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Can Having Sports Personalities as Ambassadors Encourage Underage Gambling?

Gambling is an activity that young people should be discouraged from engaging in wherever possible. That seems like an obvious enough statement, given the extent to which some people have had their lives all but ruined by becoming involved in the world of betting from too early an age.

Yet there are plenty of gambling firms who would not particularly object to the idea of appealing to young people, given the money that they would be able to make from them in the long-term. As a result, the Advertising Standards Authority have put rules in place around the use of sports personalities in adverts. The question is, does it really matter?

Sports People Have Loyal Fanbases

Whether or not sports people appeal to a younger audience and convince them to do what they want simply be appearing in an advert for a product is a matter of debate that we’ll look into in more detail here. One thing that can’t be argued, though, is that sports stars tend to have a loyal fanbase that will follow them wherever they go. Take Cristiano Ronaldo, for example.

The former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus star moved between clubs throughout his career and when he did so the teams that he played for suddenly discovered that they had a whole new set of supporters just because of the attacking player.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was accused of raping a women in 2009, yet that has not stopped thousands, if not millions, of people from idolising him. The fact that he reportedly agreed to pay her an out-of-court settlement of £288,000 was not an admission of guilt, yet would often give most ordinary people pause for thought. In the case of Ronaldo supporters, however, there is no thought necessary, believing the superstar blindly.

Many of those supporters are young, with Ronaldo being just one example of a sporting superstar who holds sway over people. Little wonder, therefore, that companies might want to employ his services to advocate on their behalf.

They Are Influential

There is no question that sports stars are influential. The endorsement of a sports personality might encourage someone to buy a pair of trainers, say, or drink a particular drink. With that in mind, why wouldn’t it result in someone gambling with a certain bookmaker or online casino?

By tying itself to a sports star, a betting company would be able to boost its profile amongst a group of people that might not otherwise have heard of it. There are several examples available of successful campaigns using a sports star in order to appeal to a specific group of people, such as when Neymar Jr. became involved with PokerStars.

Given the fact that most sports stars use social media to get their message out into the wider world, a tweet or Instagram post can be worth the equivalent of a huge number of adverts in terms of appeal. Given that it is often younger people that most commonly use social media, you can see why firms might be keen to use a sports star in order to encourage such an audience to use their products.

They will get interaction and engagement that they simply wouldn’t get through more traditional advertising methods, being able to effectively use the sports personality’s social media account as the equivalent of a direct marketing channel.

It is More About Appealing to Young People

paddy power ad with peter crouch

In the February of 2023, the Advertising Standards Authority confirmed that two gambling adverts featuring former England international footballers did not breach its recently introduced rules around the use sports stars in gambling adverts.

The reason why was that it was felt that the adverts themselves did not appeal to people under the age of 18 years of age. A month earlier, the regulator had upheld a complaints about a Twitter post from Ladbrokes that featured a number of Premier League footballers who were active at the time, believing that that advert did appeal to children and other young people.

In other words, it isn’t so much the use of sports personalities that the ASA believe will lead to young people turning to gambling, but instead whether their use is likely to appeal to someone under the legal age for betting. Paddy Power and Sky Bet had used Peter Crouch and Micah Richards in their adverts, which meant that they weren’t likely to encourage a younger supporter to want to gamble as there was less chance that they would know who they are. It was felt that the fact that around 0.1% of subscribers to That Peter Crouch Podcast being aged between 13 and 17 was proof that young people weren’t interest in him.

Using Celebrities Does Encourage Children to Gamble

Research carried out and then published in the February of 2024 looked to garner the opinions of young people around the use of famous people in gambling marketing. It was discovered that exposing people the gambling marketing had a ‘clear impact on their gambling attitudes’, with the use of celebrities and social media influencers creating addition appeal as well as legitimising the social acceptance around betting.

Their use also lowered the perception of risk from gambling, which is obviously not something that young people should be thinking about regarding a topic that has the ability to take huge amounts of money from them.

The hypocrisy as far as many gambling companies are concerned comes in the fact that football teams are still allowed to be sponsored by gambling companies. As a result, players will take to the pitch with a gaming firm emblazoned on their chest, with people of all ages watching them run around the pitch.

In some cases, the players taking to the field can be under 18 because they’re talented enough to have broken into the team and play in the side with an activity that they’re not legally old enough to take part in being advertised by them. This is, of course, different to using their social media channels to advertise it, which is why that is banned.