Having spent a bit of time watching the African Cup of Nations (which all real football fans should do I might add, it was worth it just for the joy of the Ethiopian team and supporters just to be there after decades of war and famine decimated their sports leagues and training.), it's hard not to come to the conclusion that the vast majority of gambling related ads are a bit weak.
So here is a round up of what is going on in the field of football gambling.
I'll start with this, as due to their Cup of Nations sponsorship, I have seen this campaign the most.
The idea of using Chris Kamara, who is very popular with many football fans is a smart one, but they don't always get the best out of this tie-in. The standard ads have a nice concept, Chris advertising something else that doesn't quite suit him, and someone interrupts the ads to tell him about Ladbrokes gambling. Sadly the character they have against him just doesn't quite gel, I can see how it might have worked on paper, but on screen it becomes more annoying than funny.
Then we get to the sponsorship idents. Same problem, somewhere along the line it doesn't mesh. The character is too screechy and whiny. Sure, it works in terms of being memorable, but nowhere near as much as it would have if it was truly funny.
Ah. Cockney it's cockney time cockney for cockney cockney cockney geezer cockney Ray cockney Winstone. This ad couldn't be aimed more squarely at hardcore London football fans if it started with the words "Oi, Irons and Lions."
It does work however, in that it is clear and simple: These are the latest odds on the game you are watching, go online for some more. As a direct ad I guess it works, but it doesn't really have any idea that connects you with the brand.
It's hard not to feel like the overwrought cockneyness is grating though, and I speak as someone with plenty of family from West Ham. "Whassat, you wannanuva one?"
Looks nice, it throws features and selling points at you in a pretty blunt way though. There doesn't really feel like much of an idea, other than the nice "BetterFred" endline suggesting improvement and new features in a way that strives to make you remember the brand name.
An interesting attempt to stand out by making Victor the central character. Paul Kaye makes it work, but you get the feeling it could have been much better as well. He gives it an amusing touch, but that also comes at the expense of making it a bit irritating. The 'guy who doesn't get it' makes the feature sell a bit less blunt though, it also has the best copy of these ads: "I'll have a Pony on that donkey to score for the Canaries."
Again, there is an idea here... about WilliamHill being the home of gaming, the most dedicated towards the industry. Yet the ad feels a bit cheesy and a little cringeworthy. It's as if they had an interesting idea but then tried to make it funny. It feels like an ad where doubling the production budget would have made it five times better.
In one football ad break there are just so many betting companies being thrown at you, it's hard to make them stand apart. The concept of using Chris Kamara or Victor in the ad helps, but I still get the feeling that a really great campaign would blow all of these straight out of the water. It's hard not to watch these ads and see them all as much of a muchness, to get to the end of a break and think "Was that BetFred? BetVictor or Bet365 that had those odds?"
I'm not a gambler, and it feels as if these are designed around that audience, not aiming for new customers. But if I were looking to place a few bets, I can't say that any of these really make me want to favour one brand over another, and if I did notice a nifty feature, I'd struggle to remember which brand it was for. More frequent gamblers, you'd expect to know what they are looking for. But I can still see a great brand campaign being very effective against the market as it stands, especially if the product and odds then back it up.
The positive thing from a strategic and creative perspective is that there are some ideas hidden away here, and if they are developed maybe the campaigns will improve.