor McDavid is basically telling people to download the MGM app and bet with it. The difference now is, all major sports leagues are in on the action and getting millions of dollars for their cooperation. Players want get their piece of the pie too.
The next time you see the jocks on TV talking about sports betting, just remember you’re watching another advertisement.