Influencer marketing in gambling and gaming
WITH A HIGHER ROI THAN OTHER PROMOTIONAL TOOLS, INFLUENCER MARKETING IS GAINING GROUND BUT ITS USE SHOULD COME WITH A WARNING LABEL
Influencer marketing has emerged as a powerful promotional tool across various industries in recent years. For the past six years, the influencer marketing industry’s average annual global growth rate was 46.9 percent and a considerable part of this relates to the gaming and gambling industries. These sectors have capitalized on this trend, employing influencers to promote their products and engage with their target audience. However, the intersection of influencer marketing, gaming, and gambling raises several legal and ethical concerns. This article explores its underlying implications, analyzing the current legal framework, potential risks, and ethical considerations associated with this practice.
The rise of influencer marketing
The atomization of media has brought both marketing challenges and opportunities. Depending on the product and the audience being targeted, a homogenous approach to advertising no longer works. Reusing content between channels also has limited effectiveness. Having said that, the power of the internet to spawn new relationships and specialist communities can bring powerful new ways for companies to promote their products. Influencer marketing has emerged as a way for those streaming content to monetize their channels and has revolutionized the ways in which companies promote their products and engage with consumers. The gaming and gambling are among the industries to have recognized the power of influencers to reach their target audience, fostering brand loyalty, and driving revenue.
In this context, it is important to make a distinction between influencers and celebrities. The faces of the big luxury brands may be rewarded through their social media activities but this is different from those who have achieved influence through their social media content and channels. They are followed for the value and authority of their content rather than for who they are. Streamers are “humans like us” fostering a sense of proximity with the viewers and making their influence much stronger. They are the beneficiaries of the democratization of content generation and provision. This contrasts with celebrities whose “god-like” appearances are deployed by brands.
The impact of influencers over the past few years in gaming and gambling is not extraneous to the fact that “gamers tend to consume relatively small amounts of television or other sources of traditional advertising”. Streaming has emerged as a powerful way of reaching this growing segment of the market and it is now widely acknowledged that the return on investment from influencer marketing is generally higher than that seen from other channels.
Whilst the value of influencer marketing is now accepted, its use is not without challenges especially in the gaming and gambling industries. This article explores the dynamics of influencer marketing in gaming and gambling, shedding light on the legal and ethical dimensions surrounding this practice.
Using influencer marketing and gaming and gambling
The first aspect to consider is the legal framework governing advertising in gaming and gambling. Advertising standards, disclosure requirements, and age restrictions are crucial in ensuring responsible marketing practices. Gaming and gambling companies must comply with these regulations to protect consumers, particularly vulnerable individuals such as minors. A central example of a legal framework with strong regulation over advertising in the industry is the United Kingdom, with two specific laws, namely the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct and Promotional Marketing (CAP Code)4 and the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code).
Influencer marketing and its related activities involve endorsements, necessitating compliance with relevant guidelines such as the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) endorsement guidelines. These guidelines aim to ensure transparency and prevent deceptive advertising practices. Influencers must disclose their relationships with brands, whether through monetary compensation, free products, or partnerships, to avoid misleading consumers. Clever Advertising is among a number of affiliates that adds value by acting as a content mediator in the relationship between remote gambling operators and influencers so that the content is duly validated and trustworthy.
Influencers often use copyrighted content in their promotional materials, such as gameplay footage or logos. Reaching agreement over intellectual property rights is essential to avoid infringement claims and legal disputes. Gaming and gambling companies should provide proper licensing or permissions to influencers to use their copyrighted materials.
The gambling industry is subject to specific regulations, varying across jurisdictions. Influencers promoting gambling-related content must adhere to these regulations to prevent illegal activities and protect vulnerable individuals. Responsible gambling messaging, age verification mechanisms, and compliance with gambling laws are crucial in this context. This responsibility is shared by the various players in the industry, namely operators and affiliates. Affiliates like Clever Advertising work with influencers with a track record of ethical and responsible promotions concerning the Gamble Aware principles.
Risks and challenges
Targeting Minors: The gaming and gambling industries face scrutiny and sanction for potentially targeting underage individuals and this extends to promotion through influencer marketing. Implementing age verification mechanisms and incorporating responsible gambling messaging is imperative. Companies should ensure that influencers’ content is not appealing to or accessible by minors, especially when promoting gambling-related products or services. Cooperation should be limited to influencers that actively promote +18 warnings, not only when live streaming but also when conducting any other kind of promotion.
