Unless you’ve been self-isolating under a rock for the last three months, you’re probably aware of the world’s current state.
Sports has been impacted by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, meaning that sportsbooks and affiliates have too.
A lack of activity means that it’s imperative to get creative right now. One vertical which stands out as an opportunity to do this is esports.
While esports is by no means a quick fix and requires your full attention, you can reap the rewards if you start now. Then, once this is all over, you’ll have an additional revenue stream to complement your other focus area(s).
Let’s delve further into what you need to know about this unique vertical.
How is esports being utilised by ‘traditional’ sports betting operators?
One mainstream sportsbook which has had success with esports is Betway. In addition to the markets it offers, the operator also has an affiliate program dedicated to the vertical.
There’s one big reason why Betway has managed to leverage esports with effectiveness – investment. For example, they signed a sponsorship deal with global event organiser ESLGaming in February 2019. One of the perks it then received was in-stadium branding, thus boosting its visibility during major contests.
Betway’s approach is something which hasn’t been emulated by a number of sports betting operators and affiliates. This is somewhat understandable, since much of the time it isn’t their primary focus. But since the esports community is tight-knit, offering little is going to get little in return.
The good news for those who specialise in sports betting is that right now, the football community in particular is taking an interest in FIFA 20-oriented events. Well one, anyway.
English League Two side Leyton Orient is hosting a 128-team ‘Ultimate Quaranteam’ tournament. Players from the UK, South Africa, US and more – including professional footballers – are pitting their wits against one another for charity.
And as you can see, the pros are enjoying things…
— Todd Cantwell (@ToddCantwell_10) March 25, 2020
Punters are getting involved too. According to Oddschecker, there was a ‘flurry’ of early bets. Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester City and AS Roma were among the favourites.
So, why does this pose an opportunity for traditional sportsbooks? Because many of the players betting on this are also interested in real-life football. This could therefore help to keep things ticking over in the short-term. And further down the line, you also have the chance to keep engaging these players once the calendar resumes.
What should sportsbooks and affiliates know about delving into esports for the long run?
Don’t be fooled by the inclusion of the word ‘sports’ in esports. If you’re serious about making this something you’re involved in the long term, you’ve got a lot to learn.
First of all, the audiences for both are different. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise – after all, you wouldn’t target basketball fans with football betting markets and content.
There can be differences in the subgroups of esports, too – as Affiliate Industry Review CEO Lee-Ann Johnstone has discussed in the past. One group might be younger and more internet-savvy, responding to social media and looking for online reviews. At the other end of the age spectrum, you might have an older generation who grew up on games consoles and still engages with email marketing. Just as with any vertical anywhere, you need to know who you’re targeting and what their interests are.
Trust is fundamental in all tight-knit communities. Esports is no different. Affiliate William Westerlund stressed the importance of this further in the February/March 2020 edition of iGB Affiliate magazine. Some of his key points worth noting are written below.
 “It’s clear that the new breed of esports-focused platforms are comfortable working with the esports community, something that hasn’t always been true with ‘traditional’ gambling platforms.”
 By making sure that they’re engaged and relevant, these new sites are increasingly seen as being “one of us” by the gaming community and therefore gain a great deal of trust from their players.”
How do you build trust in esports? The same as you do in every other niche. By increasing your presence and creating authoritative, insightful and interesting content. Since you’ll be doing much of what other operators and affiliates don’t, bettors will have more of a reason to stay loyal to you.
Westerlund also emphasised the importance of investing. Those that sponsor players’ favourite teams, events and forums are more likely to attract said individuals. This isn’t too dissimilar to football, where many clubs’ shirt sponsors also have betting outlets dotted around stadia on matchdays. The reason why Betway, along with esports-focused operators like GG.bet have been successful is because they show that they care about the community.
It’s true that offering markets on and promoting some forms of esports can be a good way to keep things moving until real-life sports returns. However, the magic happens when you put together a strategy for long-term growth.
It would be foolish for one to believe that just because they’re successful in sports betting, that will automatically carry over to esports. It won’t, because you’re targeting a completely different audience.
With that being said, the core principles of setting up as a high-performing affiliate or operator remain the same. Investing your time (and money) into this community will pay off because you’ll be able to create better content, increase visibility and gain players’ trust.
Utilise what you know about setting up a functioning business to succeed in esports. Then, the rewards you reap will be greater.
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