The beautiful game would be nothing without the tribal colours and designs that adorn players’ shirts and give definition to each team within the league.

As a calling card for fans and budding young players alike, nothing has become more synonymous with the emblazoned player’s name and number than the sponsor logos.

With Arsenal having Betfair as their partners until the end of this season, Paul Gambrill, marketing and brand director for Betfair, added: “We’re thrilled to be extending our contract with Arsenal, after a hugely successful first season with the club. Arsenal are a fantastic club and we look forward to engaging with their incredible fanbase again next season and beyond.”

Among the sponsors, new casino sites and gambling sponsors in general have risen to have their names and logos proudly adorning some of the world’s most famous players. Although this is a relatively new phenomenon, it seems like the trend for more sponsors from the gambling industry is set to continue to rise.

Once restricted to the sidelines of the field, sponsors have increasingly become more integral to the infrastructure of a team’s success, providing funding for all aspects of the team’s development. Since the reform of UK legislation in 2005, the placement of gaming advertising and sponsorship has become more relaxed with sponsors now able to directly press their logos more readily onto players’ shirts.

Gambling operators and sponsorships

Gambling operators have certainly made their presence felt on the field, and the figures speak for themselves. 9 of the 20 Premier League teams and 70% of those in the Championship carry gambling related sponsorship across the players’ chests.

The partnerships have brought clear financial dividends to the teams and many have confirmed that the relationships have worked well with teams like West Brom and QPR renewing deals with their sponsors.

But the benefits of these sponsors goes far beyond simply receiving a direct cash injection. The natural business environment of the gaming operators also offers teams the prospect of more exposure to a global audience.

This shrewd marriage between these previously parallel industries has led to the UK being the most developed and most successful in Europe in nurturing these mutually beneficial partnerships.

Responsible Gambling

However, despite these benefits, there have been some concerns raised about the practice. Glasgow academics have looked at the increasing number of gambling sponsors on sports shirts since 2005 and noted that there was a need to recognise the health and social risks associated with gambling.

To their credit, the English Football League and some individual clubs are active in promoting and incorporating “responsible gambling” initiatives into their messaging.

On the other hand, the marketing potential for shirt sponsorship by gambling operators is about as pure as it gets, with the target audience already engaged in mixing two of their preferred entertainment streams into one, with the shirt sponsorship merely acting as a final voice of persuasion as to which provider will be used when a bet is made.

This direct and pre-existing link between the advertising sponsor and the business of football is a departure from the usual partnerships that have come before. Previously, advertisers and sponsors had come to the game, each with a specific aim – to bring about brand awareness. Whether it was the beer companies of the 1980s, or the software and tech firms of the late 1990s and early 2000s their goal was to establish brand names across the massive football audience. Once this was done there was little incentive for firms like Apple or Microsoft to remain in the game.

Here, we see something different, something integral to the game itself. Whilst there is no doubt that gambling firms are attempting to broaden their own audience, the fact is that their names and products are already largely known to the football crowds.

With the need to “establish a brand” removed from the equation, the aim of the shirt sponsors is to remain in sight up to the last minute that a gambler places their bet and hopefully be the operator of choice at the point of decision. With no natural reason to leave the arena, this may mean that shirt sponsors from the gambling world may, unlike their predecessors, be here to stay.

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Arsenal. Football. Life. Writing about Arsenal since 2008.