Problem Gambling: Influencers, by definition, are in a position to influence their followers’ behavior, potentially exacerbating a gambling addiction. Responsible gambling messaging and clear disclosures regarding risks associated with gambling are vital to counteract this issue. Companies must work closely with influencers to promote responsible gambling practices, provide accurate information about odds and dangers, and encourage healthy gaming habits. Using tools like Twitch’s IC4U allows advertisers to track the numbers of the campaigns carried out by the influencers, the sums of money spent, the length of time influencers played for and the products through which they actually gambled. This tracking is vital when it comes to anticipating any behaviors that would be likely to incentivize the audience to play in a non-responsible way.
Deceptive Advertising: Failure to disclose sponsorship or a commercial relationship with a brand may mislead consumers and breach advertising regulations. Clear and conspicuous disclosures are essential to maintain transparency and consumer trust. Gaming and gambling companies must educate influencers as to the importance of disclosure and monitor their activities to ensure compliance.
Social Media Platforms: Influencers predominantly operate on social media platforms, which have their own policies and regulations. Understanding the terms of service, privacy rules, and content guidelines is necessary to avoid account suspension or legal consequences. Companies and influencers should be fully informed as to platform-specific regulations and adapt their marketing strategies accordingly. On the other hand, both remote gambling operators and advertisers have a social responsibility to ensure they only cooperate with influencers whose use of social media platforms promotes only suitable content, complies with Gamble Aware principles, and is non-deceptive.
Influencer Authenticity: Maintaining authenticity is crucial in influencer marketing. Influencers should genuinely connect with their audience and align with the values of the gaming and gambling industries they represent. Disclosure of sponsorships and transparent communication about brand partnerships help preserve trust and credibility. In addition to this, all activities involving influencers and live streaming of gaming and gambling should be performed using ‘real money’, as the use of ‘fake money’ compromises authenticity and contributes to a discrediting of this kind of activity. The responsibility for using actual money also falls on the operators and advertisers that intermediate the relationship with influencers, being “guardians” of the legitimacy of influencers’ promotions.
Transparency and Disclosure: Influencers should disclose their relationships with brands to ensure transparency and prevent deceptive practices. This promotes ethical conduct and protects consumer interests. Gaming and gambling companies should work closely with influencers to establish clear disclosure guidelines and monitor compliance.
Responsible Gambling: Messaging: Influencers should uphold ethical responsibilities by promoting responsible gambling practices, providing accurate information, and encouraging healthy gaming habits. Collaborating with organizations specializing in responsible gambling initiatives can provide valuable guidance and resources for influencers and companies.
Mental Health and Well-being: Gaming and gambling can have psychological impacts. Influencers should be mindful of the potential adverse effects on their audience and provide access to support and resources when necessary. Promoting mental health awareness, responsible gaming habits, and providing access to helplines or counselling services demonstrates ethical responsibility.
Influencer marketing in the gaming and gambling industries has become a significant component of businesses’ promotional strategies. However, it is essential to navigate this terrain carefully, considering the legal framework, associated risks, and ethical considerations. Adhering to advertising regulations, implementing responsible gambling messaging, ensuring transparency, and protecting vulnerable individuals are all crucial to the safe and effect conduct of influencer marketing campaigns in the gaming and gambling sectors.
Moreover, collaboration between influencers, gaming and gambling companies, and regulatory bodies can further enhance responsible influencer marketing practices. This collaboration can include the development of industry-specific guidelines and best practices that address the unique challenges faced by the gaming and gambling sectors.
It is also essential to highlight the role of education and awareness in influencer marketing. Influencers should be well-informed as to the legal requirements, advertising regulations, and responsible gambling practices to ensure compliance and ethical conduct. Industry associations and regulatory bodies can provide resources, training, and guidance to influencers and content creators.
In conclusion, influencer marketing in the gaming and gambling industries has transformed the way brands engage with their target audience. However, considering the legal and ethical implications, this practice must be approached carefully. Adherence to advertising regulations, endorsement guidelines, intellectual property rights, and gambling regulations is essential to avoid legal consequences.
Furthermore, companies and influencers must be aware of the potential risks associated with influencer marketing, such as targeting minors, promoting problem gambling, engaging in deceptive advertising practices, and the complexities of social media platforms. Implementing responsible gambling messaging, age verification mechanisms, clear and conspicuous disclosures, and maintaining authenticity and transparency are critical factors in mitigating these risks.
Influencer marketing in gaming and gambling can be a powerful and responsible tool for brand promotion where the legal framework is understood, potential risks addressed, and ethical standards upheld. Stakeholders in these industries must collaborate with and educate influencers to ensure responsible and ethical practices prioritizing consumer protection and well-being.
Influencer marketing will continue to evolve and shape the gaming and gambling sectors. By navigating this landscape with legal compliance, transparency, and a solid ethical framework, companies and influencers can harness the potential of influencer marketing while maintaining consumer trust and promoting responsible behaviour.