The rise of social media platforms in the digital age have provided companies and businesses with an opportunity to market their goods and services at a wider and more targeted audience (Saravanakumar, 2012). Media companies, retailers, and most other industries are now using social media in some sort of fashion, to widen their reach and influence to consumers, on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, or attract suitable employees on websites such as LinkedIn (Saravanakumar, 2012). However, it is the online betting and gambling industry that has managed to alter its marketing style effectively through social media. With one in four individuals expected to be active on at least one social media platform, and with the international number of users expected to rise to 2.6 billion in 2018, the potential for companies to turn users into customers is of paramount importance for online marketers (eMarketer, 2013). Boyd (2010) states that “people flock to them [social network sites] to socialize with their friends and acquaintances, to share information with interested others, and to see and be seen” (Boyd, 2010, p1). The ‘seeing’ aspect of this is of particularly interest to wagering companies as advertising within the industry has traditionally been regulated due to fears about the normalization of gambling, which may lead to dangerous habits (Boyd, 2010; Gainsbury, 2016). The rapid evolution of the Internet and social platforms has meant regulators and policy makers have been left behind when it comes to social media marketing and brand exposure (Gainsbury, 2016).
Online betting companies, such as Paddy Power, Bet 365, and Coral have quickly become popular companies to follow on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Research has shown that betting companies have the largest brand marketing presence on Facebook, which is the most used social platform in Australia and the rest of the world with 1.1 billion active users every month (Gainsbury, 2016; Raco, 2014; O’Loughlin, 2013). This is a likely result as betting agencies tend to have their core business based online, and so employing tactics, that entice previous and new punters are useful when devices to set wagers can also be accessed through online platforms (Gainsbury, 2016). With 89% of the population using a social media and networking account for and an average of 2 hours a day, Australia is clearly a country that is very ‘connected’ and therefore these users are very likely to come into contact with online advertisement campaigns run by betting agencies (We Are Social, 2014). In Australia, four betting companies were added to the list of the top 100 brands on twitter, which included the 4th most popular account to be Sportsbet (Gainsbury, 2016). Similarly, with 1,885,931 views and 268 subscribers Ladbrokes.com.au was listed as being the 79th most popular Australian YouTube brand (Gainsbury, 2016). This suggests that although Australian betting agencies are having quite a lot of success on social media platforms, they are not gaining as much online traction as other companies such as Paddy Power.
Paddy Power is an Irish-owned online bookmakers that has recently become a powerhouse in the betting industry. Many have suggested that this recent increase in market share is down to the company’s success at employing engaging social media marketing and branding techniques (Litsa, 2016). Paddy Power has consistently succeeded at gaining publicity by running a number of controversial campaigns and adopting a brand that revolves around ‘mischief ‘ and ‘boyish’ humor. Jonathan Devitt, the display and social media manager for Paddy Power, has himself stated that the company has adopted a “social brand that’s quite funny, edgy, and a bit rude and irreverent” (Devitt, 2012). Paddy Power’s main platform for creating a social buzz online is Facebook, where the companies page currently has over 1.4 million likes (Hebberd, 2017). When this is compared to other betting agencies such as William Hill (503,000 likes) and Sky Bet (480,000 likes), it exhibits the dominating social media influence that Paddy Power possesses (Hebberd, 2017). Paddy Power’s Facebook page tailors itself towards its target audience, sports fans, by uploading relatable content that is designed to not only entertain and humor, but on occasion also surprise and shock (Litsa, 2016). Gainsbury (2016) notes that “exposure to content posted on social media… goes well beyond those who elect to follow various brands (Gainsbury, 2016). In this way Paddy Power has had widespread success on Facebook by uploading user-contributed content such as videos and sports memes, which in turn tend to gain a reaction from the companies followers which then allows the brand to appear in the news feeds of people connected to the followers (Hebberd, 2017). Paddy Power’s whole premise on social media focuses around the idea of ‘engagement’, which sees the company regularly reply to comments from followers which gives the impression that Paddy Power is “one of the lads” (Hebberd, 2017). Marwick (2013), cites “to quote The Investors Business Daily, ‘user-contributed content will forever change online media- and the entire media business” (Marwick, 2013). Therefore this doesn’t just effect media businesses, but bookies too as it gives followers a sense that they are almost friends with Paddy Power, which in turn boosts customer loyalty (Litsa, 2016). The company also advertises its own brand on different social media platforms such as Twitter and Snapchat, which spreads it’s influence on these platforms, as well as deeper into users online lives. The mischievous brand that emulates Paddy Power is most prominent on the company’s twitter feed where a constant supply of “laddish” humor is dished out (Hebberd, 2017).
