Children are so impressionable. Take advertising for example. Children absorb so much of the world around them that unless clear thinking adults are around to filter what they come in contact with, or to guide them in making informed decisions they can end up being very badly influenced or making poor choices.
I would like to specifically talk about a particular marketing ploy that came to my attention a little while ago. It involves an activity that parents encourage children to take an interest in and an addictive pastime that has been known to ruin the best of people. Now just why these two interests have combined is quite obvious. Adults love to gamble and they also love sport. Combine the two and you have a match made in heaven for lots of people, however the only clear winners tend to be the bookmakers, the betting agencies, sponsors and the professional athletes or sports people who tend to get paid way more then they deserve.
So now we suddenly have the sports spectators bombarded with a plethora of gambling related advertising. There are continuous streams of information on the television during games and races about odds and other gambling statistics, billboard advertising around the perimeter of the field, gambling related companies such as Centrebet and Tom Waterhouse “knows what punters want” advertisements during sports programs, and sports presenters chatting about where and how to place bets. Then there is the vast assortment of adverts on the internet.
I am not a gambler so perhaps these advertisements annoy me more than those who like to bet money, but there is something far more disturbing and sinister going on here that I need to draw attention to. Bookmakers and businesses that provide betting facilities (and I guess that includes government) have their sights set on future gamblers. “The children of today are the gamblers of tomorrow” is probably a slogan that is joked about around the betting agencies. But sadly this seems to be true and is possible being consciously used by marketing companies.
Millions of children love sport, participating in it and watching it. In fact is is encouraged, and so it should be. Lots of kids love watching footy with mum and dad and even have favourite teams. Watching State of Origin is a ritual for some families. I know of a few young boys under ten who have a favourite football team of which they know every players name, but I was horrified to hear them quote the odds for their team and the opposing team and realised that this was a very clever (and evil) marketing ploy to educate young (and very keen) spectators to be savvy with gambling and punting terminology. By the time these boys are old enough to work they will be unable to separate sport from gambling and they most surely will be already hooked into the thrill of gambling.
I hope I am wrong, but a lot about these ads tells me I am right to be worried. We know only too well how clever marketers steer our children into wanting foods and toys. Take (or leave) McDonalds as an example. They continue to target market children with stupid toys in their Happy Meals at the same time as trying to convince parents that their food is healthy. Many years ago when McDonalds first arrived in Australia I worked for a bakery that baked the bread rolls for McDonalds and the recipe contained twice as much sugar as any other bread baked in the bakery. Why? I asked.The answer was “because sugar is addictive”.
Is this really what we want for our children’s future? Do we want to see them obese from eating junk food and poor from gambling their hard earned money, with nothing to pay their rent or mortgage with, having the electricity disconnected and their families torn apart? I don’t believe any of us want that. There have been rumblings in the media about withdrawing some of the advertising centered around gambling however not many people are talking about why this is so important. I urge you to write to newspapers, your local MP, the sports minister etc, and let them know you are not happy that your children are being target marketed with gambling. Children make up a big portion of the sport audience, they need your voice to speak out for them and their future.