businessman holding large amount of bills at Soccer stadium in background

Global sports sponsorship is one market growing rapidly today. Because of this rise, more companies are considering this option as part of their marketing strategies. Interestingly, even those brands that aren’t related to sports have tasted the cake. So much so that experts estimate the sports sponsorship market at USD$64.8B in 2021

Furthermore, experts project a 7.5% annual growth rate until 2030. Although sports sponsorships have experienced a sustained expansion over 20 years, this sector also faces a lot of criticism. Most critics have been the fans and sports media, with the biggest losers being gambling companies.

Nevertheless, sponsorship still plays a vital role in most sporting events. It’ll always be a standard in sports, especially in the digital age. Despite the scrutiny gambling sponsorships have faced in recent years, it is still widespread even at the highest level of the English football, the English Premier League (EPL). 

Everton F.C. announced that their major sponsor for the 2022–2023 season is crypto betting giant,, who also sponsors Watford F.C., who plays in the English Football League Championship (EFL) this season. In addition, has partnered with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 2021, not to mention superstars like Sergio Agüero and Israel Adesanya.

But why do these companies treasure such deals? You’ll need to know how sponsorship marketing works to understand why many companies target the sports industry. 

Sponsorship marketing

Sponsorship marketing is one strategy where a company funds an event headed by another for mutual benefit. Usually, the sponsoring party benefits by getting a platform to advertise its products. Although it’s not a necessity, both parties often share the same market base but aren’t direct competitors.

For instance, a sports fan is likely to bet on sports events or try online gaming. So it makes perfect sense for a gambling company to partner with a sports club. 

Also, most television networks televise sporting events like football and basketball. This has made it an even more attractive investment for betting firms, especially those looking to expand their reach. For example, sponsoring an EPL club gives the funding party access to over 1 billion homes worldwide. This number means at least 3 billion people worldwide can see the company’s logo on the players’ shirts. 

This visibility doesn’t come cheap, though. Of course, it all depends on the nature of the deal and the club’s fan base. A famous basketball or football team like the LA Lakers or Manchester United will demand more on the deal. But even those smaller-market clubs can still get multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals.

The rise of gambling sponsorship in sports

Gambling companies have found a home on team kits regardless of the sport. is one name you’re likely to see on these shirts or stadium screens. This company has become popular as one of the largest gambling websites. It sponsors Twitch Streamers, the UFC, rapper Drake, and has handled over 80 billion transactions reportedly.

This demonstrates how big the crypto gambling business is and has become, and sports leagues around the world are happy to accept the sponsorship money. But when did it start and how is it performing today?

Gambling sponsorship in sports became prevalent in the 21st century even though it has existed for quite some time. Fulham was among the first top-flight football clubs to strike a deal with a betting firm. It was the first PL team to adorn a gambling company as its main shirt sponsor. More clubs joined the mix in the following years with the number rising to half of the Premier League teams in 2019. 

Spain’s top-flight football league, La Liga, has also had its fair share of revenues of this ever-growing market. In the 2019/20 season, eight La Liga clubs featured a gambling company on the front of their shirts. The number reduced to seven the following season before the Spanish government banned these deals. In the 2021/22 campaign, there were no betting sponsors in the Spanish league. More on this later in the article.

You can’t avoid mentioning the National Basketball Association (NBA) in any discussion about top sports leagues. The NBA also has its story to tell with gambling sponsorship deals. It became the first major sports league in the United States to go that route. One of the world’s best basketball leagues struck a deal in 2018 to have a betting firm as its main sponsor. The National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Soccer (MLS) followed NBA’s footsteps the same year. 

In summary, here are the main sports leagues that have partnered with betting companies in one way or another within the past two decades:

  • English Premier League (U.K.)
  • English Football League Championship (U.K.)
  • Ligue 1 (France)
  • La Liga (Spain) – gambling sponsor ban imposed in 2021
  • Bundesliga (Germany) – zero beneficiaries in the 2022/23 season
  • Serie A (Italy) – banned since 2019 but the ban could be lifted soon
  • Major League Soccer (USA)
  • National Basketball Association (USA)
  • WNBA (USA)
  • National Hockey League (USA)
  • Ultimate Fighting Championship (USA)

A strained relationship 

Gambling sponsorship has faced huge reproof, especially in football. Other fans, government officials, and sports media worked together against sponsors in the betting industry. This scrutiny intensified over the past few years in the major European football leagues. 

For instance, the Premier League’s view on these sponsorship deals has been a controversial topic for some time now. Being the most watched football league worldwide, you can understand why this subject will always be on the front pages. Although some clubs have made individual decisions, no official ban has been imposed in the U.K.

On the other hand, the Italian top-flight football league went a step further. Serie A instigated a year-long ban against betting firm sponsorships in the 2019/20 season. Among the main victims of this move was the 2020 Serie A champions, Juventus. The Old Lady, as they’re called, cut ties with the club’s official betting company.

Coincidentally, Juventus finished fourth twice in the following seasons, having won the Scudetto for a record nine consecutive times. The Serie A giants are currently struggling financially, and that’s the same story with the 2020/21 champions, Inter Milan. This shows the significant role gambling partners play in the Italian league. 

