“All sponsorships are like partnerships. It’s not a matter of writing a cheque out. If you write the cheque out and leave it at that, believe me you’re wasting your money – you don’t get value. You’ve gotta keep working at it.”
– Fred Done
Part Three of the Betfred story (see part two here) looks at the modernising process Betfred underwent at the turn of the century. It was a time when many of its rivals began sponsoring sports clubs and tournaments, and the decision was made to change the name from Done Bookmakers to Betfred.
The primary reason for doing so was football sponsorship, as Done explains: “Done Bookmakers on a shirt is too big. We never went to any marketing agencies, there was nothing as sophisticated as that.”
With the new name shifting the emphasis towards Fred, he was initially worried about breaking it to his brother Peter, but soon found out he was on board from the offset.
“It was a great idea,” Peter recalls. “ It was a good thing because it was online, and it made sense that the online should be in line with the retail.”
Once the name change was cemented, Betfred quickly became the biggest sponsor of British horseracing, sponsoring over 600 races a year and pumping over £6 million into the sport.
Perhaps most famously, it sponsored the Cheltenham Gold Cup for six years, but Done claims “politics” ruined the sponsorship deal.
“Everything was agreed [to renew the sponsorship] and they brought this ‘authorised betting partner’ nonsense out,” Done explains. “And I thought, ‘if they don’t want my money, they’re not getting it’, and I just pulled the sponsorship.”
When that deal came to an end, Done plugged the gap by sponsoring The World Snooker Championship, and the sports promoter Barry Hearn spoke appreciatively of Done’s input.
“Fred is a unique character. He’s not a pushover that’s for sure!” Hearn confesses. “I think we can both be stubborn and awkward – and Fred’s definitely got an A-level in stubbornness – but if he likes something and closes by shaking your hand you know the deal is done. For that, I’ll always respect him.”
Betfred also dipped into the world of football sponsorship, becoming the official betting partner of Manchester United and the first ever official betting partner of the new Wembley Stadium. The Scottish League Cup was also renamed the Betfred Cup as of 2016.
50 years since its inception, Betfred has grown into a British bookmaking powerhouse, with close to 1700 stores and an employing over 10,000 members of staff.
Come back tomorrow for the final part of the Betfred story.