The off-season: trials of growing a US sports affiliate


By Alex Windsor

In a follow-up to his successful article on smaller affiliates making it in the US, Alex Windsor is back. This time the Apps4Web Media director tackles American sports and asks whether an affiliate can enter the market and survive with shorter fixture calendars.

It’s no secret that sports in the US is big business, and with the launch of online sports betting back in 2018 many people – especially established affiliates around the world – saw a huge opportunity opening up before their eyes. In a previous article, I touched on this huge potential in the US for affiliates, but now I want to highlight some of the lesser talked about points about being an affiliate targeting the US.

As much as we like to think of the US online gambling market being a gold mine for affiliates, there are quite a few hurdles in our way that we just can’t get past. There is no denying sports betting has boomed in the US over the last five years, but there are still many states that have been slow to adapt and legalise or have simply refused to do so. 

This is slowly changing now as states begin to see early adopters making huge amounts of tax revenue from gamblers with every year that goes by. However, even those states that do allow online sports betting may not allow affiliates to work in the state. Another problem is that sports betting may also be run by the lottery, which has a monopoly on the market.

Sports seasons

If you do think the US sports betting market is for you and you’re coming with experience from other sports markets, you need to be aware of the shorter nature of some of the sports seasons. If we look at the most popular sport in the US, American football, you can only expect a mere 17 games to be played throughout the season. 

If we compare [NFL] to soccer with a team like Man City, who played 61 games last season, and there’s three times the betting potential simply due to the NFL finishing in early January

Compare that to soccer with a team like Man City, who played 61 games last season, and there’s three times the betting potential simply due to the NFL finishing in early January.

If we then compare that to many of the soccer leagues around Europe, they generally run for around eight to nine months throughout the year giving you a lot more scope and potential. If you are planning on running a tipster or picks service focusing solely on NFL games, you need to think carefully about what you will do in the off-season. 

The NFL season is short, and even if you take pre-season into account, there are nowhere near the number of games played in the big soccer leagues around the globe.

This could look like a dull prospect at first. However, there is huge interest in both NFL and college football across the country so getting some of that market share can be extremely lucrative. However, if we look at some other popular sports in North America such as the NBA or the NHL, you’ll be pleased to know that both of these have 82 games that each team will play over the course of the season. 

Furthermore, with interest growing every year in sports such as soccer, which was given another boost with Messi moving to the MLS, or F1 with races in both Miami and Las Vegas now, we can see more niche angles for affiliates opening up every year. All this of course doesn’t mean it’s easy for affiliates to get involved, and with some simple research, it’s easy to see that the market is dominated by some powerhouse brands.

Soccer alone has seen a huge increase in popularity and betting activity over the last four years. The MLS is growing in viewership and is showing no signs of slowing down. There has also been an increase in interest in soccer across the pond with the likes of Wrexham FC thanks to the ownership of their high-profile US owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

That’s why if you’re looking to get started it’s important to know the market you’re entering. Take some time to learn the proper terminology (it does differ hugely from Europe) and focus on creating a brand. 

Slice of the pie

With so many affiliates all looking for a slice of the pie in the US market you need to stand out and users are looking for brands that they can trust. Make sure your website adheres to Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines. Gone are the days where you could hide who you are, now you need real authoritative authors that can add value to your users. This helps us segway nicely into using social media effectively.

Social media is a great tool for betting affiliates if used correctly. I’ve seen some X (formerly Twitter) accounts grow to more than 100,000 followers in a matter of weeks just from posting some successful parlays and engaging with their audience. 

Gone are the days where you could hide who you are, now you need real authoritative authors that can add value to your users

Creating a community should be a focal point for any emerging brand; you want people to trust and engage with you more than once. Then once they’re in, you begin to open them up to the idea of offers.

This tactic is more effective with the revenue share model, but it has been slow to catch on in the US with a separate licence being needed in some cases. However, it can certainly still work with a CPA model; you just need to think about how you approach your community effectively.

Don’t ignore casino gaming

You shouldn’t overlook the popularity of online casino gaming in the States either. While sports betting may be more readily available, the CPAs you can get for promoting casinos can be twice, sometimes three times that of what you will get for a sportsbook player. At the time of writing, online casinos are only available to affiliates in six states, so there is a much smaller pool of players to target. 

If you are looking to get started in the US, it’s a good idea to have a multifaced domain that can target both sports and online casino players. Our site gamblingpromocodes.com does exactly this. We look to draw in sports players during the season for the most popular sports, but we also have a great opportunity to target other online gamblers as well.

CPA v revenue share

Affiliates should also think about the overall nature of the US model of CPA vs revenue share. While revenue share is available in a few states (though only with a few willing operators), the majority of the US is still geared towards CPA. The route to get a revenue share licence is a long and very expensive one, and even with a licence, there is no guarantee that operators will want to work with you on a revenue share basis. 

If you have been operating on revenue share in the past, the seasonal nature of the US may come as a bit of a shock to you. During peak season when new players are readily available, everything will be grand. But in the off-season when the big games are not on, new player numbers will slow down.

If you are used to getting a revenue share from players who will then bet on smaller leagues and tournaments, then you’re in for a surprise: this is not the case in the US. Once you have had the CPA for the player, you won’t get the same consistent payments when the big games are not on.

Should this put affiliates off? Absolutely not. As I have consistently said, the US is a huge, growing market with space for plenty of affiliates. You just need to be prepared to take the highs with the lows.


Alex Windsor

is the CEO of Apps4 Web Media, a UK-based igaming affiliate with a primary focus on the regulated US sports betting and casino market. He has been involved in the industry for over 12 years.

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