Talking heads: Sportsbetting and the 2014 World Cup

Talking heads: Sportsbetting and the 2014 World Cup

To discuss the impact of this summer’s World Cup on the sportsbetting market, and how affiliates can optimise their campaigns for the greatest effect, iGB Affiliate gathered the thoughts of James McMaster, Martin Janovcik and Allister Bajada

Published 6th April 2014

The 2014 World Cup has been identified as a milestone event in the development of the sportsbetting sector; the coming of age of in-play betting via mobile devices. How seminal a tournament do you think this will be for the digital betting sector?
James McMaster (JM): It’s going to be a huge month for the digital betting industry, of that there’s absolutely no doubt, with the amount staked forecast to surpass the record levels set at the last World Cup in 2010. Mobile and tablet technology has never been quicker to use, more reliable or offered a wider range of markets, and inplay betting is likely to dominate. All in all, it’s a very exciting time.

Allister Bajada (AB): The World Cup has always been pivotal for sportsbetting, and with the continuous optimisation of the latest technologies, including mobile, it’s important for iGaming companies and affiliates to exploit this opportunity and grow their businesses further.

With a large degree of this summer’s focus on mobile in-play, what sort of acquisition campaigns are likely to prove the most effective for operators around a tournament like this, in terms of targeting and engaging an audience in what will be a heavily competitive environment?

AB: This entirely depends on the type of audience you will be exposing your products to. Modern acquisition campaigns are all about metrics and understanding the behaviour of your audience. Operators and affiliates must be smart and rather than creating mass campaigns, they should delve into further detail and push relevant content and campaigns according to the audience, and use metrics to measure campaign performance.

JM: Customising adverts for different players and effectively re-targeting will play a big part; for example, operators displaying sign-up offers to unregistered players, but then sport or odds-based to existing players, based on their previous betting activities. Live odds and contextual, content-based marketing will be vital to convert in-play bettors.

Martin Janovcik (MJ): It will depend on the speed at which sites emerge with their offers. The audience will be very selective and have a high demand for appropriate markets and specials. If we concentrate on live betting, we can expect a very fast paced environment. This is a huge opportunity for affiliates and they have to keep their links up-to-date for each match taking place in the busy schedule. There is plenty of work to do but it can definitely pay out well. If you are a pan-European affiliate, geo-targeting is an important piece of the puzzle.

What should affiliates be doing to maximise their campaigns and promotions for the periods before, during and after this summer’s event?
JM: Along with the typical sign up bonus offers, successful pre-tournament affiliate marketing will focus on well written World Cup content, such as news articles and previews, embedded with links to convert to operators. For example, a preview of the World Cup top scorer would contextually include the odds of the market leaders, along with links to an operator in order to convert.

Odds comparison sites will also play a big role as players look to secure best price, and this will be equally important during the tournament. In-play, stats-based affiliates speculating on what will happen next will convert well, particularly through social channels where engagement is immediate.

Posttournament, the emphasis is really on the retention programs of operators to extend the lifetime of the players beyond the World Cup. This will generate additional value from them, an obvious benefit to both the operators themselves and revenue share-based affiliates.

MJ: Pre-tournament: even as major leagues and the Champions League are still running, there will be huge interest in special pre-tournament offers, and you can see it already. I would suggest a focus on outright offerings mixed with bonus promotions. This is the time to bet on what you trust in the long-term, so you can top this up with bets during the tournament. Odds offers for specials and outrights has the width it has never previously enjoyed.

During the tournament: the key is to be up-to-date with odds feeds and direct tracking links for every single match and also keep pace during game time. That is even more important when we are looking at affiliates who recognise mobile as the main source of their acquisitions.

Post-tournament: after all of the action during a peak event like this, you can always take your time and analyse what worked best for your traffic. Post-action activities are so important in order to have a clear picture of what you have been doing right, and what could have been done better and improved upon in future.

