Why fantasy gaming needs to tweak its advertising game

Industry watchers say the category, seen making a big advertising splash this IPL, should advertise responsibly with brands getting endorsers to talk about playing it the right way

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Published: Sep 23, 2020 8:47 AM  | 4 min read
Fantasy gaming

Fantasy gaming brands have been ramping up their ad spends for IPL 2020 and have invested heavily on the sporting extravaganza, this year than ever before. However, the category recently came under scrutiny with a survey by community platform LocalCircles revealing that around 77 per cent of consumers want the government to ban advertisements from such gaming platforms. This comes at a time when the Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MCA) has issued draft tips aimed toward stopping unfair commerce practices and defending consumer curiosity.

The draft also says endorsements have to be based on both enough info and expertise with the service or product being endorsed. Meanwhile, LocalCircles has submitted to the MCA that respondents of its survey have said that teenagers, youth and even professionals seem to have got addicted to such sites and apps, and are losing money — of their own and parents, sometimes even without their knowledge and permission.

According to sources, the handset category had invested between Rs 350-400 crore in the last IPL, while this year fantasy sports and gaming take the top spot with investments estimated to be around Rs 300 crore. With the category seen making a big splash with IPL ads, we ask industry watchers how fantasy gaming needs to up its advertising game to counter the controversies surrounding it.

According to Sanju Menon, COO, Publicis Ambience and Publicis Beehive, the fantasy gaming category and the related communication requires rethinking when it comes to permissible policies. “I feel this is a classic case of difference in what is communicated and what the product is used for. With whatever has caught my eye from a communication standpoint - the category talks about the thrill of gaming and it being an immersive experience. The competitive linkages to monetary transactions are an obvious draw once the consumer is on the platform. The question to ponder is - does a player choose a particular platform because he/she thinks they can make more money out of it when compared to the other,” he observed.

The Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) is India’s self-regulatory industry body for the fantasy sports sector, but it’s interesting to note that there is no authority that regulates how these organisations advertise.

Ashit Chakravarty, Senior Vice President - Growth & Strategy, Dentsu Webchutney, pointed out that brands in the category need to depict and promote a culture of playing these games responsibly. “Cricketing legends of today and yesteryears are endorsing these leagues and encouraging participation. Brands must also use their clout to convince people to play it the right way. This will go a long way to make fantasy gaming socially acceptable, as well as build the right culture that celebrates cricketing or another sporting fandom in the country.” Chakravarty feels advertisers need to relook at the value proposition of playing a fantasy league for the passion of the game and that making money should be a byproduct. “Most advertising today is focusing on the wrong bait, the promise is on potential return on investment and filling up one's pocket with easy money. While the concept of fantasy gaming is to tap into peripheral passion around IPL, the advertisements only focus on the winnings. That needs to change,” he explained.

Recently, Paytm and its gaming arm, Paytm First Games, ran into trouble for reportedly violating Google Playstore’s gambling policies. "I feel that fantasy gaming brands must opt for statutory warning with their ads. That could make it a little less offensive," says an agency CEO and ad-man on the condition of anonymity.

According to KPMG and Indian Federation of Sports Gaming, the number of fantasy sports operators has increased by seven times over 2016-2018, while the number of users has grown over 25 fold from June 2016 to February 2019.

Mithila Saraf of Famous Innovations remarked it would be objectionable if online gaming brands were promising overnight riches or job replacement to consumers. “Yes, the category must advertise responsibly. However, I feel the gaming category seems to have earned a bad name owing to a few extreme cases. There are negative impacts of almost any kind of consumption if stretched to its extreme. There is a far larger set of people who de-stress with these games, use them in a healthy way and see them as a source of small thrills,” she pointed out.

Sources reveal the overall fantasy sports industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 22.1 per cent. According to the KPMG report, the fantasy gaming industry’s size should be more than $1.1 billion by the end of 2023.

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