Changes to regulation and advertising rules coupled with the shift to digital-first operations have created a massive ripple in the gambling sector, causing many brands to rethink their approach to marketing.
But while there are challenges facing the sector there are also a number of opportunities creating new areas for growth, namely the rise of esports, increased focus on women’s sports and global expansion.
These are three areas gambling brands simply can’t ignore. And given the esports market is expected to be worth $1.8bn (£1.3bn) by 2020 according to Statista, it’s certainly an area worth exploring.
Betway has been active in the space since 2014, becoming the first major sports betting operator to create a dedicated esports site.
“This enabled us to offer a more tailored experience to our esports users, without changing the way we engage with the rest of our customers. The market is developing exponentially and there are a plethora of brands getting into the space now,” Betway marketing director Paul Adkins explains.
“As a brand, you need to really understand esports if you’re going to enter the space – it’s a highly educated audience who don’t suffer fools, so you need to be authentic if you want to make a success of it. Where we excel is that every one of our team are fans of esports first and members of the Betway team thereafter.”
The Kindred Group, which owns gambling brands 32 Red and Unibet, was eager to explore esports after seeing a big overlap with its target audience. In November, its Unibet brand signed a two-year global partnership to become the official betting partner of esports team Astralis.
“If you look at the performance and their growth, I think that [Astralis] really stands out from any other sponsorship and team out there,” says Elen Barber, CMO at the Kindred Group. “We want to raise the interest in this area and tap into the new potential audiences within esports.”
Simultaneously, betting brands are also expanding across Europe and the US. The US currently represents 10% of total group revenue for Paddy Power Betfair, while in March William Hill forged a multi-year betting partnership with the US National Hockey League.
Betway launched in Italy and Spain in 2018 and went live in Sweden at the start of 2019. The brand is poised to launch in Mexico and is exploring other opportunities across Latin America. Football’s global popularity has driven global growth for Betway, although the brand has also seen “excellent results” from its “secondary sports” such as tennis, basketball and cricket.
The rising popularity of women’s sports is another area of keen interest for gambling operators. As brands from Nike and Adidas to Visa and Coca-Cola queue up to get involved in women’s football, Ladbrokes Coral is working on its influencer strategy for the Women’s World Cup in June.
The gambling operator is hoping to bring gold medal winning Olympic hockey player Sam Quek on board as an influencer for the tournament. Beyond the World Cup, Ladbrokes Coral’s head of social Elliot Hackney thinks Barclays’ multi-million sponsorship of the Women’s Super League is a decision gambling brands cannot ignore.
“That’s going to be a massive change to the betting industry,” he said, speaking at the SBC Betting on Football event last month. “The matches we cover and the coverage they are going to get with a title sponsor, I can only see that growing.”
Whether it’s developing a social strategy for women’s sport, cashing in on the popularity of esports, or entering new markets, the fact is gambling marketers always need to be up for the next challenge.