RGC creates an influencer to tackle intoxicated betting

The advocacy group avoids lecturing about a troubling trend by letting "Grunk" make the consequences self-evident.
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There have been many concerning behaviours that have either been prompted or accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. But one behaviour that might have been overlooked amid increased levels of anxiety, stress and depression is intoxicated gambling.

A recent COVID-19 study by the Responsible Gambling Council suggests cannabis and alcohol consumption of those surveyed increased by more than 40% in the first few weeks of emergency lockdown measures in the spring. What’s more, 22.1% of individuals who reported gambling online and using a substance during the first six weeks of lockdown also said they had done both at the same time.

To highlight why gambling either drunk or high is “always a bad bet,” the RGC – with the help of agency Zulu Alpha Kilo – created a YouTube series entitled “Gambling with Grunk,” which shows the relational, emotional and financial effects this behaviour can have.

“Grunk,” a young, well-intentioned and earnest gambling influencer, shows the detrimental impacts of gambling while intoxicated – as he loses his job and forgets his father’s birthday as a result. Grunk – whose name is a portmanteau of “gambling” and “drunk” – also displays aggressive betting tactics while under the influence, which results in him losing the games he is playing and more of his money.

The RGC suggests that there are particularly high rates of substance use and harm among individuals aged 18 to 24, and young adults are two to three times more likely to develop issues with gambling.

“We have traditional prevention programs that deliver on the broader risk message, but for this campaign, we had a very direct message we needed to deliver to young adults, an audience where the stakes are higher and the skepticism even more so,” said Elaine McDougall, director of marketing at the RGC.

Instead of “finger-wagging” at a younger audience, as Zulu group CD Gerald Kugler describes it, the brand uses the age-appropriate and affable Grunk to show viewers what the outcomes are, which also include breakups and having to sell his computer to sustain his lifestyle.

“Sometimes the best way to talk about consequences is to let the consequences speak for themselves,” Kugler says.

The campaign follows the RGC’s “Check Your (Re)Flex” project last year, also created by Zulu to target young adults. That campaign took the form of a video game brought to events and college campuses, which used sensors embedded in a joystick to showed players how the excitement experienced during addictive gameplay hinders rational decision-making and can make stopping more difficult.

The “Gambling with Grunk” campaign is digitally-led, with PHD handling media.