When it comes to building up a brand image in Colombia, look no further than football as the ideal avenue. This was the sentiment Rivalo Country Manager for Colombia, Felipe Aguero, shared with Insider Sport and SBC Noticias in a joint interview.

Most eyes in Latin American betting have been focused on the regulation of Brazil’s betting market, but it is important to remember that the region is home to some other high-value and well-established jurisdictions – Colombia among them.

Based in the capital of Bogota, Rivalo has accumulated more and more market share each year and the signing of the company’s first ever sponsorship deal, with Deportivo Pereira of Categoría Primera A, has brought greater visibility to support its growth plans.

“This is the first Rivalo sponsorship ever in a football shirt,” he said. “We’ve been taking care of old footballers or journalists, but this is the first time that we’re going to be in the front of the shirt. 

“We selected Pereira because we thought it’s a great fit for us in terms of the size of the club, how big they want to be in the near future, and how the fan base is.”

Like many football clubs throughout Colombia – which in turn like its neighbouring countries across Latin America has a deep national passion for the beautiful game – Pereira has a loyal following in its host city.

Having taken a look at the fanbase the club has accumulated in the city of Pereira over its 80 year history, Aguero explained that he and Rivalo were impressed with the loyalty of local fans but also the way the team interacts with its supporters.

Fan engagement is key to the long-term success of any club, but also to the long-term success of commercial partnerships football teams embark on. For bookmaker partnerships, which have fan engagement as a core pillar, this is perhaps even more important.

“The club is committing to fans, committing to its team by bringing in the best players they can.”

After attending Perirea matches Aguero took note of ‘how much all of the city turns around to the club’, and how in turn the club responds to local fans’ passion with ‘great transfers and great coaches’.

“I think we’re sitting in a pretty comfortable place right now,” he continued. “Because we have a super triangle, firstly with fans that support the club through the good and bad – and the last couple of years have been good. 

“They become champions in 2022 and they were the best performing club on the Libertadores last year. The club is committing to fans, committing to its team by bringing in the best players they can. 

“We look at how we can interact with them, help them, and how we can give great experiences for fans of the team. We end up finishing that triangle, which we think is most valuable for the fans and of the three parties – making the fans happy, having a great football team, and us growing as a brand in Colombia.”

For Rivalo’s growth ambitions, football is the perfect means of engagement. As a bookmaker this is of course unsurprising, with sports being any betting brand’s bread and butter whilst also sharing an overlapping audience.

A noticeable commercial observation Aguero makes about Colombian sports is the sheer dominance of football. Again, given the huge popularity of football in Latin America at large, as well as globally, this doesn’t come as much of a shock.

“The one that brings all the attention is football.”

However, for any brand wishing to build up its name in the country, especially for operators like Rivalo, this is vital to understand. Whilst in countries like the UK or US sports followings can be mixed – rugby and cricket in the former and NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB in the latter – in Colombia, sporting life revolves around football.

“The one that brings all the attention is football,” he continues. “This is where all the bookmakers have been interested in the past couple of years since we got the approval of the law. 

“Football is the big thing here in Colombia. We have other sports, but they’re still growing in terms of funds and investment in marketing. Football is the bridge that everyone has tried to use.”

Taking a broader view of sports betting sponsorships across the world, it is hard not to notice that many arrangements and in some cases the practice itself have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years.

For example, in Insider Sport’s home country of the UK, the visibility of betting partnerships has been a source of controversy for some. The Premier League has now come as far as phasing out front-of-shirt sponsorship deals from the 2026/27 season onwards.

In Colombia, the betting sector and sporting sector have put a lot of effort into cultivating a positive relationship. In Aguero’s view, Colombia has set it out as an ideal example for emerging Latin American markets to look towards.

This type of relationship has also been mirrored in Rivalo’s partnership with Perira, he added. When working with the club, the bookmaker aims to place responsibility front-and-centre.

I think Colombia, as the first regulated market in Latin America, always has a lot of eyes on what operators do and how they do it,”he said.

“I think it’s a very valuable lesson for the upcoming players in other markets. It’s also great visibility for us when planning to come into other markets – as you may know, we are also strong in Brazil.

“Colombia is definitely always in the eyes of the people, and we want to do a good job representing not only our brand, but representing the industry.

“The industry has had several backslashes in advertisement in several countries, especially in Europe, with the prohibitions and all the conditions that there are to advertise. 

“Having this branding boost in a team not only gives us what we need as a brand, but also responsibility for how we are going to act in our future strategy.”

As Rivalo targets a continuing growth trajectory both in Colombia but also in other Latin American markets, the group aims to be ‘more strategic in how we are a responsible advertiser brand’, Ageuro explained.

This is an important sentiment for operators in various markets, both established and emerging, to take note of. 

As Aguero observed, some markets have seen an extensive backlash against operator advertising. Ensuring responsibility in advertising from the get go can help avoid this.

Active in well established Colombia and building up its presence in the emerging giant market of Brazil, Rivalo is establishing itself as one of the most prominent locally-founded betting brands in Latin America.

Explaining the company’s objectives and strategy in its founding market of Colombia, Aguero detailed that over its six year history Rivalo has focused on ‘not being the biggest, but being the most profitable’.

Using a ‘sharp’ and ‘lean’ strategy in various aspects of betting business, including marketing, the group has ‘managed to be number six or number seven in the market with probably the marketing budget of a number 13 or 14,’ Agueo outlined.

This is an impressive achievement, and sports marketing will continue to play a key role for the firm as it looks to continue this momentum after securing a three-year renewal to its Colombia licence in October.

The Latin American betting industry is set to accelerate rapidly in 2024. With Brazil preparing to launch its own nationwide betting market later this year, the eyes of the international betting industry are firmly fixed on the region.

This will of course come with some significant opportunities to the Brazilian sports sector, such as via sponsorship and data deals for example, and that of other Latin American countries, as and when regulation comes.

As one of the region’s well-established markets, Colombia will provide a good example for other Latin American countries to look to, Aguero asserted. By looking at Colombia, how its industry is regulated and how sports partnerships are conducted, other Latin America stakeholders may be able to gain a glimpse of the ideal operating environment.

“We have the future in our hands and people will look to Colombia and we’ll see how the market will develop in the future,” he said.

“I think that’s also how they’re going to start to see us. For example, Brazil is going to launch their regulation probably this year and they will keep an eye on how the regulation develops in other countries.”

As Latin America’s betting sector continues to evolve and grow, and the various commercial opportunities for sports clubs and organisations present themselves, keeping Colombia’s marketplace and the sponsorship activities of partners within it, such as Rivalo and Deportivo Pereira, could prove invaluable for interested parties.

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