As the new football season kicks off, there is a vast array of advertising opportunities for brands to sink their teeth into. Shirt sponsorship in particular is one of the most impactful ways for building brand awareness, with fans and casuals exposed to these brands both on and off the pitch all year round. But is decorating players with your logo enough?

The category dominating shirt sponsorship deals this year is the gambling industry. Bookie’s sponsorships in England’s top division has risen from 3 in 2013 to 9 in 2018 and 17 out of the 24 clubs in the Championship are sponsored by bookmakers (The Guardian). On top of this, Sky Bet sponsors three of England’s top four divisions. It’s easy to understand why football is so appealing to the £14bn industry, as roughly 10% of that is generated through the sport.

The reach of bookies stretches further than shirt sponsorships. 95% of the 25 matches that broadcast on TV featured at least one gambling advert. Conversely, the one woman’s match that was broadcast contained no gambling adverts, which seems like a missed opportunity when, according to gambling.com, 1 in 3 bets made during this summer’s World Cup were by women. This is a massive difference compared to the previous tournament in 2014, when only one in ten bets were by women. It seems the smart money would be looking to break out of the gendered expectations, and be ‘early adopters’ of women’s football.

Football offers the bookies an opportunity outside of bringing punters in. A recent report from Goldsmiths College found that, during a typical episode of Match of The Day, gambling logos and brands are on screen for 71-89% of the time, a massive opportunity for building and maintaining brand awareness whilst becoming synonymous with the sport itself. Though the bookies have seemingly cornered the market, it doesn’t stop brands of other categories getting involved, especially foreign investment from the likes of Fly Emirates, Yokohama Tyres and American Express.

However for the bookmakers, football isn’t just another platform or channel. There is a close and mutually beneficial synergy between football clubs and bookmakers; one example is Ladbrokes’ investment into grassroots football foundations to sponsor up and coming talent. This is the perfect example of how a brand can go beyond sponsorship and become an integral part of industry itself.

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