Assessing the Exposure of Young People to Gambling Marketing Through Sport on the Island of Ireland.

Erin McEvoy, P J Kitchin, Aphra Kerr, John O'Brennan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Commercial associations between sport and organizations that promote potentially harmful products raises some critical issues for government and sport regulators and current practices in the marketing of sport (Thomas, et al., 2018). Harmful products such as gambling are communicated through sport to children and young people. As yet the impact of this exposure to gambling marketing on children and young peoples’ attitudes in Ireland is underexplored. This presentation and the research it is based on seeks to address this. We seek to examine the exposure of children and young people to sports gambling marketing; explore children and young people on the prevalence and strategies used to market gambling services using live sport; and, understand the influence of gambling marketing on their attitudes towards gambling and sport.

The explosion of gambling advertising across sport broadcast platforms since the British government deregulated gambling in 2005, combined with the ease of access facilitated by smartphone technology has resulted in the ‘gamblification’ of sport (Lopez-Gonzalez & Griffith, 2018). This has also had an impact throughout the island of Ireland given their shared media and sporting ecosystems. The frequency of gambling advertising on broadcast and social media across Ireland has increased exponentially over the last decade and is particularly prevalent around and within live sports programmes.
The theoretical framework guiding this research draws upon grounded approaches (Shaw, 2015). Consumer culture and mediatisation frames young consumers’ thoughts and decisions around patterns of behaviour and sense-making (Reith, 2005).

This study adopts a qualitative research design and uses focus groups for data collection. Once ethical approval was gained, a purposive sampling approach was used by engaging with local sports clubs and youth groups in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. To reduce the potential for satisficing responses and peer pressure, each focus group mixes three age cohorts (14-15, 16-17, 18-24). The transcripts are being inductively analysed to identify emergent ‘superordinate’ categories and sub-topics.

Findings are preliminary but initial analysis indicate strong awareness of gambling marketing from young people irrespective of geographic location. However, there are differences within the different age ranges in the study. For participants aged 14-15, gambling is a normalised and acceptable part of sport. For this group, there is a lack of awareness of the harms that could arise from gambling. Participants under 18 were not questioned on their gambling activity and to mitigate any harms, if participants under 18 mentioned personal involvement in gambling activity, all conversation was redirected away from the topic. However, some participants under 18 referenced an awareness that peers were gambling in private syndicates or online with operators. In addition, there was a misunderstanding within this group about the strategies used by gambling operators to target young people, incorrectly associating boasting with success. This raises concerns around the impact of influential figures on social media and their influence on young people’s attitude to gambling.

For those aged 16 – 17, gambling is a normalised part of sport. Participants within this age range are aware of sport sponsorship and marketing strategies through social media. At times, the participants shared concerns related to personal participation in gambling activity. There is an awareness within this group of potential gambling related harms. Finally, for participants over 18, gambling is a normalised and acceptable part of sport. This age range are aware of, and understand marketing strategies. Throughout the fieldwork, these older participants referenced humorous content and free bets, or incentives to gamble through sport, as a normalised, enjoyable part of social sport fandom that is a common and shared experience.

These findings provide an important contribution to our understanding of the exposure, awareness and influence of gambling marketing through sport on young people throughout the island of Ireland. Early findings suggest marketing strategies used by gambling operators are influencing the perceptions, acceptability, and normalisation of gambling amongst children and young people. This raises concerns about the potential uptake and participation of young people in gambling related activity now, and in the future, as they transition from childhood into early adolescence and adulthood.

Upon completion, the findings will contribute to the understanding of youth experiences with gambling marketing through sport and discussions pertaining to sport marketing and health. In addition, the findings could inform the development of legislative measures on both sides of the border which aim to protect young people from substantial exposure to gambling marketing and better regulate the marketing strategies of gambling companies on traditional broadcast and social media.
Original languageEnglish
Subtitle of host publication31st European Association for Sport Management Conference
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished online - 1 Oct 2023
EventEuropean Association for Sport Management Conference: Forward Thinking in Sport Management:
Inclusivity, Accessibility, and Sustainability - Europa Hotel, Belfast
Duration: 12 Sept 202315 Oct 2023
Conference number: 31


ConferenceEuropean Association for Sport Management Conference
Abbreviated titleEASM23
Internet address


  • Gambling
  • youth
  • marketing
  • social media


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing the Exposure of Young People to Gambling Marketing Through Sport on the Island of Ireland.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this