Are US Sportsbooks Using A Sledgehammer To Crack A Nut?

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US sports betting

The following is guest commentary from Josh Linforth, business development director – digital marketing with BetGenius:

Since the US Supreme Court’s repeal of PASPA in May, operators from both sides of the pond have been racing to get their sportsbooks up and running. Both the operators and their supply chain have moved incredibly quickly to overcome enormous obstacles ranging from strenuous regulatory requirements to solving intrastate technical problems.

As the dust begins to settle and operators road-test the first wave of new products, the business focus will switch to customer acquisition strategy and how to gain early market share in what promises to be the biggest sports betting market on the planet.

Learning from past mistakes

Indicative of strategies employed by many consumer-facing brands and their incumbent agencies, the new sportsbook operators are carving out market share utilizing the familiar method of multimillion-dollar blanket media-buying campaigns.

This is already underway as we witness significant media buy on traditional ad campaigns from operators looking to exploit their existing daily fantasy sports brand penetration to expand into the US sports betting market.

However, recent DFS history has taught us that noisy ‘above-the-line’ campaigns, particularly TV commercials, also carry inherent risks of increasing public outcry against the industry, and attracting the unwanted attention of lawmakers and regulators.

As a veteran of the sportsbook marketing world, it seems to me that these operators and their respective agencies are essentially using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Tackling complexities

Through no fault of their own, there appears to be a lack of market expertise and specialist technology at the marketing agencies behind such campaigns. This is not entirely unsurprising given that most agencies will not possess the years of customer behavioral insight and data points that provide the pinpoint customer targeting or personalized messaging that lowers customer acquisition costs in competitive sports betting markets.

Meeting these demands, however, is a tough ask for traditional marketing agencies who are likely to be working across several disparate sectors.

Not only will most agencies lack the understanding of the intricacies of launching a sportsbook brand into a new market, they are also limited by broad spectrum technology and non-specific customer data used to market anything from fast-moving consumer goods products to package holidays.

Sports betting is an incredibly complex product. An average sportsbook offers hundreds of thousands of live events every year with hundreds of variable betting opportunities and markets each day, appealing to a wide range of different customer preferences, knowledge, and risk appetites.

So here is my question: at such a pivotal moment in US sports betting history, how can traditional marketing agencies with little or no specialist expertise in the sector expect to deliver results for their customers in a hugely competitive market?

Time to re-evaluate

The answer isn’t straightforward, but there’s no doubt that this is an extremely important time for operators and agencies alike to evaluate their current partnerships and the role each will play in the coming months.

As experience teaches us in the UK and across the rest of the world, traditional agencies have played a crucial role in the success, or failure, of many sportsbook brands. For above-the-line marketing and branding expertise, marketing agencies have the scale and creative nous to elevate an operator’s position in the market.

But equally, when it comes to targeted media ad buying and digital acquisition, generalist agencies have consistently struggled to meet the exacting demands of the sports betting and iGaming sector.

Ask the right questions

With that in mind, operators should be asking some tough questions of their incumbent agencies.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the complexities faced in digital sportsbook acquisition. Sportsbook customers are fickle, with most holding accounts with at least three or four bookmakers. A constant brand presence is not enough on its own to drive loyalty; the messages and timing of messages must be personalized and highly targeted.

It’s this type of granular-level industry insight, coupled with specialist marketing technology, that is essential to delivering the type of results needed to elevate a new sportsbook brand to the market leader. It’s something traditional agencies, in our experience, have struggled to offer.

We have been a digital marketing technology partner to the global sports betting and gaming industry since 2004 and we’ve witnessed the consistent migration of brands from their incumbent agencies to specialists like us.

US operators, working in what could be the most competitive market on the planet, will be wise to get ahead of that trend in order to drive the efficiency and effectiveness of their digital marketing spend.