One of the most significant events in 2023 was the Premier League’s decision to ban gambling advertising on the front side of the football kits. Spain’s LaLiga, another top European league, removed gambling advertising from the front of its clubs’ shirts in the top two divisions starting in 2021.
However, for many businesses, having their logo on the front of athletes’ jerseys is not only respectable and creates a lot of competitiveness, but it also has a lot of marketing benefits: global awareness, fan involvement, new alliances, sports support, and, of course, increases in recognition and subsequently, revenue.
In recent years, governments in Eastern Europe and post-Soviet countries have taken serious steps to regulate gambling advertising. Although some countries still allow gambling sponsorships, logo placement on shirts, advertising in stadiums, and naming stadiums.
Ukraine is most likely one of the countries where title sports betting sponsorship is well-represented, particularly after the legalization of gambling in the country in 2020.
VBET is the title sponsor of the country’s top football division, the Ukrainian Premier League (UPL), known as VBET League. In 2021, the parties agreed to a contract under which the sports betting operator would pay $3-5 million annually. In the past, the UPL had a sponsorship agreement with FAVBET worth $900,000 per year, with Parimatch sponsoring the Ukrainian Football Association for $1 million per year.
The VBET logo can also be seen on the shirts of football clubs like FC Chornomorets, FC Veres, FC LNZ, FC Mynaj, and FC Olexandria. Beginning with the 2023/24 season, VBET has also become the official sponsor of Dynamo Kyiv. For the previous five years, the club was sponsored by Ukraine’s gambling giant, FAVBET.
Since the beginning of this season, FAVBET has become the title sponsor of FC Shakhtar. The company also supports FC Kolos and FC Obolon.
New regulations came into effect in Georgia on March 1, 2022, which banned the promotion of the gambling industry through television and external advertising, as well as its presence on Georgian websites. Nonetheless, advertising within the sporting facilities is allowed, provided it complies with the terms outlined in sponsorship agreements.
Consequently, betting firms retained the ability to sponsor football clubs and sporting occasions. Prominent local companies allocated their sponsorship as follows: Crocobet acted as the primary sponsor for FC Dinamo Batumi, Adjarabet took on the title sponsorship of FC Dinamo Tbilisi, and Leader-bet (Lider-Bet) provided support for the FC Saburtalo.
In turn, CrystalBet has become the title sponsor of the main Georgian football league which now is called CrystalBet National League. Data show that 2 million GEL (about $760,000) was allocated for the development of the National League and National League-2 in 2019 and 2020.
Additionally, in 2021, Adjarabet secured the naming rights for a new stadium in Batumi through a successful auction. For the next 5 years, the stadium will be called the Adjarabet Arena. Under this agreement, the local gambling company committed to paying approximately $2.7 million to the Adjara government. Notably, in the same year, the stadium received a prize promoted as a “Real Estate Oscar” for Best Public Infrastructure at the prestigious FIABCI Prix d’Exellence Awards 2023 in Miami.
Similar to numerous countries, amateur football enjoys significant popularity in Georgia. An example of local involvement is seen with Betlive, serving as the primary sponsor for the prominent amateur championship, known as the Betlive Master League. In a broader context, Betlive demonstrates active support for various facets of Georgian sports. In February Betlive became the official sponsor of the Georgian Rugby Union, the Georgian Judo Federation, and the Georgian Tennis Federation.
Regrettably, the nation most impacted by the new regulations was Armenia. In the previous year, the Armenian government introduced a bill to revise the law “On Advertising”, which, in effect, prohibits all forms of outdoor advertising, including advertising at stadiums and on players’ jerseys.
Until recently, the primary sponsor for most clubs, and even the Armenian Football Championship as a whole, was VBET. The company’s logo was prominently featured on football clubs’ uniforms and was integrated into the championship’s name. In 2020, when the sponsorship arrangement concluded, it was disclosed that the Armenian Football Federation was set to receive a substantial sum of € 695,000 from the betting operator within just one year.
Nevertheless, numerous clubs now showcase the promotion of Fastex, a Web3-driven solutions ecosystem featuring metaverse, native tokens, blockchain, payments systems, NFTs, and more. Given its affiliation with VBET, several clubs have found a way to secure sponsorship from Fastex, effectively navigating the imposed restrictions. Notable among these clubs are FC West Armenia, FC Van, and FC Pyunik.
While certain countries actively restrict gambling advertising, others, such as Bulgaria, have legislation that actually supports it. In the Bulgarian championship, a significant majority, approximately 94% of the teams, boasts title sponsorships from the gambling industry.
The First Professional Football League in Bulgaria is also proudly sponsored by one of the top betting companies, Efbet, and is officially known as the Efbet League. This sponsorship agreement was formalized in 2019. Simultaneously, Tsvetomir Naydenov, the Efbet’s owner, emphasized that the company annually invests approximately 25 million in the local currency into Bulgarian sports.
These statistics appear to hold true as for the 2023/2024 season, Efbet has secured an unprecedented number of sponsorship agreements. The betting company serves as the primary sponsor for clubs such as FC CSKA 1948, FC Beroe, FC Ludogorets, FC Hebar, and FC Arda Kardzhali.
Winbet boasts a similar number of contracts, with this Bulgarian company sponsoring FC Lokomotiv Plovdiv, FC CSKA Sofia, FC Botev AD, FC Botev Vratsa, and FC Etar.
Last February, it was revealed that Betano secured the position of title sponsor for FC Lokomotiv 1929 Sofia for a duration of three years. FC Slavia Sofia proudly displays the bet365 logo on their kit, while FC Pirin Blagoevgrad showcases 8888.bg.
Poland is another country that permits gambling advertising. Notably, the Polish lottery operator, LOTTO, has maintained a longstanding partnership with the country’s football league, Ekstraklasa, spanning several years. A small logo of LOTTO can be observed on the jerseys of all the league clubs.
One of the renowned local bookmakers, STS, proudly sponsors the Polish national football team. In late August, the company expanded its sponsorship portfolio by entering into a partnership agreement with the Polish volleyball team, Grupa Azoty ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle. The STS logo appears on the front of the league’s jerseys, as well as on LED banners, sponsor walls, and other elements of the Azot Arena display.
The company’s logo is also displayed on the sleeve of the FC Widzew Lodz jerseys. Moreover, in 2021, LV BET inked a deal with FC Śląsk Wrocław, with their logo adorning the front of the players’ uniforms, while FC Piast positioned the company’s logo on the sleeves.
Poland boasts a diverse range of betting companies actively sponsoring football clubs. For instance, TOTALbet collaborates with FC Warta Poznań, while Superbet serves as a strategic partner for FC Lech Poznań and the primary sponsor for FC Górnik Zabrze. French-based Betclic extends its support to FC Ruch Chorzów, Betcris backs FC Pogoń Szczecin, and forBET stands behind FC ŁKS Łódź.
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