No women, risky wagers and smartphone betting: Key UK sports betting advert trends identified by researchers

  • Study shows sports betting ads aggressively target young men
  • Evidence suggests that ads do not show ‘normal’ betting behavior

A study by Nottingham Trent University (NTU) researchers has revealed some of the tactics used by some companies to advertise sports betting brands on television in the UK.

Online betting adverts on TV are aimed mainly at men, according to a study. Picture: Flickr, FailedImitator
Online betting adverts on TV are aimed mainly at men, according to a study. Picture: Flickr, FailedImitator

Psychologists involved in the study have suggested that advertising is playing an important role in driving problem gambling rates up, and that action should be taken to address issues in ads that could increase risk.

Study shows gambling market targets men with mobiles

Through watching hundreds of clips from gambling ads in the UK and Spain, NTU academics have been discovering trends in advert styles and watching out for potential hazards.

The study showed that men are the target of almost all gambling commercials, with 77% of more than 100 adverts featuring no women at all.

Mobile is driving most content campaigns, with 94% featuring smartphone betting, and close to half of the adverts promoted in-play betting.

The study also revealed that gambling adverts only ever show wins, and that those wins are up to 51 times larger than the wager placed on average – an implied probability of less than two per cent.

Characters in gambling adverts often placed high-risk bets, the study found, and most bets are shown as individual acts rather than part of a social experience.

However, another NTU study shows that while betting itself is displayed as a solitary activity, these adverts use socializing as a key theme to encourage positive feelings in the user.

Gambling adverts also feature alcohol and junk food prominently, researchers claim, and this could drive up problem gambling rates as well as encouraging other risky behaviors.

Everything in moderation

The study does not conclude that any single trend in advertising is necessarily harmful on its own, but states that the general theme of these ads could have a cumulative high risk factor.

“When regularly and collectively portrayed in adverts, sensation-seeking, impulsivity, instant-betting and disinhibition could influence the betting behaviour of vulnerable groups,” said lead NTU researcher Prof. Mark Griffiths.

“Sports betting companies are also clearly targeting males, who we know are seven times more likely to bet on sports than women and more likely to develop gambling-related problems,” he added.

Gambling adverts in the UK are strictly monitored by both the Advertising Standards Agency and the Gambling Commission, who take swift action when they believe a gambling company is in breach of any advertising regulations.

Most, if not all, of the adverts included in the Nottingham Trent Uni study will have complied with these strict guidelines and will not be in breach of any ASA rules.

As part of having a UK gambling licence, operators must also comply with rules on how they promote offers such as free bets, including making terms and conditions clear.

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