Campaign Review: Mark Wahlberg vs Shaquille O’Neal as betting apps pick up steam

It's celebrity versus celebrity, betting app versus betting app, in this edition of Campaign Review. Host Havas' Will Moore and Saatchi & Saatchi's Adam Ferrie give their thoughts on whether PointsBet's series with Shaquille O'Neal or Mark Wahlberg's 'Mike Iceberg' for Ladbrokes was a more effective use of celebrity.

The Campaigns

Brand: Ladbrokes
Campaign: Ladbroke It
Agency: Thinkerbell

Brand: PointsBet
Campaign: ‘It’s Shaq-ing easy’
Agency: Gravity Road


The Deliberation

Will Moore, senior planner at Host Havas, says: 

“We’ve had the Thriller in Manilla, the Rumble in the Jungle. Now it’s time for the Thunder Down Under. A battle of two betting titans.

Ladbrokes vs. PointsBet.

Mark Wahlberg (sorry – Mike Iceberg!) vs. Shaquille O’Neal.

Who’s the smart money on?

Ding! Ding!

In a world where people care a lot less about advertising than us advertisers do; our own research shows that the most effective advertising tells people something new in an entertaining way. So, with that in mind, that’s how this matchup has been judged.

The PointsBet strategy is solid. Demonstrate how easy it is to place bets using the PointsBet app. This clear product truth is brought to life through none other than Shaquille O’Neal getting massages, playing golf, fixing a car, and even painting with one hand whilst placing bets with the other. They’ve kept it simple and get extra points for doing so.

The choice of Shaquille O’Neal seems a little random other than the fact that he is Shaquille O’Neal. However, having a recognisable sports star “putting a pineapple on a roughie at Randwick” at least makes some sense and is likely to endear this piece of communication to Aussie punters.

The Ladbrokes strategy is less clear cut, if not, a little punch drunk.

It seems that Ladbrokes can’t compete on product features or offers, so have opted for pure saliency and absurdity over reason, starting with Mark Wahlberg being recast as Mike Iceberg. It feels like the strategy was to hammer home the Ladbrokes brand name in a way that distracts from the lack of product or human benefits. They’ve even gone for turning the brand into a verb. However, it’s not clear what to ‘Ladbroke it’ means without reading the accompanying PR-release.

Turning jockeys into fantasy characters?
Turning a sports bar into a wild west saloon?
And then ‘Ladbroking’ the world as Mike Iceberg flies off into outer space?

It’s all rather obscure, which may have been the point, but it doesn’t give punters any tips as to why they should download and/or open the Ladbrokes app.

At the very least both campaigns are likely to be quite effective in gaining the attention of Aussie gamblers. However, with no discernible strategy or new information for punters, Ladbrokes falls at the final hurdle. So, by unanimous decision from the judges (A.K.A me) – PointsBet wins this round on points.”

Adam Ferrie, senior creative at Saatchi & Saatchi, says:

“More and more these days we’re seeing big name international celebrities recruited for local campaigns and to great effect. You only have to think Kim K, Sacha Baron Cohen and a couple of others in recent memory.

On the surface, these two spots seem to follow that similar formula. Big name internationals? Check. Humorous scripts? Check. But that’s where the similarities end. Well, sort of.

Both campaigns have gone right for the ‘vernacular’ with “Ladbroke It” and “It’s Shaq-ing Easy”. But whilst this playful use of language may make these two campaigns feel like they’re playing in the same world, they’re actually playing different games on different fields.

Ladbroke’s choice to cast Mark Wahlberg as ‘Chief Entertainment Officer’ in this latest campaign leaves no doubt – they’re championing the sheer entertainment, excitement and action of having a punt.

PointsBet on the other hand, have taken a more dialled back, but no less humorous approach, opting for the straight-up ease and convenience of laying your hard-earned on the line. And let’s be honest, who better to make things look easy than the one and only four-time NBA Championship winning Shaquille?”

The Verdict

Moore: PointsBet – 6/10, Ladbrokes – 3/10

Ferrie: In a world where having a punt may just be the closest we can get to feeling part of the action, each will have their fans. I’d place a bet each way.
PointsBet – 6/10, Ladbrokes – 7/10


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