As the UK betting industry moves increasingly away from the high street and onto the web, competition is intensifying and so advertising becomes hugely important.

The fact is, whether we like it or not, the more a product or service is advertised the more it will sell. That said, the ads have to stand out among the myriad of other televisual suggestions we endure on a daily basis and the way casinos and sportsbooks (such as Bet365, PaddyPower, Unibet…) have gone about it is to engage in shock ads.
As reality TV has shown a culture of words and phrases can be conjured up almost overnight these days, as those believe they are all part of the same ‘gang’ tend to speak the same way and they spread their language via social media. The betting culture has done a similar thing and even managed to change how people perceive the typical gambler.

In years gone by, the image of a run-of-the-mill betting shop punter would have been one of a real bloke’s bloke. Not too bright, talking in slang and shouting at the screen expecting his words to magically reach the jockey and somehow make the little fella try harder. On course, they’d wear a flat cap, tweed, have a member’s badge pinned to their lapel and smoke a big old Churchill.

As unfair as those images may have been, they were born out of a little bit of truth at least but now the culture is altogether different. Betting companies have gone very much down the ‘lad’ route these days and what lads like is a bit of controversy. The firms have responded to this with ads which push the boundaries, nay smash through the boundaries of good society to create an interest which jumps right out of the TV or billboard, through social media and eventually straight back in their tills.

Here we look at some of the most controversial but ultimately successful betting ads produced so far.

Paddy Power: “You’ll Never Walk Again”

Paddy Power betting shop


The Irish firm’s poster, which was displayed around Liverpool at the beginning of 2016, showed a wheelchair labelled “Property of LFC” with a caption stating “You’ll never walk alone… or ever again if you play for Klopp.”

The fact that the ad was campaigned close to the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster made it all the more galling for some and complaints to the ASA were received. Paddy Power stressed that the ad was actually poking fun at the fact that several Liverpool players were out with leg injuries and reports had linked this to the hard training regime put in place by manager Jurgen Klopp.

They stressed that this is was what they were referring to and that they were not trying to make light of anyone’s real disabilities and ASA agreed, allowing the ad to run completely unaltered.

Paddy Power: “Old Ladies”

Another entry from Ireland’s biggest bookmaker who have made it their business to be controversial in recent years, and to be fair it’s gone a long way to giving them a strong market share in the UK

With this ad, Paddy Power depicted two old ladies crossing the road, each with odds above them; 4/1 & 2/1. There is a large 4×4 approaching them, the caption on the ad reading “Let’s make things more interesting”. The ad was the most complained-about in 2002, the old dears themselves not too happy about its approach!

Paddy Power did respond, saying “We were clearly betting on who would get across the road first. Some people got the impression that the menacing 4×4 in the background meant we were betting on which of the grannies would be run over”. Yeah, OK Pad!

Ladbrokes: “The Climb”

Ladbrokes betting shop

Britain’s biggest high street firm released this TV ad back in 2009, featuring famed climber Nolbert Fernandez. During the ad, Nolbert talks about his friend and fellow climber Pedro who couldn’t get enough excitement, so he was creating bigger and more difficult challenges for himself. Eventually, Pedro attempted to climb a mountain with his hands tied behind his back and using only his chin. This of course ended in tragedy.

The advert then switches to Nolbert’s laptop screen displaying, the climber explaining that Pedro could have avoided his death if he had decided to play on Ladbrokes instead, satisfying his need for thrills. The ad was a success in that viewers were shocked and reacted to the campaign, but the regulators didn’t see it the same way. It took just a single report for them to remove the ad for good, stating it encouraged reckless behaviour.

William Hill: “Being Too Sexy”

William Hill betting shop


William Hill, another high street giant looking to keep up with the new boys online, created a TV ad for their live casino which was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority , essentially for being “too sexy.” The ad begins by focusing on the eyes of a live female dealer before the camera pans down across her chest and eventually to the roulette wheel.
Although the shot of the dealer’s chest was brief, the ASA concluded that too much focus was put on the “sensual parts,” which put the ad in breach of advertising regulations. Although Hill’s tried to fight this decision, the ad was banned.

Paddy Power: “Jesus Chris Heals Italian Football”

The kings of controversy managed to excel back in 2012 with an ad which was banned by three major Italian television broadcasters. The ad was created to mark the launch of Paddy Power’s Italian website and featured what was meant to be Jesus Christ, on a mission to heal Italian football.
The ad was commissioned on the back of Italy’s 2011 scandal when a number of people were arrested over allegedly being involved in mass match-fixing across the country. Text on the ad read “Betting on this football? Only if a miracle heals it.” Of course Jesus fixes it, healing crippled footballers and filling stadiums with fans. Probably not a great idea showing it a stone’s throw from Vatican City though.

We can surely expect more of these as the firms look to advertise with the times and, at the very least, they are entertaining you’d have to admit!