Opinion: Critiquing Ontario Operator Ads Over A Weekend Of Sports Watching

Written By Matthew Lomon on December 8, 2022
Over six games, three sports and one weekend, operators that excelled at the Three Rs - Recognizable, Responsible, Risible — fared best.

What do the numbers 64-9-6 represent? No, this isn’t one of Wilt Chamberlain’s mythical stat lines. But that’s a formidable guess and I can see why your brain went there because mine did, too. Those numbers aren’t a measure of points, rebounds, and assists. It represents the 64 Ontario online casino and sportsbook TV advertisements from nine different operators across six games (four World Cup, one NHL, one NFL) that I observed last weekend.

Sports fans (and sportsbooks), rejoice! For the first time in history, the World Cup is being played outside of its typical mid-summer time slot. That means it coincides with the NHL, NBA, and NFL regular seasons to produce a sports betting supernova — the uber-rare sports equinox.

With all this non-stop action, marketing teams from sportsbooks and casinos around the globe are hard at work, striving to out-duel each other for our business.

Let’s take a look at which marketing campaigns stand out and which fall short.

Ontario online casino competition brings consistency

There has been a noticeable uptick in gambling advertisements, both in-game and during commercial breaks, over the last several months. The casual viewer may find this surge of sports betting and casino content irritating. But those involved or at least interested in the Ontario wagering landscape understand how important and healthy this trend is for the future of the market.

Personally, I have no issue with the high volume of advertisements during sporting events. In fact, I appreciate it. As consumers, we are not only entitled to a multitude of options, but also to the expectation that every operator recognizes the value we find in dealing with its services. For sportsbooks and casinos, this acknowledgment is the ads themselves, serving as a symbol of dedication to continued improvement.

Currently, there are 39 live gaming operators in Ontario. That number is expected to exceed 50 before too long.

In such a fast-paced, rapidly growing environment, operators cannot afford to become complacent with so many competitors vying for our business. Sure, the abundance of advertising can feel overwhelming at times. Just remember, it stands to enhance the quality of each platform, and in turn, our overall wagering experience.

The Three R’s: Recognizable, Responsible, Risible

When it comes to evaluating content, I find it helpful to narrow down terms of success into a handful of variables that best pertain to the work in question. For sportsbook and casino ads, those variables all begin with the letter ‘R.’

Recognizable.

Responsible.

Risible.

It’s a simple formula for marketing teams to follow in their quest to vanquish audience disinterest and apathy.

Four operators deserve praise for their campaigns

Of the nine operators present over my weekend viewership, these four deserve praise for incorporating elements of the ‘Three ‘R’s’ into their advertisements:

Bet365 – A mainstay in the wagering universe, Bet365’s commercial featuring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul banked on pairing a familiar face with its trusted platform. “The world’s favourite sportsbook” stuck to its principles, delivering an ad at the half of the Korea Republic’s tilt with Portugal that didn’t try to oversell an already well-groomed reputation.

BetMGM – Recognized as one of the top Canadian online gambling sites, “the king of casinos” parlayed the basic tenets of the ‘Three R’s’ into a successful series of advertisements appearing between periods of last Saturday’s matinee between the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild on Sportsnet. Headlined by mega stars Jamie Foxx, Vanessa Hudgens and Wayne Gretzky, among several others, BetMGM’s pair of commercials backed up its boastful stance by aligning the allure of star power with proven results.

DraftKings – By far the simplest of the winning ads, DraftKings dropped into Amazon’s coverage of Thursday Night Football (Bills vs. Patriots) twice. As an official betting partner of the NFL, DraftKings centred its message around its partnership with the world’s highest grossing professional league. It’s a winning strategy. Knowing your limits applies to operators as well. Promising too much and failing to deliver will only stimulate skepticism and distrust.

FanDuel – With six different promotions accounting for eight total appearances during “FanDuel NFL primetime on TSN,” there was no mistaking which gaming operator owned the night. FanDuel kept things light, fresh and funny over the course of its three-hour run on Thursday Night Football. Kudos to the marketing team for their “every moment in life is a bet” campaign, which paces all of its contemporaries in terms of humour and encouragement.

Other operator campaigns needs some work

Let’s examine the ones that needed a little more seasoning.

The standalone advertisements for Sports Interaction and BetRivers both suffered from a lack of energy and enthusiasm, which is something I didn’t expect from the latter given its prominence in the market.

This is not to say they needed an A-list celebrity levitating in front of fireworks with a lion roaring in close proximity. That would be excessive in all meanings of the word. But show me signs of life. Make an effort to capture my attention and secure my business. Signing off cookie-cutter commercials with, “Wanna bet?” and “Take a break, play some roulette” is not going to cut it.

On the contrary, Coolbet’s marketing team could have benefitted from reigning in ambition and refocusing their advertisement to feel more grounded than over-the-top. Employing Canadian Olympic icon Andre De Grasse is a fantastic start. I’m just having trouble grasping the supposed inspirational message that followed. “Stay humble, stay focused, stay motivated, stay strong… most of all, stay cool.”

