When it comes to Better Collective, it’s hard to pinpoint a weakness or a chink in the Danish company’s armour. To some, it must seem like everything its co-founders touch turns to gold.
While being in charge of arguably the world’s biggest gaming affiliate, the industry only really hears from Søgaard as CEO with Rasmussen remaining more silent publicly in his role as COO. The reason we hear from one and not the other? Well, “very early on we realised what each other are good at,” Rasmussen explains in a rare interview with iGBA.
“I love everything about operations, I love the details and making sure everything is working and optimised,” the COO goes on to say. “Jesper is a bit of the opposite, he’s really good at speaking, both internally and externally.
“It came very naturally and early in our collaboration that he was more focused with the big visions and I would be more in the details.”
“Jesper and I have known each other all the way back to high school, so we know what each other are good at and not so good at”Christian Kirk Rasmussen, better collective
Maintaining a partnership for over 20 years is not a feat to be overlooked simply because of how easy these two make it look, as Rasmussen reveals that the hidden secret really just boils down to “mutual respect”.
While the Copenhagen-headquartered affiliate is gearing up to celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, Rasmussen and Søgaard had been partners for two years before the company’s founding. In 2002, the pair created their first website together, CasinoVerdiener, and started to see some affiliate income, which helped them build out what would become Better Collective as they both studied.
“Jesper and I have known each other all the way back to high school, so we know what each other are good at and not so good at,” he adds.
“It’s funny because in the early days we also took a personality test and our answers came back as complete opposite, which is great because we can cover the parts that the other needs,” the COO went on to explain.
“We have a really good and respectful relationship and it’s one that works really well for us.”
Not leaving this planet
If there is one thing that drives Better Collective right now is its push to become the world’s leading digital sports media group. Announced in 2022, the move represents a strategy change for the traditional sports affiliate and it’s fair to say that it was unclear to the industry what this truly meant in practice. Were we about to see Better Collective slowly pull out of its gaming affiliate positions for sports media entirely?
Rasmussen is quick to put these rumours to bed, explaining that the strategic move instead means a blending of affiliation with sports media. “We are not leaving anything behind, we’re just building on top,” the COO answers firmly.
“We could just see a big opportunity with the audience that we are sitting on within sports betting that could also expand to sports fans.
“If we continue to grow that audience with sports fans and sports media we believe we can bring so much value to both the users as well as our partners.”
The Better Collective co-founder’s relationship with sports runs deep, another factor in understanding its strategy change. “I think it’s really important to understand that we are huge sports fans, Jesper and myself. We love everything around sports.”
“We are not leaving [affiliate] behind, we’re just building on top”Christian Kirk Rasmussen, better collective
“I’ve been playing sports since I was five years old, same for Jesper, as we played so many games including badminton and football. And then you have to add in that we’ve been doing sports betting affiliation for a really long time too.”
The company garners 130 million visits per month across all its brands, giving it a firm understanding of the sports fan audience, which it’s aiming to attract more of with the change in strategy. “We have a pretty good feeling of where this model is going, so it came very naturally within the last few years that we can really expand the business in this way and take so much more of the audience within sports.”
Anyone keeping a close eye on Better Collective’s recent newsflow could tell you that they are amassing a strong collection of traditional media partnerships. From Nigerian news outlet Punch to Polish new portal Wirtualna Polska and the globally recognised football site Goal.com, the strategy is gathering momentum, with all enabling Better Collective to provide mainstream audiences with sports betting content on the partnering sites.
“I think we launched the first partnership four years ago and it’s just been accelerating since then,” says Rasmussen. “We have a lot of resources on that track at the moment and we’re here to deliver value to all parties so it’s definitely a future we’re investing in, that’s for sure.”
The ultimate goal for the affiliate juggernaut? Something that would have seemed lofty five years ago, but now no-one would put it out of its reach one day. “What we are striving for now is to become the ESPN of the world. That’s where we are going and where our eyes are now.”
A company not afraid to make a purchase or two, Better Collective proudly boasts having made 30 acquisitions since 2017 and has already started targeting sports media brands in line with the new strategy.
“One example of a pure sports media acquisition is Soccernews.nl in the Netherlands market,” explains the Better Collective COO. “I definitely think you will see us going in that direction more in the future where we buy or team up with these local sports media brands.”
Nuts and bolts
With the Danish company involved in so many gaming and sports media markets across the world, compliance must provide an increasing headache for its team. Yet Rasmussen sees it as both a risk and an opportunity.
“One of the profiles we are targeting and recruiting now is journalists”Christian Kirk Rasmussen, better collective
“We are trying an AI tool internally now that can guide our employees on all the compliance rules as well as internalrules on standards of operating we have at Better Collective as,” the COO explains. “We are already using a lot of software to help in this area and it’s something we take very seriously.”
This mission to become the ESPN of the world has changed more than just the company’s external press briefings. It has also had a knock-on impact on its recruitment across all markets.
“If you look at our current talent pool, one of the profiles we are targeting and recruiting now is journalists,” reveals Rasmussen. “We are very aware we are coming from a foundation of sports affiliation,and know what we need to do to build on top of this really great team.”
Away from strategy, Rasmussen’s role as COO puts him in a hybrid role between corporate firefighting and networking. “If emergencies happen, I’m there,” he chuckles. “I also do a lot of travelling to see all the local offices ensuring we deliver synergies from all the acquisitions.
“There’s so many teams where they’re doing amazing stuff, but we need to make sure that’s then applied to other applicable markets within the business,” he explains.
“I think one of my most important tasks is to align people and connect them with those who have good ideas within Better Collective, because there is so much talent here. We just need to all talk together and share ideas.”
While the COO wouldn’t be drawn into discussing all aspects of the company’s strategy, such as its move to acquire a minimum 5% stake in Catena Media in February of this year, it’s hard not to feel that big things are always happening at Better Collective.
Søgaard and Rasmussen might not have turned the walls of their new Copenhagen office into gold as of yet, but still free of an Achilles’ heel they’ve already started the race to another finish line.