Humour and humanity: System1 on why the Bet365 gamble paid off

System1 chief customer officer Jon Evans

Sports betting isn’t a sector marketing research and effectiveness company System1 often looks at with its Test Your Ad platform. That’s not just because it’s controversial or highly regulated – so are alcohol and fast  food ads, which regularly feature in its Ad Of The Week spot or monthly charts.

It’s simply because most betting ads aren’t trying to be enjoyable. Or at least, that used to be the case, until one of the most talked-about adverts of the last few months turned out to be a gambling advert which pitches the niche winter sport of curling as the ‘next big thing’.

Chief customer officer Jon Evans explains why the fresh new direction taken by the recent bet365 advert was a gamble that paid off.

When you think of a gambling ad you don’t think of entertaining stories or moments of human connection. Instead they’re very transactional, aggressive, and make no attempt to entertain for commercial gain.

With its most recent ad, bet365 – in partnership with agency Drummond Central – was aiming for something different. It made its own gamble on an ad which uses humour and quirky ideas but still has a storyline to boost emotional response.

The ad shows a parallel world in which curling – that strange Winter Olympic sport with the big round stones and the brushes – is one of the most watched sports there is, with crowds hanging on every peel or freeze. The incongruity of football-style fandom and betting for such an odd little sport gives the ad a surprising and delightful twist.

Right- and left-brained ads

In psychological terms, most betting ads are very left-brained – they appeal to the part of the brain – the left hemisphere – that’s goal-oriented and focused. That’s good for short-term impact, which is often what a sports betting ad is looking for.

But it’s not always an asset for brand building. For that you need a more right-brained approach, aiming to get the broad-beam attention the right side of the brain uses to understand relationships between things. That’s where things like humour, human connections and a sense of place and time can really help build lasting positive impressions.

The Drummond Central and bet365 ad is one of these right-brained ads.

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Testing the Bet365 advert

Sports betting ads typically get low scores as a rule on Test Your Ad, whatever their creative merits. Some respondents simply don’t think gambling ads should exist and that’s reflected in the reception they get.

To deal with this, we decided to test the bet365 ad with two different samples. One was a nationally representative sample – the same way we test all ads. The other was a sample of the brand’s target audience – men aged 25-54 who place bets on sport.

Among the wider public, bet365’s ad came in only slightly above the category average. With the custom sample of betters, though, it’s a massive hit, scoring 5 stars – the top ranking possible. This audience loved the humour and the unlikely choice of sport, so the ad scored very well on both ‘surprise’ and ‘happiness’.

These are the two emotions which are most important for positive response and long-term brand-building potential.

Despite being right-branded, the creative also secured an exceptional spike rating – that is, a prediction of how effective an ad will be at driving short-term sales in the 8-10 weeks post airing, thereby reinforcing System1 research that shows a high performing star advert can have a powerful short-term impact too.

So has bet365’s gamble paid off?

Despite the lack of crossover to a wider audience we have to say that yes, this was a risk worth taking and one that will pay dividends for the brand.

The sports betting sector is a fiercely competitive one, with all bet365’s rivals aiming for the same audience of gamblers.

So an ad that cuts through with that audience is like gold dust for a brand – and that’s what bet365 and Drummond Central have made. They’ve managed to zig in a fiercely competitive category with a lot of zagging. If this was a curling match, their stone has finished firmly on the button.

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