âThe public has spoken and you will see less of me on TV,â said Tom Waterhouse on the last day of May 2013. The about-face wasnât a surprise for Jackie Crossman, who started tapping into – and communicating – the public sentiment about the changing advertising practices of sports betting agencies two years ago.
As communicators we talk the talk. As responsible corporate citizens we also need to walk the walk.
That is why Crossman Communications has played a small but pivotal role in highlighting the issue of sports betting agencies pushing the boundaries in sponsorship and advertising.
This was not targeted at any one bookmaker.
Crossman Communications first signalled advertising by sports betting agencies as an issue in July 2011, well before bet365.com launched in Australia and Tom Waterhouse popped up on our TV screens with monotonous regularity.
Concerned by the encroachment of betting agencies into new areas such as sponsorship of elite sports teams and stadiums and the integration of betting odds into sports commentary, Crossman initiated a nationwide poll using the Newspoll Online Omnibus.
The results were startling and provided concrete evidence to support our gut feel that the marketing of sports betting was becoming invasive and that communities were becoming increasingly perturbed. Some 63% of Australians aged 18 to 64 believed advertising by sports betting agencies increased problem gambling, while one in 10 decried this type of advertising as more harmful than both alcohol and tobacco equivalents.
We used our own channels – chiefly our website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – to communicate the survey findings, and provided key influencers, including anti-gambling politicians Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenophon, and targeted media, such as SMH columnist Peter Fitzsimons, with all the relevant information.
Crossman Communications was proud to see that as a result of its actions:
â¢ The findings were widely reported and we fielded many media inquiries for additional comment, particularly from radio news and talk programs around the country
â¢ A number of church groups and government agencies contacted us seeking further information, including the manager of the Problem Gambling Taskforce at the Ministry of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the senior policy officer for broadcasting standards at the Australian Communications and Media Authority
â¢ A concerned member of the public contacted us to support an action group and online petition against ârelentless gambling advertisingâ that he set up after reading our report; and
â¢ Clients, business partners and suppliers touched base to congratulate us on raising and communicating the issue.
In November 2012 Buy Levitra we conducted a follow-up poll that revealed more than a third of Australians didnât think sports betting agencies should be allowed to sponsor sports teams or events.
We noted a growing backlash to the betting agenciesâ closer relationships with elite sport (for instance, Betfair and TAB Sportsbet sponsor the AFL directly and only three of the 18 AFL clubs donât have a connection with a betting agency) and predicted that their aggressive strategy appeared to be backfiring if the public perception we were gauging was a guide.
Some 40% were against commentators providing live odds during sports broadcasts – four months before Tom Waterhouse launched the on-air relationship with Channel 9 that proved a tipping point for the whole issue.
In February this year the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform established in September 2010 to report on the design and implementation of a pre-commitment scheme for poker machines, was given an additional brief to research and report on the advertising and promotion of gambling services in sport.
This was the inquiry Tom Waterhouse refused to front, prompting Sportingbet CEO Michael Sullivan to say his fellow bookmaker was âacting irresponsiblyâ and his actions were âaffecting all our businessesâ.
The depth of feeling came to a head late in May when the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, declared that the government would take action to ban live betting odds during sports broadcasts.
By that stage a petition on change.org urging a ban on gambling advertising and live odds during sports broadcasts had garnered 50,000 signatures in just two months. But it didnât need a petition for politicians to understand that the depth of public feeling against the sports betting agencies was now overwhelming.
Whatâs more, our pick is that 20% less of Tom wonât be enough and that the public wonât be satisfied until sports betting advertising is banned during PG viewing times, just like alcohol and tobacco products.
Clients and others are continuing to congratulate us for our stand in identifying an issue, going out on a limb and doing something about it.
Crossman Communications is not a big corporate and doesnât have the resources to mount a big campaign. But we do have heart and passion and the ability to make the appropriate noise to highlight that sports betting shouldnât be prevalent in PG air-time.
Weâre proud that being a responsible corporate citizen pursuing a personal passion is likely to result in change for the better. That can only be good for Australiaâs future generations.