Looking back at 2021, the igaming industry (and the world more generally) had to battle through disruptions, uncertainty and a host of business and regulatory challenges.
However, to draw upon a familiar cliché, pressure turns coal into diamond and so it’s also the case that some of the industry’s most creative and compelling campaigns emerged in 2021.
From extravagant brand ambassadorships and sponsorships to big money paid-media campaigns – operators have in many cases been splashing the cash – while affiliates have taken some more creative routes to build their brands and draw in traffic.
What constitutes the ‘best’ campaigns of the year is of course subjective, but in this article I’ll attempt to identify campaigns that not only showed grit, creativity and impact, but campaigns that can serve as practical inspiration for other affiliates too.
So let’s get started.
Reactive PR – OLBG
One of the most effective ways to earn mainstream media coverage while gaining strong links for SEO is through reactive PR and OLBG, one of Europe’s largest sports affiliates, has become a familiar home for such campaigns.
Often the best campaign methodologies affiliates can pursue are those that don’t depend on major brand recognition but instead react to the news agenda with timely odds to unlock otherwise inaccessible media coverage.
This is an approach consistently used by OLBG, across a wide variety of topics, from sport to politics to showbusiness. In such campaigns the goal as an affiliate is to have the data journalists look for at precisely the right moment, to earn brand mentions as well as a justified, earned link back to the brand’s site.
It’s an approach that many affiliates find difficult to do consistently, but OLBG has developed a strong track record. Instances include adding some data to fuel speculation about Boris and Carrie Johnson’s new baby name, capitalising on the breaking news story from last October:
The company also did something similar for the most recent Royal baby:
The potential Instagram-earnings of Strictly Come Dancing stars:
And finally, in a season of enormous amounts of gossip about managerial moves, a data-driven view of which UK club is the most desirable to manage:
All these campaigns have in common an eye for timing, an element of immediacy and some kind of data ‘hook’ that gives journalists something that can add substance to stories they are already writing, or to underpin a wholly new article.
This type of campaign is among the most accessible for both established affiliates and also challenger brands as the time investment is comparatively minimal: there’s no enormous requirement for design/development or sign-off from dozens of stakeholders – they’re light, playful, effective and linkable.
The downside of this type of campaign is that they can be here today, gone tomorrow, and so OLBG’s commitment to consistency over time is the real point to take away from this reactive, PR-based approach to building brand visibility and SEO value.
Topical odds and internal data – Oddschecker
Use of your own internal data can provide a competitive edge when it comes to marketing campaigns, and it’s something Oddschecker are well positioned to do.
Being able to provide exclusive data gives journalists a reason to pay attention, and by its very nature is something that competitors can’t replicate or mimic exactly.
For an insight-driven brand like Oddschecker, it makes sense to capitalise on the demand for stats and data from the media – and this is just one of the approaches the company has taken to line up regular brand mentions (and links) in some of the largest sports and news publications around.
This includes matchday odds and a range of other varieties. It also encompasses other, even more mainstream forms of betting such as the chances of winning on National Lottery scratchcards:
An old favourite: odds on potential managerial departures:
The world of politics and Brexit in the UK…
…and Trump vs Biden in the US at the tail end of 2020:
By broadening out beyond sport and into other areas where there is significant interest in the odds of different events happening, Oddschecker has carved out a strong reputation that lines up well with its brand positioning and core offer.
Again, these campaigns are speedy to outreach, timely, and in many cases have an emotional element that stokes curiosity and opens up mass appeal. That’s particularly the case with emotive subjects like Brexit and Trump, but even areas like the chances of a scratchcard win touch on our emotions and the universal concept of luck/life chances.
It may be that your affiliate brand has access to other forms of data or is adept at combining publicly available data into something new – whatever you have to work with, where data tells a story and aligns to the news agenda, there’s scope to amplify media coverage and drive SEO value through earned links.
Dream jobs – Bonusfinder
Emotion also plays a part in Bonusfinder’s ‘dream job’ series, in which the affiliate has launched multiple unbelievable opportunities for fans to experience a highly unlikely job.
This kicked off with an ice cream tester opportunity in summer 2020:
…but evolved into sending superfans to baseball stadiums across the US to test out the best hot dogs:
Such campaigns are inherently linkable – always a priority for any SEO-driven campaign – but they also open doors with journalists who understand that writing about such opportunities is a way to boost their own clicks and reader engagement.
The ability to earn major media coverage and social shares in new markets is one of the main advantages of ‘dream job’ campaigns.
Affiliates can benefit from similar initiatives that open up opportunities in new markets and play on the public’s interest in the unusual.
Again, familiarity with the brand isn’t essential for media coverage with this type of campaign – so smaller affiliates (or affiliates launching in a new country) may want to consider similar themes that can open up doors in the media where conventional PR would fall short.
These campaigns, though ranging from light and pop-culture focused to data-driven and analytical, all accomplish a few key things.
They take affiliate brands that general, non-betting audiences are likely unaware of into the mainstream and use creative, newsworthy ‘hooks’ to earn media coverage that translates into social media impact, off-site SEO value and direct traffic/depositing players.
At ICS-digital our igaming campaigns run the gamut from serious to silly, lightweight to heavyweight but, like the most innovative betting brands, the importance of a reactive and agile approach is evident to our teams.
Of course ‘big bang’ campaigns can win awards, but with so much volatility in the industry there is value in focusing on smaller, agile campaigns and continuous little victories.
Common threads include use of data, expert timing, leveraging of exclusive insights, drawing in pop culture/mainstream media trends to give a signal boost and (of course) making life as easy as possible for journalists.
In SEO terms in particular, this continuity of link-earning has real value and for affiliate brands who hope to one day be acquired, the mainstream media recognition is no bad thing when building up a prospectus for potential buyers.
It’s clear that affiliate enterprises can run effective campaigns that accomplish several marketing goals at once – the challenge for those not already going down this path will be if they can take the step to be bold when it comes to organic acquisition and establish methods that work for them and their brands in 2022.
MARTIN CALVERT is marketing director for content, translations and digital marketing firm ICS-digital, which works across 68 languages and 80 territories. Prior to joining ICS in September 2019, Martin spent three and a half years as marketing director at Blueclaw.