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Africa: engaging casual punters through the World Cup

| By Stephen Carter | Reading Time: 3 minutes
The World Cup offers South African sportsbook operators the chance to acquire and retain casual bettors. Chalkline Sports head of igaming Jason Foster explains how to do it

The World Cup offers South African sportsbook operators the chance to acquire and retain casual bettors. Chalkline Sports head of igaming Jason Foster explains how to do it

The World Cup presents a massive opportunity for all sportsbook operators to attract new casual players, boost betting activity and cash in, but it’s especially the case in Africa.

Looking back at the last World Cup in 2014, data from the Western Cape Gambling and Racing Board showed gross gaming revenue (GGR) jumped 63%, from R16 million in May 2014 to R26 million in June 2014, driven by the tournament kicking-off mid-month.

This uptick was despite South Africa not qualifying for the tournament in 2014. Although the South African national team Bafana Bafana won’t be in Russia for this year’s tournament, there’s plenty of African interest with Tunisia, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal and Egypt flying the flag for the African continent.

The World Cup is of significant interest to casual bettors right across South Africa, and they are keen to wager on players, matches and the overall outcome.

But how can operators engage bettors, particularly those who only wager on major sporting events such as the World Cup?

Hot market
First, it is important to understand the state of play in Africa when it comes to sports betting, which is growing rapidly across the continent.

Driving forces include increased smartphone penetration, improved awareness of sportsbook brands, increased mobile data availability and the ability to conveniently transact from a smartphone.

According to Statistica.com, for the last World Cup, South Africa had 9.7 million smartphone users. By the time a ball is kicked on 14 June this year, that number is expected to have doubled to 20.3 million.

Of course the majority of growth is mobile, but retail is also providing an assist. From 440 retail outlets last World Cup, the National Gaming Board of South Africa announced there were 515 outlets at end of 2017. 

It should therefore be no surprise that consultants at PwC estimate that South African GGR will grow 24% this year.

This could be a conservative estimate. Especially if savvy operators harness the following strategies to reconnect soccer fans with sports betting capabilities transformed since Brazil in 2014.

Tips for operators
Seasoned operators know that sharp punters are vigilant bargain hunters. However, the World Cup’s casual fans are likely to be less price-sensitive and less likely to shop, so there’s an incentive to lock in casual bettors long before the tournament.

1. Build and promote a simple World Cup 2018 landing page.These help with acquiring new customers organically using SEO, or provide a destination for paid acquisition. For a simple, user-friendly way to drive value for your book:

Lock in early bets (and learn team preferences). Second, broadcast your schedule of events and F2P promotions. Third, encourage social and email/SMS sharing. Fourth, educate bettors about product offerings in advance of the tournament. Finally, email/mobile capture for notifications and special WC2018 offers about their favourite teams.

For current casual customers, you already have data to help you communicate more powerfully. Refer to past betting profiles on international matches and target customers with offers to encourage increased participation.

2. Lock in punters early with outright incentive campaigns.
What’s the first bet that any punter wants to make in the World Cup? Their favourite team to win? Seems like a good place to start. Also, for current casual customers, refer to past betting profiles on international matches to target incentive offers that will lock in mindshare for an early outrights wager.

For operators with a casino and a sportsbook, running a cross-promotion against the loyalty database will undoubtedly spur some inactive players to action.

3. Run F2P games for data capture in advance of the tournament.

We see this as being one of the biggest opportunities for African operators to build their databases. Simple F2P games can include voucher prizes, and players will associate your brand with the World Cup. Games can be sent direct to inactive customers via email and also pushed via social media.

In closing, the World Cup in Russia will provide South African sportsbooks with a unique opportunity to excite existing customers, reconnect with inactives and find new recreational players. South Africa may not be there in person, but SA sports bettors and operators will have a lot riding on the outcomes.

Jason Foster is head of igaming and African markets at Chalkline Sports, a marketing technology platform that powers customer acquisition and retention for regulated gaming. Jason has more than 20 years experience in sports betting operations and online sports betting technology, and has worked with sports betting operators around the world.

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