Spain’s La Liga followed Serie A’s suit and banned gambling-related sponsorship deals. Clubs sponsored by betting firms were allowed to see off the 2020/21 season. However, after this season, they’d have to find another sponsor. Granada, Levante UD, Sevilla, and Real Betis are among the six clubs affected by the ban.

Why are gambling sponsorships criticized? 

So why is there a strained relationship between these sponsors and the football community? One reason many people are against it is the exposure that gambling companies get. Given that a good percentage of football fans is underage, you can understand the perspective of the critics.

In a survey on gambling behavior in 2018, children as young as 11 in the U.K. admitted to betting regularly. Most said the ads they saw on TV influenced them. This report only focused on minors in the U.K., but the problem is widespread across all demographics and sports leagues. Some have even lost their assets because of gambling.

Of course, the blame can’t be pinned squarely on gambling sponsorships alone. In fact, authorities expect every licensed company to remind their users of responsible gambling. Most, if not all, have gone as far as adjusting their policies to regulate their clients’ betting activities. 

However, fans, media personalities, and other stakeholders aren’t satisfied with those changes. They note that the screentime these brands get has an impact on their target market’s overall gambling behavior. 

While seated at home watching a live match, you’re likely to see a gambling ad pop on the side or the bottom of your screen. This is in addition to these companies’ logos on the shirts and club’s digital platforms. A few years ago, gambling companies agreed to stop showing those pop-up ads on the TV screens. But very little has changed since that agreement was official. 

Brands target live matches to push their advertisements because they get wide coverage across the globe. Major European leagues, especially the Premier League, are among the most watched sports events. Perhaps this is the reason the football world is more vocal than any other sport on this matter. 

Benefits of gambling sponsorships in sports

Sports and betting are mutually beneficial. Therefore, separating the two, even on the level of sponsorships, can be challenging. There are ongoing discussions across major leagues regarding the future of gambling sponsorships. But even as these talks continue, how good are these deals and who is always the beneficiary?

It’s worth noting that both the sponsor and the sports club benefit from this relationship. Here is a general overview of the advantages of having gambling sponsorships in place:

  • Clubs receive financial support

The most obvious benefit to either party is the financial support that the club receives during the sponsor’s term. For example, signed a GBP£10m-a-year shirt deal with Everton. The Toffees will receive UK£10m (USD$10.9m) every season if the two parties part ways. 

Every club, regardless of the sport, needs money to run their operations. This includes paying the staff, maintaining and renovating their facilities, and other projects necessary for matchday activities.

Therefore, the money generated from sponsorship deals is vital for the stability of these clubs. It’s no coincidence that some top clubs in Italy are struggling financially after being forced to part ways with their gambling sponsors.

  • Sponsors advertisement platforms

As mentioned earlier, both partners in a marketing sponsorship enjoy some form of benefit. In sports, gambling sponsors get an excellent platform to market their products. Depending on the agreement, they can have their logos shown on the club’s digital platforms or on the club’s kits.

The amount paid by sponsors depends on the amount of coverage they’re likely to enjoy. As such, they tend to spend more on teams that have a solid base. The popularity of the sport also matters. For instance, a team in the English, Spanish, or Italian league is likely to charge more because of their guaranteed huge exposure.

  • Clubs can build their fan base

Another reason why some clubs enter into such deals is to expand their fan base. The gambling company may use its database to market merchandise and tickets to people who might not be diehard fans of the sport. Depending on the team’s status and the entertainment they offer, they might just win new fans. It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that this isn’t the main reason why clubs go for gambling sponsors.

  • Sponsors are better placed to sell to the fans

Most sports fans usually prefer to wager with a betting company linked to their favorite team. This is why many gambling companies have invested in partnering with a sports team or association. Of course, marketing during matches is already beneficial, but targeting the fans of the clubs they sponsor enhances their conversion rate. 

Final thoughts

The future of gambling sponsorships in sports, especially football, is impossible to predict. A partnership that has been embraced for many years is currently facing criticism from sports fans. There is no denying that the gambling sector has had both positive and negative impacts on various sports. 

For example, top European football clubs have benefited directly from the money generated through these sponsorship deals. This is evident in the U.K.’s Premier League, Italy’s Serie A, Spain’s La Liga, and League 1 in France. Other sports have also enjoyed these benefits, with NBA becoming the first major U.S. sports league to have a betting firm as the official league sponsor. The NHL, NFL, and UFC are other beneficiaries of gambling sponsorship deals.

One negative effect the sports community experiences is that these deals normalize gambling. Minors have become more involved in betting activities than ever. As such, government officials in countries including Spain and Italy have banned such sponsorships. The U.K. government is also looking to follow suit. 

So what next for the partners? It’s a controversial subject because the current situation is a tug-of-war between governments and the sponsorship partners (sponsors and clubs). For instance, the Italian Football Association is already urging the Italian government to lift the ban instigated in 2019. Hopefully, all stakeholders will come to an agreement that benefits everyone involved.