We track down some of the most established names in the affiliate space for our Affiliate Profile.
In the inaugural edition of this weekly feature, OLBG CEO Richard Moffat reflects on his career in the sector, while also offering some invaluable advice for up-and-coming affiliates.
Affiliate Industry Review: Can you begin by introducing your history in the affiliate space, and describing how you landed your current role with OLBG.
Richard Moffat: As a youngster I was very interested in horse racing and a want-to-be tipster, so when I discovered OLBG (around 2003) I fell in love with it and the concept of sports bettors coming together to share their knowledge. Back then I was working as a Financial Advisor which was effectively an affiliate role, gaining income from arranging mortgages and protection policies. At the time, gambling looked to be a safer bet and my horse racing advice was probably better than my financial advice so when the time was right I joined Antony, who started the business after being made redundant, and we set about seeing how much we could grow it.
AI: What advice would you give to budding affiliates looking to make an impact?
RM: As the industry matures it is probably becoming harder and harder to make an entrance, especially without a lot of financial backing or a particular change in how users consume sports betting content. Social media brought about one of those changes and was a great route in for some, mobile apps for others. Maybe another significant change is coming up?
In terms of content and product, I have seen many try to copy others out there, perhaps with some small tweaks and slight improvements. I can’t think of any examples where this has been really successful. Being first is important and often beats being later, even if a little bit better.
There have been many who have built a great products but haven’t been able monetise them.. In sports betting especially you need volume and that takes time to build. Affiliate departments aren’t falling over themselves these days to invest in the next great idea so the chance of getting financial support from operators with big up front fees or even good CPAs are slim for new entrants.
Operators have plenty of choice of where they can spend their money with tried and trusted partners where they know they will get good results. So budding affiliates will need plenty of financial support to get them through those first couple of years until they can build volume.
Another option for entry of course is to buy your way in. Buy an established affiliate business in your space that will allow you to generate a regular income and build relationships whilst working on your big idea. The big listed and want to be listed companies aren’t acquiring smaller affiliate businesses, say under £1m, so there could be opportunities there.
A mistake I see a lot of new affiliates make is trying to list far too many partners from the start. Operators have been reducing the number of affiliates they work with and some have minimum quota requirements. I would suggest you would be far better sending 5-10 players to 2-3 partners than sending 1-2 of players to 10-30 partners. You can then build relationships with these partners and become meaningful to them. Also I wouldn’t default to promoting just the big operators.. You are more likely to get better deals and support if you are a large player to a small operator rather than a small player to a large operator.
AI: It’s no secret that the affiliate sector is currently in the middle of a sustained period of upheaval. What are your broad predictions for where the industry is headed?
RM: It’s an interesting time right now for sure. The larger floated companies seem to be slowing down in their acquisitions. Their share prices are falling. What next for them? No doubt that the US has grabbed their focus so maybe they are slowing down acquisitions outside of the US and waiting for the opportunities there.
As compliance in the UK continues it’s trend, this in many ways should make the industry more appealing for investors and new entrants. I truly expect a big shake up from a big company outside of the sector. I have heard of one that is building it’s own affiliate business around racing, others I have heard are looking to buy a large established affiliate business as a launchpad.
This could really shake things up as whilst the floated companies/want to be floated companies have built size through acquisitions, none have really made an impact into UK sports betting through acquiring brand and product. Brand and product wins long term and we have seen this in other industries with large affiliate companies dominating their sectors. Currently the UK Sports Betting affiliate sector is dominated by the older brands such as Racing Post and AtTheRaces with horse racing and Oddschecker and OLBG with general sports betting.
AI: And finally, what are your hopes and aspirations for OLBG, both short-term and long-term?
RM: The journey for OLBG continues in much the same way, we are still seeing how large we can grow. Our brand in UK sports betting continues to strengthen. We are approaching 1 million installs of our app, into our 8th year of horse racing sponsorship with the OLBG Road to Cheltenham, we have better tipsters in our community than ever, across more sports than ever and we are working with more bookmakers now than we ever have done before.
I also feel that as a team we are hungrier than ever to succeed. Having navigated through some big changes over the last 16 years everything seems quite straight forward, for now at least.