• gambling;
  • problem gambling;
  • public health;
  • risk;
  • social marketing;
  • unintended consequences



To investigate how gamblers interact with, and respond to, downstream social marketing campaigns that focus on the risks and harms of problem gambling and/or encourage help seeking.


Qualitative study of 100 gamblers with a range of gambling behaviours (from non-problem to problem gambling). We used a Social Constructivist approach. Our constant comparative method of data interpretation focused on how participants' experiences and interactions with gambling influenced their opinions towards, and interactions with social marketing campaigns.


Three key themes emerged from the narratives. (i) Participants felt that campaigns were heavily skewed towards encouraging individuals to take personal responsibility for their gambling behaviours or were targeted towards those with severe gambling problems. (ii) Participants described the difficulty for campaigns to achieve ‘cut through’ because of the overwhelming volume of positive messages about the benefits of gambling that were given by the gambling industry. (iii) Some participants described that dominant discourses about personal responsibility prevented them from seeking help and reinforced perceptions of stigma.

Conclusions and implications

Social marketing campaigns have an important role to play in the prevention of gambling risk behaviours and the promotion of help seeking. Social marketers should explore how to more effectively target campaigns to different audience segments, understand the role of environmental factors in undermining the uptake of social marketing strategies and anticipate the potential unforeseen consequences of social marketing strategies.