However the companies ‘sense of humor’ can often be seen as controversial. This is perhaps most prominent in the Oscar Pistorius advert and police brutality tweet, which both gained widespread criticism from the media and others online (Hebberd, 2017). With this being said the controversy bought the company widespread attention, not only online but through traditional media outlets too, which is exactly the aim of a company that uses the motto ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’ as a marketing tool. More positively, Paddy Power’s twitter started the hash tag, #PPonTinder which, quickly went viral as the company asked followers for advice on a first date on a twitter thread. By converging two social media platforms, Paddy Power gain widespread attention and even appeared on a number of news websites, which boosted its online influence (Hebberd, 2017). The more attention the and publicity the company brand receives, the more followers on social media are gained, which greatens Paddy Power’s influence.
In conclusion, social media has provided Paddy Power with the ability to not only scale up the number of campaigns that are run, but to also brand the company in such a way that followers and customers think of it as more than just a corporation. This has received some negative attention as researchers are starting to attribute youth gambling issues with the betting industries social media presence. However, this does not change the fact that Paddy Power as a business has successfully incorporated social media into its marketing strategy and risen to dominate the industry (Gainsbury, 2015; Gainsbury, 2016).
Anon, 2015. Bookmakers Paddy Power 'joke' about African-American police beatings. [online] Mail Online. Available at: <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3037500/Bookmakers-Paddy-Power-provoke-outrage-joke-African-American-police-beatings.html> [Accessed 16 Apr. 2017].
Anon, 2014. Paddy Power comes under fire for Oscar Pistorius murder trial betting - Independent.ie. [online] Independent.ie. Available at: <http://www.independent.ie/sport/paddy-power-comes-under-fire-for-oscar-pistorius-murder-trial-betting-30057516.html> [Accessed 16 Apr. 2017].
Anon, 2017. Paddy Power - News & Photos | WVPhotos. [online] WVPhotos.com. Available at: <http://wvphotos.com/paddy-power/> [Accessed 16 Apr. 2017].
Boyd. D. 2010. "Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications." In Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (ed. Zizi Papacharissi), pp. 39-58.
Devitt, J., 2017. Paddy Power and Effective Social Media Solutions. [video] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1FqnAm-bo4&t=1s> [Accessed 16 Apr. 2017].
eMarketer. 2013. Worldwide social network users: 2013 Forecast and comparative estimates. eMarketer. Retrieved from http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Social-Networking-Reaches-Nearly-One-Four-Around-World/1009976.
Gainsbury, S., Delfabbro, P., King, D. and Hing, N., 2016. An Exploratory Study of Gambling Operators’ Use of Social Media and the Latent Messages Conveyed. Journal of Gambling Studies, [online] 32(1), pp.125-141. Available at: <https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10899-015-9525-2> [Accessed 13 Apr. 2017].
Hebberd, L., 2017. How Paddy Power Uses Social Media [CASE STUDY]. [Blog] Link Humans. Available at: <http://linkhumans.com/blog/paddy-power> [Accessed 14 Apr. 2017].
Litsa, T., Litsa, T., Cargill, B., Roberts, A. and DiSilvestro, A., 2015. How Paddy Power stands out from its rivals on Twitter | ClickZ. [online] Clickz.com. Available at: <https://www.clickz.com/how-paddy-power-stands-out-from-rivals-on-twitter/97979/> [Accessed 16 Apr. 2017].
Maina, A., 2017. 20 Popular Social Media Sites Right Now. [online] Small Business Trends. Available at: <https://smallbiztrends.com/2016/05/popular-social-media-sites.html> [Accessed 16 Apr. 2017].
Marwick, A., 2013. Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and branding in the social media age. [online] Available at: <https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-6737738-dt-content-rid-7983816_1/courses/KCB206_17se1/Marwick%2C%20A.%202013.pdf> [Accessed 16 Apr. 2017].
O'Loughlin. H. 2013. Top 10 social media statistics in 2013. Active Network. Retrieved from http://www.activecommunities.com/blog/top-10-social-media-stats-to-watch-2013/. [Google Scholar].
Raco, E. 2014. Aussie teens online. Australian Communications and Media Authority. Retrieved from http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/engage-blogs/engage-blogs/Research-snapshots/Aussie-teens-online
Saravanakumar, M. and Sugantha Lakshimi, T., 2012. Social Media Marketing. Life Science Journal, 9(4), pp.4444-4451.
We Are Social Singapore. 2014. Social, digital and mobile around the world. Slideshare. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/wearesocialsg/social-digital-mobile-around-the-world-january-2014