Brand Strategy Live Events Ladbrokes

Why Ladbrokes is taking the gamble to reposition itself as an entertainment brand


By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

July 31, 2023 | 7 min read

We catch up with brand boss Kelly Rose and PR director Simon Clare to hear all about their transformation plans.

Ladbrokes wants to be known for entertainment not gambling

Ladbrokes wants to be known for entertainment not gambling / Ladbrokes

British gambling company Ladbrokes has struck deals with The O2, AEG and NME as it launches its Ladbrokes Live platform, which gives customers a chance to win tickets to live events.

The new investment is a major move for Ladbrokes, which is aiming to reposition itself as an entertainment brand that is separate from its gambling business in the eyes of consumers.

Kelly Rose, formerly senior global brand manager at Vodafone, came in a year ago as head of brand for Ladbrokes and was tasked with shaping this entertainment strategy.

“The brand is on a journey to move the perception from being this gambling giant and into being an entertainment brand – and you can’t do that without actually meaning it,” she says. “It’s one thing to talk about entertainment and another to be credible in delivering live entertainment.”

Ladbrokes Live is a gamified platform that allows existing and new customers to win free gig tickets for every event at The O2, which could span comedy, sports and music.

The partnership with NME, Rose says, will help Ladbrokes build credibility in the music industry. “We can’t just arrive into the music industry – it’s an industry that has a very delicate fabric wrapped around it – so we want to make sure we do it in the right way. Our partnerships with NME will really help that because it is obviously very intertwined into that fabric of the music industry.”

As part of the collaboration, Ladbrokes will help bring back NME club nights, with a series of dates booked across the UK with free tickets up for grabs through the platform.

Ladbrokes started its music journey in 2021, tapping the indie band the Subways to soundtrack its Euros advert ‘Drummers’ before staging a live event with the band. Its second foray, also in 2021, was at Liverpool’s iconic The Cavern Club, where the bookmaker hosted a Ladbrokes Amplify gig.

Simon Clare, PR director at Ladbrokes, was behind the first push into live in 2021. He says: “That was the first step into trying to present the Ladbrokes brand differently, to different audiences, and not approaching betting so much but celebrating sports and music. We understood the potential for taking this course of direction into music, but we knew then that we had to do it at scale with big credible partners.”

That is when Ladbrokes started working with M&C Saatchi Sports and Entertainment to identify big partners to make a “substantial” push.

Its entertainment platform will sit separately from its sports betting and casino business and Rose says that separation is crucial. “It’s a reappraisal piece for the brand. It is positioning us in entertainment and we want to signal something different from the brand itself – we don’t want to have it sort of as an additional product within our football betting suite or something like that.”

She admits that it’s hard to stand out within the betting market, with everyone competing on odds and shouting loudly in and around sporting events. The hope is that the pivot will give Ladbrokes “a real concrete personality” in consumers’ minds.

The product will also be marketed very differently, with Ladbrokes leaning more into digital marketing and PR and taking out ad spots at live events. The new media plan is to ensure the project is launched in the right way and to a new audience.

“If we come at them [new audience] with some sort of football or casino proposition, they might not be open to considering us as a brand, but if we start to talk to us about entertainment, they may look at Ladbrokes in a different light,” says Rose.

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Gambling advertising regulation

There has been a noticeable trend of gambling brands turning to the event and entertainment space as the industry faces increased crackdowns on advertising. Ad-funded content has been one avenue, with the likes of Flutter-owned Sky Bet funding an ITV documentary about jockey Daryl Jacobs and Coral’s 10-part ITV doc Against The Odds. Paddy Power also entered the scripted comedy space with The Mascot and The VAR Room.

“With the whitepapers and things that are going around, nobody really knows what the future regulations will be,” says Rose. Ladbrokes has been hit with two Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ad bans since the latest regulation came into force prohibiting the use of personalities that appeal to under-18s.

“It has been a moving beast in the betting sphere with the ASA and the CAP code and some of it is a little subjective,” adds Clare. “You learn as you go a little a bit.”

For this latest launch, Clare says the team is being “clearly cognizant” of the regulations in how it is building the platform, its marketing methods and the talent it uses. “It’s all going through a rigorous sieve to ensure we are conducting it within all the rules surrounding our sector,” he says.

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