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Online sports betting: all change in marketing model

| By iGB Editorial Team | Reading Time: 5 minutes
Adtech: are we on the verge of seeing AI-inspired, hyper-personalised and laser-guided marketing make its mark on sports betting punters?

Adtech is a major factor in online betting advertising but is often described as clunky and not targeted. Are we on the verge of seeing AI-inspired, hyper-personalised and laser-guided marketing make its mark on sports betting punters?

Scott Longley 

The adtech revolution has affected the online gambling sector as much as other areas of ecommerce but the metrics of digital marketing are starting to look less and less effective – and the share prices of the listed adtech companies are a visible measure of the sub-sector’s problems.

It has never been easier to snap up digital advertising inventory but it has never been harder to grab the attention of the target market.

“There are so many points of wastage in a marketing journey,” says Sarah McChesney, commercial manager at online gambling digital marketing specialists Fresh8.

“Display campaigns are littered with inefficiency. The bugbear of most customers is the delivery of untargeted ads that are usually basic acquisition-offer driven whether I am a customer or not.”

Many sports betting ads are irrelevant to what the consumer is either interested in or has been involved in before. 

In comparison, as McChesney says, the Fresh8 idea (currently in operation with BetVictor and others) is to deliver targeted content that is always up-to-date and relevant, delivered in real-time with whatever message is the most likely to generate a bet.

Similarly aimed at hitting a player’s betting interest touch points is iSport Genius, which offers contextual content and bite-sized betting nuggets for sports bettors who have already shown an interest in a given event.

Co-founder and partner Nathan Rothschild is a keen watcher of the debates around personalisation and marketing and he believes the fully-personalised experience will be coming to sports betting “sooner rather than later”.

“There is no doubt that users will have a completely personalised experience in the future,” he says.

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“The only question mark is when. Now it is something operators understand. They also see competitors are all across it. They want to get into it because they see it as the future. It’s become something of a race. It’s the power of a new concept and it is being built into their roadmaps.”

McChesney suggests Fresh8 is building a platform with relevancy “at its core” that delivers targeted content and removes as many manual barriers as is possible.

“If your ads do not understand content or the consumers then how can you hope to remove wastage?” she asks.

A hole in your bucket
Similar questions are being asked elsewhere in the space. “Everything everyone has done with bucketing is wrong,” says John O’Malia, the founder of VAIX.ai, a new company working on artificial intelligence-based solutions within online gambling, and current board member at Betclic.

O’Malia isn’t talking about leaking pails of water. He is talking about the betting and gaming consumer and about how new data analytics capabilities mean operators can look at their players in a more granular fashion.

“The whole concept of bucketing is great for marketing people. They are flattering to the CRM marketing team because it gives them player classes they can put in a Powerpoint, and allows them to compartmentalise,” he says.

“The brain loves a heuristic (investigating or interested in evidence). But your players are not bucket inhabitants – they are people, with a very personal trajectory that you can actually respond to in a hyper-personalised way by moving to AI.  And the first operators that do it will dramatically outperform those that don’t.”

Pointing to what his company is doing with bingo chat and translating that to sports betting, O’Malia gives a hint of what might be done in terms of personalised marketing.

He points out that when utilising AI, bots can be proactive and generate content that responds to individual tweets.

“One of the tools we have built pulls in tweet streams, refines them and can respond to each one of those tweets with the most likely bet and the best odds on that bet,” he says.

He says this is taking the approach of Paddy Power and “moving it into the world of AI and 24-hour social”.

“With any event in a match, there is a most likely bet on the follow and AI can tell you what that bet is. All of a sudden, the whole social world is the front of a bookmaker’s shop. It’s precision and personalised marketing.”

Given everything else that is developing in the related worlds of technology, social and marketing it should be no surprise that the vision for the future sports betting  or gaming promises a step-change on what we know and experience today.

The broad offerings of today – generally with one-size-fits-all interfaces – are set to be replaced and marketing, and the form it comes in, will be the leading indicator of what is to come.

O’Malia cites the work being done by NASA in the search for new planets in the galaxy for how AI can be employed in the more down-to-earth world of gambling. “NASA is looking for planets using AI – it’s exactly the same thing with your data,” he says.

“Let the AI find the grouping and clusters. Let the AI find the correlations. It’s what it naturally does. Unsupervised learning. Let the player clusters come to you. Don’t impose them on players.”

Brave new world – when it happens
Rothschild at iSport Genius concurs: “There will be no wastage. You will be serving up relevant marketing messages to each of your consumers. A different message tailored to each user and their preferences.

“And when you have a highly-efficient marketing strategy, it will naturally convert better. And then there will be greater investment because there will be a return on it.”

He says the iterations on personalised offerings will be an ongoing task, but step-by-step a new mass-market offering will emerge.

“It will always get better – it always evolves and in five years’ time it will be better than it is in two years’ time,” he predicts.

“But at what point will we see some significant examples of this? I think towards the second half of this year, given some of the discussions we are having, you will see developments very soon,” he says.

“It’s still a new concept. But the appetite to incorporate a personalised strategy – that has been a consistent theme. When? There is some guesswork. But in the big wide world of technology, this isn’t that complex compared with self-driving cars. So it shouldn’t be so surprising.”

The new world – whether it is self-driving cars or personalised data-driven marketing – is coming upon us at speed. The old adage for startups is to ‘fail fast in order to avoid unnecessary costs’. But in the world of marketing of sports betting, the mantra will soon be ‘fail often’.

New levels of personalised messaging are changing the nature of how online sports betting  brands communicate with their current and future customer bases.

Offerings that make much more use of the data available on the customer and their wants and needs means that marketers will have a far greater focus on providing offers which will hit home.

And it means marketing will become much more economic. At least parts of the industry will be happy with that outcome.

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