As I discussed in my first article last month, which assessed the role affiliates play in a new slot release, there is no branch of marketing that permits such a detailed preview of a game product’s selling points than affiliate content.
Unfortunately, too often affiliate managers get in touch with affiliates only to let them know about the launch of a new game, rather than the build-up to it, meaning the opportunity for previews is lost.
In my view, this lost opportunity is due to a lack of symbiosis in business units across the majority of igaming organisations. Like companies in many a tech-boom industry, igaming businesses have had to evolve and grow rapidly and this has led to inevitable imperfections in organisational structures.
Many igaming operators run their businesses using a ‘silo’ approach, with different departments working independently of one another, and nowhere is this truer than at the desk of the affiliate manager.
The level of interaction between product and affiliate teams is low and for this reason, affiliate managers are rarely positioned to effectively market a new casino game to their affiliates but at the same time, it is their job to do so.
While a good affiliate manager ought to be in tune with product development, the role has many competing priorities that mean this isn’t always the case.
When you factor in the requirement to keep track of the promotional calendar, the increasing pressures of the regulatory environment, not to mention the day-to-day communications required to keep an affiliate programme moving forward, it’s easy to see how skipping over an internal email announcing the impending launch of the casino’s next big title might occur.
According to Katy Stafford, head of affiliates at affiliate programme ComeOn Connect, it’s particularly challenging when your programme’s brands are launching up to 20 games per week.
Selective approach needed
For operators with such a high number of launches, it is simply nonsensical to promote every single game to the same degree through any marketing channel.
At some stage, a choice over which games warrant traction has to happen and this deliberation – between casino product manager and affiliate team – rarely occurs in my experience.
The affiliate programme brief, generally unspoken, is that it is the volume of games that is the marketable focus on casino product, rather than steering their affiliates to a particular quality of game that suits a certain type of player or country market. Is this down to a lack of product knowledge among most affiliate managers? It’s certainly evidence that product expertise is not trickling down through operator organisations.
And even when it is, it often comes with a time lag that makes it impossible for affiliate managers to then get that information to affiliates in time for previews. Affiliate programmes require notice to produce design assets to promote new products.
Oddly, this is another misnomer of the operator and its silos. When creative is produced for on-site coverage at the behest of the product team, all too frequently a separate request – even a separate design team and compliance sign off – is required to produce the assets to populate the affiliate platform with sufficient material for affiliates to utilise.
There are exceptions to the rule, however. While very few operations get things right, those that do often have incredibly close working – even exclusive – relationships with game developer partners.
‘Priming’ affiliates for launches
Celia Gustavson, affiliate manager at Casino Rewards, whose sites feature exclusively Microgaming content, is in such a position. “We normally get three months’ notice ahead of new game releases and these are announced through our affiliate news in advance.
“We ensure that our affiliates are primed and ready for all major launches. We have an exclusive variation of Mega Moolah landing soon and our affiliates already know about it.”
But single provider operations such as Casino Rewards are few and far between these days. Most affiliate managers are faced with consuming a Rolodex full of different studios.
This makes it all the more vital that all stakeholders participating in a new game’s release recognise the pivotal role an affiliate manager plays in timely information gathering and seeding.
It is incumbent on game studio and casino managers to ensure that affiliates don’t have to chase their affiliate managers for information about new game launches.
If at game launch it is the affiliate chasing for game information, the moment may very well be lost for all parties and a great game may not get the coverage it deserves during what is an increasingly small PR window.
The importance of engaging players early in a game’s lifecycle cannot be underestimated, says Stafford: “The depth of game titles we offer is the most important factor in players both choosing their favoured casino brand and remaining loyal to it. The best channel for us to educate both new and existing players about the games we offer is via affiliates. It’s great for them (in terms of fresh content) and brilliant for us to ensure that new games are at the forefront of our marketing efforts.”