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Are US sportsbooks ready for the age of the influencer?
Troy Paul founded influencer marketing specialist SGG Media with his father after graduating from university during the Covid-19 pandemic. The sports betting industry had long appealed to him, leading him to dive in.
“I knew that once PASPA had been repealed, there was a huge industry being created – I wanted to be a part of it,” he explains.
The idea for SGG Media came to life after Troy noticed sports betting marketing was dominated by cost-heavy traditional media forms, such as television and billboard advertising, that offer little way to track results.
He realised social media could provide a less costly alternative to traditional advertising and saw a bright future for influencer marketing.
He notes the sole focus of the company is social media. “We’re putting all of our eggs in that basket,” he says.
“That’s what we believe in. We think it’s the future of sports fans and sports gamblers.”
Age of the influencer
After the repeal of PASPA, major operators spent millions, if not billions, on traditional forms of advertising. As the market matures they are looking for more innovative ways get their products in front of the right audiences.
Social media provides a cheaper way to offer advertising solutions. In particular, SGG’s strategy relies on the power of the “micro-influencer”, in which an influencer provides custom content directed at a specific sport or area.
The influencer gains followers and builds up a base for targeted advertising campaigns by creating content.
SGG’s network of influencers span the country and collaborate on content, to varying degrees. Strategy differs depending on the influencer and scale of the account, although the majority of follower retention relies on the influencer rather than SGG itself.
Despite the difference in approach and partnership strategies, Paul maintains this niche is an integral part of success for influencers in the industry.
“The accounts that always have the best engagement and are growing and are continuing to build their audience are ones that focus on the specific niche,” he says.
“Instead of trying to do everything at once, they focus on a specific team or region to cover. Out of that comes a really loyal audience and accounts that continue to grow and produce the best engagement for us.”
Forging online communities
Much of the brand loyalty and trust that has been lost by hyper commercialisation and competition is returning via online community and influencer loyalty.
Paul stresses a loyal audience sets social media marketing apart from its traditional counterparts. These influencers and their followers shape communities, bonded together by sports teams.
In terms of the value social media has over traditional forms of advertising, Paul notes that the community aspect is second to none.
“The overwhelming factor that social media has in its favour is that it creates communities of fans that come together and interact with each other,” he explains.
“This can encourage fans to sign up for a sportsbook and consume content because it involves their social media community.”
Bonuses and first-time bettor deals only go so far. But when a betting ad targets a specific niche group, it better resonates with the end user.
While this specific type of advertising may sound nuanced, there is an air of past familiarity in influencer marketing.
Looking towards the future
It is clear many companies are turning to the “Barstool method”, as Paul puts it. In this model, content production and online fan interaction is as much of a product as the sportsbook is. Think of Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, or Jake Paul entering the market with Betr.
Russell Karp of DataArt notices this trend being adopted by other operators in a recent article he wrote for iGB.
“Increasing fan participation through an interactive and multi-layered experience – chat, play, compare, learn, etc. – has fast become one of the priorities for US betting providers,” he writes.
“And the playbook for doing so shouldn’t surprise anyone: in-game betting, social media activity, educational content and live streaming are just some of the tactics proven to drive engagement and, ultimately, retention.”
Paul makes a similar conclusion and has full expectations that the industry-wide focus on content and direct engagement will continue to grow in the coming year.
He attributes the lower cost and high return value of social media campaigns as a driving force for the future. Notably, he points out how big operators have started creating more interactive content for fans.
DraftKings, for example, is developing communities through podcasts and its sportsbook app, where fans can interact with one another’s bets.
The evolution of sportsbooks and how they are marketed
“The sportsbooks and the apps that we’ll see five years from now will look completely different from what we see today,” says Paul.
“Three to four years down the line, when the sports betting market matures, big operators will be able to continue to produce ads and get new signups through the investment in social media and content beginning today.
“As opposed to traditional advertisements, where publicity ends after the ad airs, social media will be able to provide constant advertising via minimal spend,” he adds.
The instantaneous nature of today’s life also plays a part in the future of social media marketing within the industry.
New forms of betting, such as micro betting, are taking over the industry. In-play bets and being on your phone during a game while engaging with different media and apps is becoming the norm.
Paul agrees that instantaneous nature of social media will shape the future of the industry.
“We want it all and we want it now,” he says.
“That’s what we’re trying to hit with our advertisements and that’s what you’re seeing a lot of these operators do as well.”