If the last few years of the Noughties saw sportsbook’s market leaders shifting their focus towards the cutting edge technologies of in-play betting and live streaming, the first few years of this decade should see affiliates reap the rewards. Since online sports betting first evolved, betting affiliates have never received the same levels of respect and support as their poker and casino counterparts. However, this should all be about to change.
As businesses look to diversify, adding a sportsbook to their product suite is an ever appealing option. Affiliates find themselves in precisely the same position. Opportunities in the casino space are becoming far more competitive and we’ve all heard more than enough poker affiliates state claim that “there’s no money in poker anymore.” Whether you agree with the latter, what is certain is that extending sideways by adding a sportsbook, is certainly more appealing to businesses on both sides of the fence.
Whilst the likes of the operator Mangas and the affiliate Pokerlistings are striving down the acquisition route, it simply isn’t an option for most operators and affiliates at the moment. This has led to an increased focus and success of the white label solution, such as those offered by the B2B arms of 888, Bwin, Paddy Power and Partygaming, as well as the rapid emergence of specialist sports betting solutions available with the likes of OddsMatrix.
Affiliates are doing precisely the same thing. They are seeing the need to not only diversify, but to lower costs in the short to medium term as they fight for space in ever competitive markets. It is no secret that the acquisition cost of a sports bettor is significantly lower than that of acquiring a casino or, even still, a poker player. Traditionally, sports betting-centric operators have been reluctant to share lifetime rewards of their cross promotion strategies, but with the growing international success of fair, cross product paying, sports betting-focused affiliate programs, such as bet365, Victor Chandler, Stan James and Ladbrokes, this landscape is changing. This means the affiliate is being rewarded, over the lifetime of a player with a brand, across the entire product suite. In essence, lower acquisition costs for increased returns and this means the rise of sports betting as a viable affiliate marketing channel.
This has taken a while to come to fruition. Sports betting affiliates have long been viewed with suspicion by many bookmakers and betting groups, particularly those whose margins are tightened by high overheads and unreliable trading patterns. This is largely due to the large amount of quality information affiliates can feed to players via odds comparison feeds, quality content or tipster forums, pushing such margins to the brink. Poker rooms and casinos have nearly always welcomed the education of players and affiliates in those arenas have reaped the rewards.
Sports betting is not ready for a PokerStrategy.com-type model just yet, but there are a number of projects on the horizon that seek to bridge the ‘education v margin’ conundrum. Tipster forums have long been havens for groups of serious ‘bookie breakers’ and survived on a fragile equilibrium between bookmaker and affiliate. Now, some highly innovative groups of affiliates are looking to take on social media and take a tipster-like conversational model from a finely-tuned group of professional bettors to the masses, and this should massively appeal to the bookmaker concerned about his margins.
Bingo has grown hugely on the back of its social connotations in a past life, but the next few years should see sports betting become the first mainstream online gaming channel to conquer the social network and monetize it effectively. As an event driven hobby, betting is far more contextual and naturally reaches out to more people than any other form of gaming, with the result of one person’s bet carrying significant importance, albeit more in an emotional sense than anything else, to many others in his or her network of friends. People brag about winning far more and bemoan a loss on a far greater scale than a poker player on the end of a bad beat and nowadays, their first habitual venue for a brag or a whinge will be via a social network, where they will not always be met with an appropriate congratulation or commiseration.
It’s the responsibility of the affiliate of the 2010s to monetize sports betting’s emotional drivers and social networks are where affiliates such as Flutr.co.uk seek to tap into people’s unerring passion for sport and entertainment. With the FIFA World Cup 2010, the largest ever betting event approaching in June this year, now is the time for sports betting affiliates to take the lead in cracking social media.