Social Media Showdown: Battle Of The Operators

Social Media Showdown: Battle Of The Operators

With the gap of social influence between operators narrowing in 2014, David Donaldson analyses the shift in social strategy by arguably its highest-profile exponents in UK betting.

Published 20th January 2015

We're living in a digital age where consumers are willing to digest content through more creative and diverse channels than ever before. At the forefront of this era lies social media marketing, and with social media ad spend increasing by 285% over the past three years (IAB, 2014), this communication channel will continue to present both challenges and opportunities for gaming operators. Getting the right social content in front of the right audience at the right time has never been more important for those brands in today’s competitive gambling market. Differentiation is key, and from this, we’ve seen a shift in social strategy from operator powerhouses such as Paddy Power, Betfair and Coral. Social media is no longer a standalone marketing tool. All three operators utilise images, data, video content and social graphics across social platforms to trigger user engagement and create a platform for themselves to achieve their bigger marketing objectives. Here, we study the effectiveness of the social media techniques used by Paddy Power, Betfair and Coral and measure them against one another.

Paddy Power

When it comes to innovative, tongue-in-cheek and viral content, Paddy Power are a step above the rest. According to @TwitterData, there were a staggering 35.6m tweets about the 2014 Brazil V Germany (#BRAvGER) World Cup semi- final – the highest ever recorded tweets for a single sports game. When Brazil were 7-0 down, Paddy Power identified an opportunity to ‘trendjack’ and posted an image of Brazil captain Neymar holding a 7UP drinks can captioned “Well, this is awkward…”. The tweet received almost 1,000 retweets in a matter of minutes and highlighted the powerful role real-time, topical content has to play on social media. Paddy Power’s ability to create truly compelling, viral content doesn’t stop there. It’s been reported that the use of visual content in Facebook campaigns generates 65% more engagement than text-based posts (HubSpot, 2014). More often than not you’ll see Paddy Power publishing visual content through their social accounts in the form of vines and Photoshopped images. Sometimes this content is relevant to the nature of the marketplace, sometimes not…and that’s the beauty of it. Whether it’s the comical five-second video clip of a horse falling over an inflatable ball titled: “A visual representation of Man City in the Champions League” that got 2,000 shares across Facebook, or a picture of a rooftop trampoline on a 10-storey building captioned: “What could possibly go wrong?” gaining almost 9,000 Facebook likes, Paddy Power have found potentially the optimum mix of pushing out mainstream and promotional content to trigger the desired user action.


Finding different ways to emotionally connect with your target audience means establishing a strong brand personality. Everything from the brand’s ‘human qualities’ to the content they promote falls within this bracket. A brand’s social voice must live and breathe this personality. Where Paddy Power have their bold, distinctive brand personality both on and off the radar, Betfair have adopted a much more honed social strategy that has a greater focus towards content relevancy. Social media scientist Dan Zarrella (2013) found that tweets with images get 2x the engagement rate than those without, and this could be down to the human brain processing visual content 60,000x faster than text. Betfair create and promote bespoke social graphics that often advertise their running offers and promotions. It’s tailored content like this, with which users actively engage, that is more likely to result in direct conversions. To kick-start the 2014 summer World Cup, Betfair launched their new strap line and integrated marketing campaign called “This is Play”. This campaign featured TV ads, digital media and countless PR to advertise the tournament. The campaign quickly established itself on social media and the #ThisIsPlay hashtag quickly became a phenomenon in the sports betting realm. The hashtag became a new centralised hotspot where users could publish and discuss their bets and create new and exciting talking points throughout the tournament. Like Paddy Power, Betfair identified a clear trend in the market and timed their new strategic push, to socially associate their brand with the trend, to perfection. The most promising factor of the ‘This Is Play’ campaign has been its evergreen capability, as it still remains an active and trending hashtag to this day.


Paddy Power are breaking down content barriers, Betfair are engagement perfectionists, and then there’s Coral. Coral have adopted a hybrid stance located somewhere in-between these two approaches. Although there’s never a guarantee that any piece of social content will go viral, this still remains, and always will remain, the goal of many operators in the industry. Utilising video content, however, helps to significantly maximise the viral potential of any content. It’s the year of the micro-video, and with the largest micro-video platform, Vine, experiencing a 403% user growth in 2013 alone (Marketing Magazine, 2014), it’s left a hot medium opportunity which Coral has been capitalising on. Coral’s social media tactics focus on delivering a mix of comical branded video content with hot topic video and image content. Promoting the latest goals, touchdowns and historical sporting moments in short, snappy videos makes it easier for their audience to emotionally connect with the content. To enhance their social strategy further, Coral recently introduced their ‘Farley & Carly’ online series. The ‘Farley & Carly’ video series, where actors comically impersonate famous footballing figures, has quickly taken off on social media, sparking a number of talking points. Some readers found it funny, while others struggled to find the humorous aspect within it. However, the point was that subconsciously or not, people continued to generate a social buzz around content, which ultimately met Coral’s marketing aims. Coral continues to exploit the video content avenue, and by channeling engaging content that also happens to be branded, it will continue to reap the strategic benefits.

The final say

The gap of social influence between not only these three operators, but between all operators and affiliates in the market is getting narrower. More and more operators are taking a leaf out of Paddy Power’s book by thinking outside of established norms and trying to pinpoint what it will take for their social content to go viral. What does the future hold? The future is video. It’s forecast that video content will continue to dominate the digital landscape, where 74% of all Internet traffic will be video by 2017 (Brainshark, 2014). We can expect to see gaming operators exploiting micro-videos more than ever through social platforms, with users more likely to actively digest, connect and ultimately share this type of content.

“The most promising factor of Betfair’s ‘This Is Play’ campaign has been its evergreen capability, as it still remains an active and trending hashtag to this day.”

“We can expect to see gaming operators exploiting micro-videos more than ever through social platforms, with users more likely to actively digest, connect and ultimately share this type of content.”