What sorts of opportunities exist for nonsportsbetting affiliates? How can they take advantage of this summer’s spectacle?
AB: Logic would dictate that only sportsbetting affiliates would benefit from the World Cup. However, I think that the customer persona changes for this particular event for the simple reason that more people follow it. With a wider target audience, the opportunities are endless. I think cross promotions can be one way of testing if your affiliate traffic has an inclination towards sports. Operators will be throwing all kinds of offers their way, so a little test wouldn’t hurt.

JM: Cross selling players into other products, notably from sportsbetting to casino games, is a crucial part of any operator’s strategy, particularly during large sporting events, to keep players/ punters on their site. Non-sportsbetting affiliates can take advantage by focusing
on driving players during any downtime in the sport, for example, at half time and between matches. Promoting sports-based casino games, even virtual sports, is an effective way of engaging sports players.

With such a focus on mobile in the current industry, what would be the advantages and disadvantages of a new-tomarket sportsbetting affiliate adopting a mobile-first strategy?
JM: The primary advantage is the fact that the mobile affiliate market, particularly in the UK, isn’t anywhere near as competitive as traditional desktop, and the route to market is less challenging. The obvious downside, and the concern of many affiliates I speak to, is that tracking is still some way behind desktop platforms, meaning they are not 100 percent confident that all of the players they send via mobile are assigned to their account.

AB: In the current industry, mobile is still being enhanced and developed which can be seen as both an advantage and disadvantage. It’s an advantage because in a fast paced environment, the industry leaders are always changing, so market penetration is more achievable.

On the other hand, this could be seen as a disadvantage, because not keeping up with the most recent trends in the industry can have a major impact on your business. The World Cup will be used as a barometer for the health of the wider sportsbetting sector, and a milestone by which to measure its future potential. What sort of role will mobile in-play betting have on that future, what will the other drivers of growth be, and how can affiliates play a part in the furtherment of the sportsbetting industry?

JM: As with any major sporting event, be it the Cheltenham Festival or the World Cup, sportsbetting will grab the headlines in non-industry press simply as the amounts staked are circulated. With record turnover levels predicted, this year will be no different and mobile in-play betting will take a larger share than ever before. Other drivers of growth include the sheer number of markets available on every match, both pre-match and in-play, improved customer journeys to enhance conversion rates and optimised media and acquisition strategies.

We’re also seeing more sponsorship from betting companies than ever before which is raising general awareness.

AB: Sportsbetting is one of the most exciting and, at the same time, dynamic sectors in the gaming industry. The fact that it affects so many people, and gets so many people together is further motivation for businesses to continue to invest heavily in growing this sector. Mobile will continue to experience further growth, and the modern age is pushing us towards fewer and fewer boundaries when it comes to access. I think the drivers for growth will be that of the continued push towards offering further access and flexibility to the end user. In terms of affiliates, they need to embrace change, and continue to adjust to the continuous growth and development of this sector.

MJ: The figures in the industry speak for themselves. The World Cup brings a major peak in betting activity for every year it takes place, and the impact of mobile in-play betting this year will be heavy since customers are engaged on an almost daily basis.

If you look at it from a more behavioural consumer perspective, the World Cup takes place when many players are on vacation/holiday, and the mobile solution offers further opportunities in terms of consumer access this time around. Four years ago, betting on mobile was still very new and only accounted for around one percent of the total sportsbook turnover at Betsson. In the summer, we expect somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of all stakes to be placed through mobile, and even higher in our core geographical markets. Affiliates have to adopt this trend into their strategy; the optimisation of their sites is a must.

Finally, who will win the World Cup, and why?
AB: If I had to speak as a supporter, it would be Italy, but realistically, I will have to go for Brazil because all betting operators are steering that way.

JM: Spain offer surprising value given their recent successes and should thrive in the conditions, in which a slow pace is likely. Adding Diego Costa to their enviable attacking options could be the defining factor. Brazil must be opposed at the prices.