In the past 18 months, Sportsbet, the largest online bookmaker in Australia, has outspent its rivals by more than three to one on television advertising during live sports and racing events. Confidential spending data obtained by the Australian Financial Review has revealed that Sportsbet invested a staggering AUD64 million ($42.7 million) in TV ads, significantly surpassing the amounts spent by Tabcorp and Ladbrokes.
A recent parliamentary inquiry in Australia recommended a phased prohibition on gambling ads across TV, radio, and social media platforms. This proposal has raised concerns among major broadcasters, who fear the loss of tens of millions of dollars that currently flow from bookmakers into their coffers, as well as sporting organizations.
According to the data compiled by Nielsen, Tabcorp has spent a mere AUD5 million ($3.3 million) since the initiation of the government’s online gambling inquiry in mid-October. Other prominent competitors have also scaled back their spending on networks such as the Nine Network, Seven Network, and Network Ten, as the inquiry continued into the new year.
The potential ban poses a threat to wagering companies like Sportsbet, as well as the Entain-owned brands Ladbrokes and Neds, which collectively spent AUD37.6 million ($25 million) on TV advertising between January last year and May 2023. Apart from social media platforms, television remains the primary channel for advertising and brand promotion. Consequently, a ban would not only impact market share for the industry’s biggest spenders but also reduce advertising revenue for television networks.
The data from Nielsen illustrates the close connection between sports betting and key racing and sporting events. Sportsbet’s ads predominantly run during the AFL and NRL seasons as the company holds the official partnership rights for both codes. The six-month period from March to September witnessed over AUD32 million ($21.3 million) in ad spending alone.
While Tabcorp drastically decreased its spending with broadcasters, Sportsbet spent AUD16.8 million ($11.2 million) during the spring racing carnival from September to November 2022, surpassing Tabcorp’s total expenditure over an 18-month period. The inquiry period saw all wagering companies reduce their spending significantly compared to the months prior.
Adam Rytenskild, Tabcorp’s CEO, made comments during the inquiry that aligned with the company’s subsequent reduction in ad spending. He stated that Tabcorp would voluntarily cease all free-to-air television advertising during the day by 2024.
Sportsbet’s CEO, Barni Evans, expressed support for several recommendations made by the inquiry but regarded a complete advertising prohibition as a step too far. Evans believes that a significant reduction in the number of ads, rather than a total ban, would address community concerns while still supporting sports and the media. Meanwhile, Sportsbet has been exploring other marketing channels. Recently the company has utilized TikTok to engage with young women and diversify its customer base.