Sportsbooks Affiliates Need To Diversify

Sportsbooks Affiliates Need To Diversify

Many UK sportsbook affiliates are too focused on football and a small number of brands, so they miss out on chances to offer their players something fresh and up the conversion rates, says Leon Hoskin.

Published 16th July 2015

The European Online sports-betting market is set to grow strongly over the next few years. The vertical is forecast to expand to £4.1 billion by 2018 at a growth rate of 8.4%, according to H2 Gambling Capital. This is good news for sportsbooks and the affiliates that promote them, though major challenges remain. Rising competition and the spectre of market saturation mean that affiliates need to ensure that their offerings are as diversified as possible in terms of brands, sporting markets and verticals promoted as well as the platforms offered. A diverse approach is especially important this summer, a relatively quiet period for sports.

Diversity of brands and sporting markets

The UK online sports-betting vertical is dominated by five operators. The combined market share of William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Bet365 and Betfair totals 56%, according to Mintel. Given their size and heritage – the first three firms were founded long before iGaming’s emergence and the latter two were launched in its earliest days – many affiliates have primarily focused on promoting these brands. Such an approach is mistaken. There will always be a place in affiliates’ offerings for these five sportsbooks. However, their high profiles and long-standing market presence means that converting new players can be challenging.

Often, affiliates may find that their lifetime revenue share deals with these brands means that they receive more profit from players converted long ago than new ones. To raise their conversion rates of new players, it’s only logical that affiliates look to new sportsbooks. Up-and-coming brands allow affiliates to offer players something fresh. Inevitably, newer sports-betting sites have had to develop innovative products and find their own niche in a competitive market. This spirit of innovation commonly sees newer brands focusing on niche sports such as rugby league and snooker, which provide an important alternative to football. The beautiful game is responsible for 40.1% of online sportbooks’ turnover, according to the Gambling Commission.

However, football is highly seasonal. While 2014 had the World Cup and next year features Euro 2016 in France, this summer will be relatively quiet for football following the UEFA Champions League Final on 6 June. In contrast, rugby league will have a busier summer. The UK’s Super League 2015, which began in early February, continues through June before the Challenge Cup Semi-Finals and Final in August, with the Super League climaxing in early October. All these fixtures provide an important additional revenue stream for affiliates. They can further diversify their affiliate offering this summer by promoting brands offering betting on snooker.

The World Cup 2015, taking place from 15 to 21 June, will be followed this summer by the Riga Open 2015 in July and early August as well as the Shanghai Masters 2015. Aside from the plethora of snooker and rugby league events, the player profiles for both sports correlate well with football bettors. As with football, male players predominate. More than 95% of snooker and rugby league punters are men, according to ApolloBet’s data. Players in both sports tend to be slightly older than football bettors, with the median age group 35 to 45. Another important difference for affiliates is that rugby league and snooker bettors tend to be even more loyal, resulting in higher lifetime player values.

Two other alternative sporting markets that affiliates can promote this summer and beyond are boxing and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). There’s a WBA Super World Middleweight bout scheduled for late June and a Light Heavyweight fight slated for July. To complement their promotion of boxing, affiliates can also focus on UFC matches, which take place even more frequently. There are nine Fight Nights this July and August alone. Like rugby league and snooker, boxing and UFC bettors correlate well with football punters’ player profiles. In fact, players tend to be even younger, with the 18 to 40 age group predominating. ApolloBet’s data reveals that 90% of boxing and UFC bettors are male, though high-profile matches like the recent MayweatherPacquiao bout saw approximately 25% of bets from female punters.

Cross-vertical promotion

If the occasional event is more balanced in terms of gender, the demographical reality of sports-betting is that it’s overwhelmingly male. Affiliates who focus solely on promoting betting on football, rugby league, snooker and the like are therefore missing out on high volumes of convertible traffic. A solution for affiliates is to focus on promoting sportsbooks that offer other iGaming verticals with more of a demographic balance. The core of such a strategy could be promoting brands’ online casino products. More than 20% of casino players are women, according to ApolloBet’s data. When table games are excluded to focus purely on slots, the percentage of female players exceeds 30%.

Another female-friendly product increasingly offered by sportsbooks is the lottery vertical, which has huge potential in the UK market. According to Camelot, 31 million National Lottery tickets are bought every week. Sportsbooks are today offering an array of international lotteries as well as the UK version. Whichever country’s lottery an affiliate promotes, women players are more common – around 32%, according to our data. By diversifying to promote sportsbooks’ products in other verticals, affiliates will do more than just add additional revenue streams for their offering and extend their reach. Given sportsbooks’ own focus on converting players in one vertical to players of another through email marketing and accompanying promotions, affiliates’ efforts will strengthen their relationships with operators.

Platform diversity

Diversifying the brands, verticals and sporting markets they promote allows affiliates to remain competitive. However, to give their offering a true edge in today’s marketplace, they also need to ensure their platform focus is as broad as possible. The days when sportsbooks’ focus was exclusively on desktop are long gone. Today 71% of UK phone users in the country own a smart phone, according to Kantar ComTech. Meanwhile, tablet usage has also risen exponentially in the country over the last few years. eMarketer reports that 41.1% of adults regularly used one in 2014. Unsurprisingly, the mobile revolution has seen online sportsbooks develop a cross-platform approach that allows players to play on smart phones and tablets as well as desktop.

According to ApolloBet’s data, more than 40% of players access the brand via their mobile devices. If mobile growth continues at the same rate, the total would likely be in excess of 60% by 2018. This trend suggests a mobile-first strategy is the only rational path for sportsbooks to follow in future. A mobile-first strategy involves developing a mobile web product and, above all, iOS and android apps as well. If mobile is starting to dominate desktop, apps are already dominating the mobile web. According to comTech, 88% of smart phone users’ time is spent in-app, while with tablets, app usage has reached an overwhelming 82%. If developing iOS and Android apps has become a necessity for sportsbooks, the same is also starting to be true for the affiliates promoting them. The Google Mobilegeddon update in April proved to affiliates the importance of a mobileoptimised site, but true mobile friendliness requires an app. Apps open up a new channel for affiliates to target players.

The core of app store optimization (ASO) involves using extensive keyword research to make apps rank highly in app store searches. Given that this is the main way a majority of mobile users find new apps – 63% of iOS owners and 58% of Android users, according to Apptentive – affiliates can use ASO to cost-effectively acquire players for the brands they promote. However, ASO is just the beginning. In-app advertising allows affiliates to promote operators’ brands within their apps. Arguably, over the next few years these ads could replace affiliates’ desktop banners as the main way they drive players to sportsbooks. The next few years look set to be a period of great change and innovation for the sports-betting vertical and the affiliates promoting it. The affiliates that play to win in 2015 will adopt a diverse approach. By focusing on apps and the mobile web as well as desktop, and promoting a diverse array of brands, sporting markets and verticals, these affiliates will take the field – and triumph.

“ApolloBet’s data reveals that 90% of boxing and UFC bettors are male, though high-profile matches like the recent Mayweather-Pacquiao bout saw approximately 25% of bets from female punters.” 

“More than 20% of casino players are women, according to ApolloBet’s data. When table games are excluded to focus purely on slots, the percentage of female players exceeds 30%.”