For anyone who watches Premier League football, Hollywoodbets is a brand you are likely to recognise. The South African bookmaker has not penned lots of UK-based deals following their entry to the foreign market but they did sign one major one with Brentford FC. With Premier League football broadcast to 188 countries and around 800 million homes, this is a lot of exposure for what was once a very small brand.
Who Are They?
From very humble origins, Hollywoodbets has made huge strides both in South Africa and further afield too. Although their roots date back to 1986, Hollywoodbets the bookmaker began in the year 2000 with its first branch opening on Argyle Road, Durban. The initial success of this store saw more branches appear in South Africa soon after, such as the flagship store in Springfield Park.
Having established themselves as one of the biggest bookmakers in South Africa, the powers that be at Hollywoodbets fancied exploring other markets abroad. In addition to venturing into neighbouring Mozambique, Hollywoodbets also came to the UK (2019) and Ireland (2018). Their application for three UK licences (casino, virtual sports, real sports) were approved in January 2019, allowing them to officially launch their site to UK-based players in March of that year.
At the same time as launching their UK-facing site, iGaming Business listed Hollywoodbets as the eighth top gaming site worldwide, highlighting just how successful this brand is. Although the UK and Irish markets are not easy to breach, the range of expertise Hollywoodbets has, plus their strong finances, put them in a strong position to make real headway.
Although football has always been a large focus for Hollywoodbets, they are notable for giving other sports plenty of attention too. Over the years, they have involved themselves in many other popular sports by sponsoring certain grounds, teams and competitions, as well as hiring former professionals as brand ambassadors. The full list is extensive but just to give you a few examples, the South African bookmaker have previously secured the name rights for Greyville Racecourse, Kingsmead Cricket Ground and Kings Park Rugby Stadium.
Football Sponsorship Deals
It is not a great surprise that soon after breaking into the UK market, Hollywoodbets sought to agree to sponsorship terms with a big side. In more recent years, football sponsorship has formed a big part of their corporate strategy, whether it be the 2019 COSAFA Cup, SAFA Women’s League, or becoming La Liga’s official betting partner in South Africa. This is a brand that loves to put their name about and what better way to increase exposure than penning a shirt sponsorship deal with a Premier League club?
Brentford FC (July 2021)
In the summer of 2021, Brentford were preparing to return to the top flight of English football following a 74-year wait. It was quite a remarkable comeback given that the Bees had spent the vast majority of their time since their relegation from the old Division One languishing in the third and fourth tiers. However, their unique approach to transfers and data analysis saw their fortunes turn. This resulted in a thoroughly deserved Championship play-off final win.
Promotion to the Premier League means a lot of things, one of these being able to demand more money from interested sponsors. It is safe to assume that their two-year agreement with Hollywoodbets was worth several million pounds but the exact fee went unreported. There have been some estimates made, such as £4m per season, but these seem to be educated guesses rather than known numbers.
While we cannot be sure about the fee, we do know what Hollywoodbets got in exchange for their cash. First and foremost, the South African bookmaker’s logo now appeared on all Brentford match-worn shirts including all three strips (home, away, third) won by the men’s first team, B team and women’s team. Additionally, the star and ‘Hollywood bets’ text now formed part of all adult replica shirts. It did not feature on child shirts though due to UK laws on keeping children away from gambling. This shirt sponsorship arrangement covered both the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons, both of which Brentford played in the Premier League.
When announcing the deal, perhaps mindful that betting company sponsors do not always sit too well with fans, Brentford’s Commercial Director James Parkinson focussed on Hollywoodbets’ community work. Sticking with their commitment in this area, upon signing the deal, Hollywoodbets pledged their continued support to Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. This was a cause they donated to a season earlier while acting as the club’s Official Betting Partner.
In March 2023, the Daily Mail ran a story indicating that Brentford were very unlikely to renew their agreement with Hollywoodbets. This was not due to some issue between the club and bookmaker, but rather the expected government clampdown on betting companies featuring on football shirts. Given the expectation of reforms, some clubs began taking a proactive stance, acting early to avoid any disruption further down the line. As stated in the article, Brentford’s reported desire to find a new sponsor had nothing to do with the fact their star striker, Ivan Toney, was awaiting punishment for breaching FA betting rules.