When it comes to affiliates, few have the sports cultural pull to match Checkd. In fact, it’s an affiliate that social media users wouldn’t always realise they’ve seen something from. That’s not to say the marketing department at Checkd should be sitting nervously in their seats, but that its brands have integrated themselves seamlessly into sports culture where users have accepted them as not just a participant, but a community member.
Few know the way the company works better than Alex Beecham, managing director of Checkd Media – the affiliate part of the business. The other half of the company is Checkd Dev, the technology platform development division.
“It’s the first time I’ve gone over to the affiliate side, so it was a big change but very interesting”
Starting as a marketing director before moving to his present role in 2021, Beecham is approaching four years at the company but his CV is littered with gaming experience. With stints at Sky Bet, William Hill, Betable and Mr Green, during the acquisition by William Hill, it’s fair to say that he knew the industry well before moving into the affiliate space.
“The opportunity at Checkd came up for me and I had to decide if I wanted to stay at William Hill for a second time or try something a bit different,” explains Beecham. “It’s the first time I’ve gone over to the affiliate side, so it was a big change but very interesting.”
For the fans
Arguably the biggest brand for Checkd Media is Footy Accumulators, operating a website with tips on football games, accumulator builders and news. Yet, the heart of the brand lies in its social presence. Of course, the accounts post betting odds, bonuses and big wins but it also does something else too. It engages with the ever-rolling world of football, from posting interview quotes, to transfer rumours, injuries and the occasional football meme you’d expect to float around group chats.
“It’s been on social media for nine years now, originally starting out on Facebook before going onto Twitter as well,” said the Checkd Media managing director. “The style of the brand at the start was very much based on lads’ humour, whereas now we’re very much focused on finding that balance between humour now and again.
“That’s as well as weaving in stats, facts and inside-football content, but we also don’t want to be tweeting about betting all the time because there’s a responsible gambling side of things to consider too.”
“You’ve almost got to prove yourself when starting in the US market as you might not necessarily get the highest CPA deals”
Checkd Group itself was formed in 2012, and the team has expanded heavily since Beecham joined the business. “Checkd Dev now has over 20 people working on the development and technology side of the company, which only launched in 2019. There’s just over 50 of us across all parts of the business, with around 27 on Checkd Media and three employees on the ground in the US.”
Entering the US market is something very high up on Checkd Group’s priorities, yet some affiliates have discovered the process is not an easy one with individual states demanding service providers and sometimes marketers to be licensed as well as operators.
“We’ve used a third party for our licensing routes which have really helped us,” explains Beecham. “It’s great to have people with us who’ve been there and done it before in terms of application forms and documentation but each state is different.
“Each one has its own documentation and requirements, which you think might put some people off but I think the size of the market there really gives it massive potential to tap into that huge market.”
Yet, other things also have to be considered when entering the US market besides receiving the necessary licences.
“You’ve almost got to prove yourself when starting in the US market as you might not necessarily get the highest CPA deals,” explains the Checkd Media managing director.
“I think the biggest challenge for us regarding that entry is being able to scale quickly enough, we’re growing at a good rate but it’s about getting the products and USPs out there fast.”
“We believe the approach we have taken with Smart Picks is tailor-made for US sports and that it can make a big impact for operators in terms of customer acquisition”
A good example of Checkd using its development team to help smooth its potential US entry is its Smart Picks tool for its FlashPicks brand. The tool is designed to allow users to make more informed betting decisions through historical statistics and betting data to indicate which teams have been performing above, or below, expectations.
“We believe the approach we have taken with Smart Picks is tailor-made for US sports and that it can make a big impact for operators in terms of customer acquisition within a largely untapped casual betting market,” Beecham adds.
Another cornerstone of Checkd’s US strategy was put in place in late May when it launched the FlashPicks app across North America, allowing users in regulated state markets to see betting odds and interact with bets from all the major US betting operators.
While developed in-house by the Dev division, Beecham emphasises that collaboration across the business was pivotal to delivering a version of the successful UK Betting Hub product which met the requirements of the US betting audience.
“Our International and Media teams fed in around the navigation, sports betting terminology and format of key tools such as Smart Picks, which lets our users build a data-led parlay. The teams also leveraged feedback in the testing stages from US bettors to ensure we’re delivering the best experience from day one.”
No grey areas
Beecham also highlights that a challenge the affiliate industry is facing right now is the “grey area where talent can reasonably appeal to certain age groups depending on the age of the ambassador you use in content.”
This is a particular area of debate within sports gambling promotions, with a recent case this year raised by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) into Flutter’s Paddy Power for a World Cup ad featuring Peter Crouch. The ASA ruled that the ex-England footballer was not of strong appeal to under-18s due to his retirement in 2019 and the clubs he played for.
“This is definitely a challenge where we try to use talent which is appealing to an older sort of demographic,” explains Beecham. “Sam Allardyce might appeal to more of the 30s and 40s age group, rather than the younger generation. So we made a conscious decision to go down that route.
“It gets a lot more grey when you’re dealing with players who’ve maybe just retired and the younger retired players out there.”
In fact, Checkd Media and William Hill brought back No Tippy Tappy Football, the podcast and YouTube series with Sam Allardyce until the end of the season after its initial run during the world cup.
“This is really important because it’s engaging football content, which isn’t necessarily just betting focused,” says Beecham. “It’s tapping into different areas which all sports fans are interested in and is a great way of engaging and growing that community outside of betting content.”
On whether the industry can expect to see more synergy between Checkd Dev and its own in-house brands with more products launching under this cross-functional development structure, Beecham reveals that “there is a lot more planned” for what remains of 2023.
”The team is working on additional internal projects with the end goal of enhancing the sports betting experience on both the website and app. This includes the launch of new product functionality and features in both the UK and the US.”
Checkd will also be launching new features within its own technology alongside scoping partnerships with the tier-one operators, adds Beecham. “Watch this space in the coming months”.