Waterhouse is a name synonymous with horse racing and since the launch of tomwaterhouse.com also with betting. Tom Waterhouse, a fourth generation bookmaker has created a brand based on his family’s association with the industry. He has unashamedly used his family name, his cheesy smile and his relationship to one of horse racing’s biggest names to create the brand and leverage these associations to his advantage. And it has worked. That combined with his multi-million dollar campaign.
Since the tomwaterhouse.com brand launched a few years back at the end of 2010 I feel like I haven’t been able to escape from that face – eerily similar to the arrogant, slick, yet slimy Peter Campbell character from Mad Men. And unfortunately that’s not a compliment Tom. The brand has been seen everywhere. I think you will be pressed to find someone who hasn’t seen his adverts. He even went so far as to plaster his face across a Melbourne tram costing him just $70,000.
The brand itself is somewhat one-dimensional. A simple black and white modern typemark, a pop of turquoise and Tom’s face. But he sure owns that colour in his market! Betting used to be associated with the likes of the faceless TAB, Sportsbet and Centrebet where it was linked to older men and a smoky haze outside the betting venue. Tom has removed the need for a betting venue altogether. As my colleague Peter Singline pointed out in his thoughts on the brand, Tom’s is the only one in the market who doesn’t use the word ‘bet’ and yet the brand has quickly and easily become attached to the industry regardless, due to the combination of advertising spend and family name.
tomwaterhouse.com has achieved its objective of elevating gambling to a cool sport for Gen Ys. Whether you agree with this or not it’s hard to go past the achievement of changing the perception of this market. He has attracted more than 150,000 clients who bet on anything from the weekend’s footy game to the Oscar’s to the first country to leave the eurozone. By opening the gambling gateway to more than just sport he has captured a new market, one that he educates through his Twitter account, blog and EDMs (all also plastered with his face), presumably in an attempt to keep them engaged and betting week on week.
But what happens to a brand that uses a family name for leveraging ability when members of that family are put in the spot light unfavourably? Every time his mother is in the media, good or bad, he gets brand exposure. And recently it has been more of the latter media attention, with Gai Waterhouse’s involvement and conviction in the More Joyous affair. Tom was dragged into the hearing as well but let off due to insufficient evidence. How that has effected the brand or not is still to be seen.
Unfortunately for Tom, the unfavourable media attention that he has been subject to this year has not stopped with his mother. Recently Tom has been unceremoniously stripped of his Channel Nine branded microphone after public complaints and intervention by the NRL about the undefined line between sports news and sports betting. But betting agencies involvement in NRL is nothing new – Sportsbet sponsor both the Knights and the Roosters, Luxbet the Sharks and the Panther’s home ground is now named Centrebet Stadium.
So why in the last six months since Tom’s involvement in NRL has there been public outcry and petitions signed to reduce the involvement sports gambling has in the game? NRL has switched into crisis control mode and it seems that the issue is more with Tom himself and that he is the potentially unfair scapegoat for a long standing issue. It could be a case of tall poppy syndrome or just annoying rich kid. Either way the publicity doesn’t stop there.Waterhouse was also meant to be part of a parliamentary enquiry into the spread of gambling into live sports broadcasts – something that he failed to show up for.
The year hasn’t been kind to him personally and only time will tell if the decision to put all his eggs in one branded basket will unravel or whether the saying is right – perhaps all publicity is good publicity.
Director of Brand Projects
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