Is William Hill Dumbing Down Sports Gambling Advertising?

Anyone who watches live football will have noticed the advertising campaign William Hill have been running for past six months.

Essentially, William Hill have created the televisual equivelent of a fruit machine, using the most basic psychological techniques to encourage prospective punters to think about betting.

This is a far cry away from the previous advertising campaigns by bookmakers such as Ladbrokes and SkyBet, which we’ll detail later in this post.

William Hill have taken a no holds barred approach to advertising sports betting, playing on the primitive pleasure buttons that gambling pushes.

Breaking Down the Advert

The series of William Hill advertisements in this campaign check all the psychology boxes that keep fruit machine enthusiasts coming back for more:

  • Light and Colours

Initially, this could’ve been a problem for Billy Hill. Its famous Royal blue hues are at odds with the warm reds psychologists find stimulate the gambler and encourage him to bet more.

The firm therefore had to get the balance right between keeping the brand’s signature Royal blue punters associate with the William Hill brand the warms hues that encourage the action to bet.

Scientists have found that gamblers will bet more and bet bigger under red lights – hence the proliferation of reds and oranges in casinos and on fruities. William Hill have found a way around this by subliminally fusing the brands trademark blues with recommended reds, yellows and oranges.

Is William Hill Dumbing Down Sports Gambling Advertising

The pace of the advert allows them to snap quickly between the reds that encouraging betting and the Royal blues that are essential in the branding of William Hill.

  • Music and Sound

Researchers found that gamblers part with their money faster if the music is upbeat and energetic – which explains the ultra high-tempo music on the adverts.

Not only this, but William Hill’s tune is beyond catchy, helping it quickly forge an association to gambling with the viewer. The short, sharp hook penetrates the entire home, ensuring you can’t escape it when you go to boil the kettle for your half-time cup of tea.

Just like Pavlov’s dog, the viewer is quickly conditioned to understand the music as a stimulus to bet. William Hill have already been primed to become their bookmaker of choice.

  • Language

What is glaringly obvious is that the adverts make absolutely no reference to ‘the skill factor’ that has previously been the cornerstone of other sports betting adverts, particuarly Hill’s arch rival Ladbrokes.

William Hill are ploughing more money than ever into advertising and marketing in a bit to establish itself as the UK’s leading betting firm. The explosion of online betting has widened the playing field, with more firms than ever vying for a slice of betting pie.

The Past & the Future

Traditionally, the marketing strategies of major betting firms have tried to cultivate the idea that sports betting rewards intelligence or, that it is harmless fun.

They encourage the punter to perceive their bet to be an informed and rational decision, drawing upon their own personal expertise to predict what’s going to happen.

An idea is sold that betting on sport is something that can be figured out. This is logical and effective because everyone either is, or knows someone who is, an aficionado on sport.

The wall-to-wall ubiquity of the Premier League coverage cements people’s perceived notion they know what’s happening: it gives them two cents.

It also means that football always appears to follow a narrative. It therefore makes sense to ask the punter to predict the next chapter.

These campaigns are then seasoned by playing upon masculine insecurities. Betting becomes a matter of pride; not backing down when your opinion is challenged.

Until recently this has been par for the course in the marketing of sports betting. It is the natural approach a marketer would take: persuade people they can predict the unpredictable.

It will be interesting to see how Ladbrokes respond and what the future holds with regards to the branding of these two firms.

One might think there will be two sets of consumers, both engaging with the same product but with a completely different set of perceived values.

One thing I’d be interested to find out more of is whether the demographic of punters changes in different firms in the same way they differ between Waitrose and Iceland.

Previously, I’d always assumed a bookies was a bookies and that the punters inside were generally the same.

William Hill are pushing sports gambling as a primitive hedonism. Some might argue they’re not giving their potential consumers enough credit; others might argue it’s working.