Skill and luck in equal parts: Sugar & Partners straddles the moral line with TAB ‘Triple Trio’ spot

TAB has launched a new spot via Sugar & Partners to promote its Triple Trio in-store and online betting campaign.

The 30-second TVC, which stars a bearded John Leigh, starts with an emotive monologue that appears to be expound on what is necessary to land a big fish. But this moment of sombre reflection is then quickly interrupted by the feigned cough of a TAB salesperson who attempts to get the attention of the hardened sailor.  

At this point it becomes evident that the speech could just as easily be attributed to gambling, and the ad then shifts to a call of action that encourages punters to give the new initiative a try. 

“Our challenge was to not only communicate the promise of big wins each Saturday, but that the big win was achievable through both chance and skill,” says the Sugar & Partners creative director Dave Nash.  

“The worldly captain character and fishing analogy was the perfect way to communicate this, nailing skill and chance in equal measure.”

Triple Trio bets require punters to select the first three horses home in any order in three races in a row. And while this kind of wager does require some degree of horse racing knowledge, the suggestion that it’s a case of skill and chance in equal measure is definitely topical.

The ASA guidelines for gaming and gambling provide that “advertisements should not state or imply that a player’s skill can influence the outcome of a game unless the skill can affect the outcome of the game.”

The Triple Trio advert arguably meets the minimum legal standard, but it straddles a dangerous moral line.

A 2010 Health and Lifestyles survey revealed that 14 percent of New Zealand’s punters bet on horse and dog races, a figure that is comparable to the 16 percent that admitted to using pokies. These findings were consolidated by a 2011/2012 government-funded health survey, which found that statistics between the two forms of gambling were comparable. 

(Health and Lifestyles survey 2010)

Choicenotchance.org.nz, the organisation behind the ‘Coin Toss’ campaign, claims that problem gambling in New Zealand is depriving all New Zealand’s communities of millions of dollars every year. The not-for-profit’s website also says it’s important to remind gamblers that “all forms of gambling are designed so the [betting house]owners make a profit.”

The moral implications of gambling caused Michael Abdul, the managing director of Australia-based The Sphere Agency, to publish an article on Mumbrella in which he states that his agency will not work with any gambling clients from now on.

While the sincerity of an article coming from an agency that lists no alcohol-affiliated clients can’t be questioned, the piece is reminiscent of Don Draper’s bold ‘Why I’m quitting Tobacco’ letter.  

In the article, Abdul explains that his decision comes down to the harm that gambling causes Australian societies.

“Research typically shows that an increase in exposure to gambling advertising is a risk factor for the development of gambling problem. This isn’t an issue that is going to go away. Far from it. With the introduction of online gambling and an increase in the number of sports betting agencies, it will only get worse,” says Abdul.

Thus far, no Kiwi-based agencies have openly voiced an aversion to working with betting agencies, a decision which could be attributable to the amount that these companies spend on advertising every year.

Nielsen AIS says that between January and November last year, TAB spent $1,451,172 on advertising in New Zealand.

This amount is still low compared to the $50 million spent by sports betting agencies in Australia.


Client: TAB, NZ Racing Board
Head of marketing and digital sales: Mike Heath
Campaign manager: Katherine O’Connor
Campaign coordinator: Samantha Emms
Project manager: Karen Mann
Head of Totalisator Betting: Michael Dore
Senior editor – Graphics: Rhyce Barker
Creative agency: Sugar & Partners
Creative directors:  Damon O’Leary & Dave Nash
Creative team:  Anna Paine & Owen Bryson
Head of design:  Hamish McArthur
Digital art director:  Vikki Cheng
Account director:  Campbell McLean
Digital & social account manager: Kate Ferriman
Head of planning:  Tania Stevenson
Head of content: Wictoria Markula
Creative & Studio Services:  Gary Butcher

Production company: Robber’s Dog
Director: Daniel Borgman
Managing director: George Mackenzie
Executive producer: Mark Foster
DOP: Andrew Stroud
Editor: Alex O’Shaughnessy
Post house: Blockhead

Media agency: MBM

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