Gambling companies have long been associated with sports. First of all, you can bet on sports with them, something which has happened for hundreds of years in some parts of the world. And secondly, more recently it has become an integral industry for sponsorship funding.
Whether a company offers casino online games like blackjack, slots, or sports betting, online gambling firms, especially, are keen to partner with sports teams to get their brand in front of millions of people.
However, the gambling industry appears to have hit a bit of a crossroads when it comes to sports sponsorship.
On the one hand, in the USA, it’s growing at apace. Legislation in many states has meant that becoming official sponsors or partners has only just become a possibility, and today we’re seeing many agents looking to broker deals with players, as well as teams and leagues gaining official betting or casino partners. And it’s having a huge beneficial impact on them too. Take Major League Baseball, for example. Sponsorship in the league has risen 5.6% to $1.19billion and gambling brands have played a large part in that, alongside the likes of cryptocurrency, while the NFL are keen to maximise their profits by exploring avenues within the more relaxed sports betting space in the USA.
However, other countries around the world have long had a more relaxed approach to gambling and sport sponsorship. For many years gambling brands have dominated shirt sponsorship deals in the UK, as well as many famous sporting stars striking deals with gambling brands from the likes of Jose Mourinho to England soccer legend Michael Owen.
The industry is so intertwined with sports, with gambling brands able to offer more money than other industries that many clubs need to take to even stay afloat, particularly further down the soccer pyramid.
It is in countries like the UK where rather than relaxing laws on the relationship between gambling and professional sports, they are now beginning to get tighter. For a number of years there have been petitions to ban gambling sponsors in professional sports, and many teams have taken a stand to no longer work with them. In fact, between 2019 and 2021, the number of gambling sponsorship deals plummeted by 48%.
That number is beginning to rise again, though. A total of around 10% of shirt sponsors across men’s and women’s football, cricket, rugby union and rugby league are gambling brands, second only behind the automotive industry, with sponsorships growing especially in rugby.
It’s a similar story in Australia, where there is a growing discomfort with sports betting and casino brands sponsoring major professional sports teams, with a number of brands pulling out of deals in the country following unrest amongst supporters.
That’s cost clubs millions of dollars, with one brand pulling out of sponsoring Brisbane Broncos, albeit due to a change in tax laws, seeing them losing a $7.5miillion deal.
Which leaves the industry and sports sponsorship at a bit of a crossroads in many parts of the world. While US teams are only going to increase the amount of gambling sponsorship within the major four leagues, elsewhere there’s a real decision to be made on whether they should be banned, and what the financial implications of that are in multi-billion dollar businesses.