How has the sportsbook affiliate space changed in recent years? Is it more competitive now than it ever has been?
The vertical is very competitive as player demand has moved from pre-match betting on sports to in-play. Players wish for immediate gratification if placing a bet on a sport and look for the value as the game unfolds, especially when engaging via mobile, which now accounts for 70% of revenue as a channel. This means the operator needs to provide interactive content in the form of live offers (the odds) and relevant promotional offers to engage the affiliate’s audience.
What has been the driving force behind these changes? Are there still opportunities available for smaller affiliates to achieve solid market share?
The major drivers are really three-fold, accelerated by consumer demand. The first is the growth in mobile phone usage and faster networks such as 5G, which allows access to on-the-move sports streaming provided by various apps.
The second is customer behaviour towards bet engagement, namely in-play. Therefore, as consumers spend a lot of their time on their mobile and second screening, the demand for instant betting markets has increased.
Thirdly, players, like all consumers, are time-poor and may have only a few minutes to engage, which suits in-play betting, as effectively you know the result of a particular bet in minutes as against waiting for the 90-minute full-time result.
There is definitely an opportunity for smaller affiliates to create good content that appeals to particular market segments. So the key is to understand the end-customer needs, create good content that appeals to these needs, and drive traffic to the operators that can fulfil the bet engagement element.
How can affiliates ensure their proposition stands out from their rivals? Is content still king or is it now more about tech, design, user experience, etc.?
Content is and always will be king, but the content is only as good as the user experience. UX is critical if affiliates are to convey the message they wish to communicate, engage their audience and, of course, ensure they understand messages quickly given most consumers are time-limited in their decision and choice making.
Can partnering with different brands help affiliates differentiate? What role does The Football Pools/The Pools play in this regard?
Affiliates are very entrepreneurial and martech savvy, but fundamentally they understand their customers’ needs. Therefore, aligning with operator brands that have the same ethos of creating long-term value for all, including responsible gambling marketing, are important factors to consider.
The Pools is somewhat unique in that our product portfolio offers pool-based jackpot games which the business has operated for nearly 100 years. These games are popular with a broad range of player audiences and therefore offer affiliates gaming content to promote outside the traditional online sportsbook and casino.
What do you look for in the ideal affiliate partner? How do you work with affiliates to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship?
Relationships are hugely important within the affiliate industry. Trust and reputation and likewise collaboration and transparency are some of the key traits we look for and that is a two-way process between both parties.
These traits can only be built over time. It certainly doesn’t happen from day one and you have to work hard at it as with any personal relationship. With the resumption of trade shows, in-person meetings will foster stronger relationships between operator and affiliate – we certainly have missed that humanisation and interaction as Zoom can only take you so far.
What trends do sportsbook affiliates need to be mindful of in the coming months? How are you helping them leverage these trends?
The key trends, certainly in the UK, are mostly around responsible gambling and ensuring all the regulations are adhered to in terms of how players are communicated to. This needs to be an “always-on” dialogue between all stakeholders.
The other trends are looking toward key events such as the new football season and the World Cup at the end of year. And lastly, how we can embrace new technologies such as the metaverse and AI to meet growing consumer demand for a fully virtual, immersive experience within the context of a safer gambling environment.
Mark has more than 20 years of experience in digital sports betting, igaming, and ecommerce marketing. He has held digital marketing director and affiliate roles with both private and public igaming operators. Currently, he is Head of Digital Marketing and Casino with ThePools.com.
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