The sentiment of the message and tying back into the theme of remaining cool is clear as day. But it just didn’t resonate with me as intended. Instead of feeling empowered to download the app and pick winners, I interpreted the message as preachy, especially for an operator unfamiliar to me. However, I did appreciate the discernible “gambling can be addictive” advisory for taking centre stage at the conclusion of the ad.

Though, I would much rather engage with their content than illegal, non-regulated “free to play” sites like Bodog. I may not enjoy some operator’s advertisements. But I take solace in the fact that regulations are in place to protect against devious business practices.

Missed marketing opportunities

If you did the math, you know that only seven operators have been discussed and two remain. Cue Treasure Island Resort and Casino and Betano, both of which squandered golden opportunities in prime advertising real estate.

Treasure Island Resort and Casino’s name and toucan mascot feel a little misleading when you realize it’s located in Welch, MN. But that explains why it appeared along the boards and behind the net a whopping 36 times at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul. On the surface, 36 ad opportunities seems strong; the game going to a shootout certainly didn’t hurt either. Yet, I’m not sure that banking on digital advertisements imposed artificially was the right use of resources.

For now, the technology is finicky, rigid and distracting. These are three traits I would prefer my brand not be associated with. In fairness, this argument could be made against any of the ads that pop up digitally at the Xcel Energy Center. But, when your ad is far and away the most repetitive, a frustrated audience need not look far for an outlet.

Operators had to be creative during World Cup coverage

Considering the structure of the game (no scheduled television timeouts) and the location of the tournament, gambling advertisers had to be creative at this year’s World Cup. The only available time for commercials to air is halftime. So, when your name is called you better make it count, and I don’t believe Betano did.

In the four games I watched, there were five betting advertisements at halftime – one for Bet365 and four for Betano. Despite owning a virtual, albeit miniscule, monopoly on the halftime betting ad slot, Betano’s commercial lacked polish. The ad depicts a hockey rink, with players on the ice, slowly turning until a soccer pitch sets in. To me, this promotes irresponsible gaming practices. It suggests users should bet on whatever sport is currently live for no reason other than that.

In all likelihood, this ad would not influence the average bettor. Yet, it sets a dangerous precedent for vulnerable audiences and should reconsider the unintended consequences of its message.

Ontario’s hyper competitive gambling market

As operators jockey for market share, here’s the state of competition in Ontario’s market.

These are the operators that are live in Ontario:

OperatorLaunch Date
888April 4, 2022
Apollo Entertainment (Captain Cooks, Casino Classic, Golden Tiger Casino, Grand Mondial Casino, Luxury Casino, Yukon Gold Casino, Zodiac Casino)Oct. 28, 2022
Bally BetJuly 20, 2022
Bet365April 4, 2022
Bet99Oct. 31, 2022
BetanoOct. 17, 2022
BetMGMApril 4, 2022
BetRiversApril 4, 2022
BetVictorSept. 27, 2022
BetwayAug. 1, 2022
bwinApril 12, 2022
Cadtree (Jackpot City, Royal Vegas, Ruby Fortune, Spin Casino)Aug. 10, 2022
CaesarsApril 4, 2022
CanPlay CasinoOct. 28, 2022
Casino DaysJan. 24, 2023
CasumoOct. 28, 2022
ComeOn!June 13, 2022
ConquestadorJan. 10, 2023
CoolBetApril 4, 2022
DraftKingsMay 18, 2022
FallsviewAug. 4, 2022
FanDuelApril 4, 2022
High Flyer CasinoDec. 8, 2022
LeoVegasApril 4, 2022
Lucky DaysNov. 2, 2022
Mansion Casino (Play-ON casino.com, Play-ON mansioncasino.com)Nov. 2, 2022
Nitro CasinoOct. 13, 2022
NorthStar BetsMay 9, 2022
PartyApril 12, 2022
PinnacleOct. 25, 2022
PokerStarsJune 28, 2022
PointsBetApril 4, 2022
Proline (OLG)*August, 2021
RivalryApril 4, 2022
Royal PandaApril 4, 2022
SkillOnNet (PlayOjo, SlotsMagic, SpinGenie, KnightSlots sites)June 13, 2022
Spin AwayNov. 2, 2022
Sports InteractionAug. 29, 2022
theScore BetApril 4, 2022
TWHG (Casigo, Casimba, DreamVegas, FireVegas, Gate 777, Hello Casino, Jackpot Village, Playzee)April 4, 2022
UnibetApril 4, 2022
WSOPSept. 30, 2022
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Matthew Lomon

Born in Mississauga, ON in the year 2000, Matthew Lomon grew up surrounded by sports as a fan and participant. He played baseball at both the AAA and Elite levels, travelling across Canada and the United States. After his playing career, Matthew attended Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly known as Ryerson), graduating with distinction in the Spring of 2022 with a degree in Professional Communication.

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