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Change the players, change the game

Originally written for SBC Gaming News

There’s something refreshingly honest and likable about England’s current crop of young upstarts.

Sure, their average weekly salary would likely pay off your mortgage, which could be a little grating. And yes, some of their haircuts seem to have been cultured by Maradona with a hedge trimer after one of his more boisterous ‘white wine’ parties. Add to that they seem to be dating or married to a nice collection of Wags who come across as contestants from an alternative universe Love Island where one of the entry criteria is a GCSE.

In short, they’re a nice bunch who work hard, leave egos in their Bentleys and, so far, have delivered a brand of winning football not seen for a couple of decades on these shores.

The English game has changed beyond belief.

So has this innovative, fresh and successful upgrade has been adopted by sports betting brands in their Russia 2018 World Cup marketing efforts?

Erm… nope.

TV is awash with a number of the top 30 operators (and some of the aspirational minnows). Wall to wall welcome bonuses offering unattainable riches leak like slurry from Google and affiliate sites. Print media is awash with celeb-fronted, garishly coloured, ‘shout it from the roof tops’ advertising that would make PT Barnum blush.

Sure, there have been a few tweaks to a tired format. ‘Build a Bets’, ‘In Play’ and Mobile Apps feature prominently but the bug bear that really gets my goat are the misleading price boosts.

“Get Kane to score first at an UNBELIEVABLE 100 to 1” seems to be a general vibe, and with a little digging the headline is confirmed – it really is unbelievable.

At least the terms & conditions have to be one click away from the banner these days (don’t they guys?) so punters are a short step away from finding out that all that glisters is not gold.

“If your bet wins, we’ll settle it at the normal odds and credit the additional winnings to your account in Free Bets*”.

*Free bets come with a whole host of additional Ts & Cs.

In an age when every set of operator brand guidelines contains the words integrity, honesty, transparency and trust we really haven’t moved the dial very far.

Then there are the celebs. If the operators are the organ grinders then who are the dancing monkeys?

Dribbling parody of his former self Maradona joins fellow legend needing a new villa Cafu in bwin’s stylish World Cup heist mini movie. Even more galling is that it wasn’t just bwin who are funding the digit-wielding party boy’s endless summer – FIFA are handing him £10k a day too for his ambassadorial services which is starting to look like the worst spend since Sharknado 5: Global Swarming was optioned.

Then there’s Ladbrokes who have somehow tempted Town Crier/ National Treasure Brian Blessed away from Tageshi’s Castle to star in their ‘Bettors of Britain’ spot.

Some things get better, some things stay the same.

Here’s an idea – the industry has become more organised in terms of self-regulation, thus following the lead made by big tobacco and the drinks industry twenty years ago. Why don’t we just agree to ban welcome bonuses - all of them?

Get rid of this misleading, loss leading rubbish wholesale and instead concentrate on product quality, odds value, player management and customer communications.

Will it ever happen? No, of course not - unless it was mandated by UKGC as a 100% blanket ban. But then, that wouldn’t ultimately be bad news for either operators or customers, would it?

In the meantime the race to the bottom for operator bonuses continues apace and, for once, the England football team don’t seem to be following suit.

Harry Lang is the founder of Brand Architects, a brand-building and integrated marketing consultancy. You can follow him on Linked In or Twitter @MrHarryLang

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