This must be some sort of record.
On Saturday 5th June Norwich City announced a 1 year sponsorship deal worth £5 million with Asian sports betting firm BK8.
Just 3 days later, the club announced that the deal had been terminated with immediate effect – that’s about as long as Norwich will go without losing a match next season if their last Premier League attempt is anything to go by.
(Sorry Canaries fans, that was a cheap cheap shot)
So what on earth happened, why the sudden U turn, and who are BK8?
Who are BK8?
A white label of ProgressPlay, BK8 are an Asian online betting company offering sports betting and casino products and also promoting the use of cryptocurrencies in gambling. They call themselves the biggest betting company in Asia, but finding out any concrete about them is pretty difficult.
They operate in countries like Malaysia and Vietnam, where most gambling is actually illegal, so it’s not a good sign, and trying to track down the name or location of an owner is a bit like trying to get the ball off Ronaldo – impossible.
They have previously employed John Terry and Robin van Persie as brand ambassadors and they do at least hold a UK gambling license via Progress Play.
The deal was brokered between them and Norwich by a company called Outlast Sport and Entertainment, a Singapore based firm incorporated in 2020 and equally difficult to find any real information on.
Many Asian betting companies sponsor teams in the UK not to attract UK customers, but because gambling advertising is not allowed in many of their real target countries. However, live sport – and especially UK football – is broadcast all over the world, so they are actually paying to get in front of bettors in other countries via the UK football leagues.
Why Did Norwich Cancel the Deal With BK8?
It wasn’t actually their slightly shady origins that put Norwich off, but their fans reaction to the news of the sponsorship deal.
There has been UK wide publicity regarding the sponsoring of football teams by gambling companies, but Norwich and their fans think of themselves as a community club, so the reaction was stronger there.
It got even worse when BK8’s marketing tactics were discovered: scantily clad young women in arguably suggestive positions.
Sex sells, everyone knows that, but there are rules when it comes to gambling advertising, and any club wanting to promote a family environment would do well to steer clear of a company that promotes themselves in this way.
The club’s official statement said:
“Whilst we anticipated some negative responses to the announcement of the partnership with a betting company, the club understands the reaction to BK8, their affiliates and other similar brands’ ways of marketing, the values of which do not align with those of the football club.
“On this occasion, we got it wrong. For that, and any offence caused, the club apologises.”
To be fair to them, £5 million would have been pretty hard to turn down. For a team just promoted to the Premier League they are going to need the money to strengthen their squad if they hope not to keep yo-yoing back down to the Championship.
They gave it a go, received an awful lot of local backlash, listened to their fans, then admitted they got it wrong. Fair play to them and fingers crossed their next sponsor will be much less controversial – maybe Delia Smith can ring around a few of her friends?
As for Bk8… who knows if this is the last we will see of them.