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Q&A: Stick or twist for the future of sports betting advertising?

TV advertisement is still the dominant outlet for sports betting platforms in an increasingly mobile-centric world. 

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With so many global industries shifting their focus increasingly toward social media advertising in the modern day – sports betting is still standing firm within the TV bracket. But is it only a matter of time?  

That’s the question we posed to industry pioneer Ken Robertson – who spent 18 years at Paddy Power, creating more than a few iconic (and controversial) campaigns that involved Nicklas Bendtner’s boxers, Oscar Pistorius’ legs, and Stephen Hawking’s computer.

TV advertising is still the biggest player in the UK & US when it comes to gambling ad spend in 2024. Do you see betting advertising swinging towards mobile & social media in the way we have seen many other industries do? 

"Yeah, I think the mix or distribution of spend in marketing channels has evolved a lot. I'm not exactly sure what the numbers look like now, but I think historically 50% of the spend would have gone on TV and the rest would have got distributed across PPC, social channels and so on. The mix may not be a million miles away from that now, but I wouldn't say it's increasing with TV. TV still has a role to play and, while the distribution may change, I don't think the landscape has transformed completely just yet." 

Indeed, it is true that TV is still at the top of the pile in ad spend – and by quite some margin. 

It is easy to see why sports betting advertisement has built such a TV-dominated business model over the last 30 years with it being the main place people go to watch sports. However, like many industries in the modern day, the landscape is changing. Despite existing within the rapidly evolving mechanism that is the gambling industry, the demand for creativity remains a constant.  

You have now founded agency The Tenth Man. In your opinion, how do your ads stand out, and how do you feel that could be applied to social media in the modern technological era?  

"It's all about embracing contrarian thinking – choosing the path less travelled to a degree. So when a brief comes in, we always break that brief down. We tend to go back to the client and thoroughly, provocatively interrogate the brief just to put a slightly different lens on it. As an agency, we always approach things from a slightly nontraditional point of view. And the proof point for that is all the work we've produced for all our clients, not just in the sports betting category, but in the other regulated categories we work in."

Stay tuned for our May/June issue of Gambling Insider magazine to read the full interview with Robertson and his colleague Gethin Evans; detailing their new venture and more on Robertson's time at Paddy Power.

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