Repeatedly, football presents a floodgate of engagement opportunities for brands, yet navigating this terrain is no simple task. This summer in particular holds immense potential with the UEFA Euros 2024 and the Copa America 2024 tournaments on the horizon.

On a recent SBC-hosted webinar, driving engagement was the talking point for some speakers from the sports betting landscape – an industry that has recently struggled to take advantage from such tournaments as player acquisition becomes ever more difficult in saturated markets.

Mark Grech, Founder of ProdMark 365, took on the role of moderator for the webinar, as he steered listeners through the discussion, extracting valuable insights from four prominent industry leaders.

In recent years, football has reminded itself that the sport is nothing without fans, which was highlighted during the pandemic year when teams competed in empty stadiums. This idea was then reinforced as people around the world joined forces to protest against the European Super League.

At the heart of these examples is community. This is a concept that Dean Akinjobi, CEO of Football Media, believes should be a focal point in sportsbook makers’ engagement strategy, as it creates ‘touchpoints’ beyond these tournaments.

Akinjobi said: “If you can build a strong enough community around content and around players. You can pick up key players, through sharing content ideas, debates and banter between each other. This then becomes an evolving channel that you can actually create a highly engaged community around and use to leverage your brand.”

Akinjobi pointed out that this strategy might not be a priority for many bookmakers, as it requires investment of time and money without yielding immediate returns. However, the CEO believes that it is these types of investments that will reverse the current struggles that sportsbook makers are facing in relation to player acquisition.

How can companies build a community? Over the decades, betting firms have partnered with sports personalities to drive engagement, hoping that a familiar face or a favourite athlete would be enough for a potential customer to join a community.

Yet, this is difficult to do. Tristan Wootton, Director of Growth at Fitzdares, explained that in the UK there are laws prohibiting current athletes from partnering with betting companies.

Advertising requirements mean it is far safer for bookmakers to partner with retired footballers – Peter Crouch and Micah Richards come to mind as Paddy Power and Sky Bet partners. The issue is that often these ex-pros do not have the star factor to pull in customers between the ages of 21-25. 

Wooton continued to highlight a recent trend applied by companies of using freelancers to write previews for games, for example, an article on Denmark vs England. This aims to drive engagement through providing context to games, planting seeds inside the brains of potential bettors.

This trend has been used for years and with newspapers declining it isn’t as effective as it once was, but a solution has appeared in the shape of broadcasters. 

Wootton said: “We’ve done this, hopefully quite successfully, with an ITV broadcaster called Mark Pougatch. We’ve also seen bet365 partnering with one of the main commentators called Sam Matterface.

“I think the days of players like Nicholas Bentner wearing branded underwear are long gone.”

Myke Foster, Group Head of Gaming & Commercial Strategy at FEG, emphasised the importance of looking outside the act of betting when trying to build a community, asserting that “we need to stop shouting into that void”. Foster also highlighted the use of free-to-play games.

He said: “North America has done very well with some of the fantasy sports, some of the collaborations they’ve done and some of the partnerships that they’ve picked up, people are talking about them outside the act of betting. 

“We’ve seen it done well in some markets and not so well in others, but people are actually trying to do things. In our markets out here, sort of Central and Eastern Europe, there’s a real kind of push for community. So that people don’t just engage with brands when they’re transacting.”

Once firms have created communities on social media through the likes of brand ambassadors and content, the next challenge is keeping the consumers engaged, which is a challenge made 10 times harder when attempting to take customers from one tournament to the next.

Foster stated that ‘consistency’ in product offering is the key to migrating customers from one tournament to another.

“We have to invest in our product, we have to invest in the customer journey and treat things equally. Otherwise, people won’t migrate from the Euros to the Copa America because the product experience is fundamentally different,” Foster said.

“If the Copa America looks like an afterthought to us, our customers will smell that a mile away and think, ‘not interested’ and move on.”

Jens Nielsen, Sports Betting Director of Danske Spil, added that for his company football is by far the biggest market and transferring fans from one tournament to the next also comes from your product, but also from focusing on specific athletes.

Nielsen said: “I think we all have our favourite teams, but I think the younger generation also have their favourite players, which is much more prominent nowadays. I think that has spilled over into the betting industry that we want to accommodate a lot of player bets, a lot of punter control.”

In the discussion, the four speakers agreed that player focused bets were key to bridging the gap between competitions, with Lionel Messi unsurprisingly being the name that was highlighted to engage customers with the Copa America.

On driving engagement during international tournaments in general, Akinjobi said that the best approach is to view the events in the same way you would, at a “local level”.

Akinjobi added: “You are competing for user attention with the likes of Amazon, Nike, Adidas. You’ll think differently when you’re executing a marketing campaign, because it’s a big tournament. It’s not just like the Premier League,which is week in and week out. It’s a big tournament.

“Operators need to really engage with something interesting about one of the players or the manager. Just try to be part of that conversation in your marketing. Then I think you’ll see much more success.”

In conclusion, football tournaments like the UEFA Euros 2024 and Copa America 2024 offer immense engagement potential for brands. However, effectively harnessing this opportunity demands strategic manoeuvres.

In the industry the biggest challenges are often the biggest opportunities and it will be interesting to see how bookmakers use the ever-changing digital landscape to engage supporters across the globe, during this exciting summer of football. 

To hear more insights from SBC’s Webinars covering several other crucial topics, follow the link HERE

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