Alex Kornilov, BETEGY: How horse racing can engage with the younger demographic
Ahead of his appearance at this week’s Betting on Sports Europe conference at Twickenham Stadium in London, BETEGY’s CEO Alex Kornilov spoke to SBC News about how horse racing can reach a new audience, the future of betting shops, and player engagement in the UK market.
SBC: As an expert on player engagement, how would BETEGY define the core player demographics across sports betting and casino in the UK right now?
Alex Kornilov: Let’s start with online casino. We’re looking at very versatile demographics – especially when it comes to preferences across poker, slots, and other table games, as they’re not interchangeable. This means we need to differentiate between customers of all experiences, poker, slots, more and more. There is no single casino player, or single sports bettor, everyone is different.
Younger demographics in their 20s tend to prefer sports betting above casino, whereas from what we’ve seen, I would argue that casino in the UK is more popular with the older generation. Of course, that’s changing with the new wave of slot games, which are incorporating exciting mechanics and prolonged spins and the like – which are resonating strongly with a younger audience, as opposed to the older crowd who will be attracted to more traditional content like fruit slots.
Whatever demographics we’re talking though, sports always come first. Arguably that’s the principal acquisition tool for onboarding new demographics into casino, with bonusing and promotions unsurprisingly forming an essential part of the marketing mix for converting players.
Last but not least, I believe retail, the bastion of the UK high street, still belongs to the older generation, as this is a demographic that values cash bets. I believe betting shops are going to struggle tempting online demographics into shops, although at BETEGY, we’re of course up for that challenge!
SBC: Talk us through your upcoming panel at Betting on Sports this week alongside Paddy Power, Fitzdares and Catena Media. How do you see horse racing appealing to new demographics?
AK: It is a panel that I’m very much looking forward to. There is a really strong collection of stakeholders, with two high-powered UK operators, the industry’s leading affiliate network in Catena, and the engagement supply-side from ourselves.
On our discussion, horse racing no doubt needs to go more mainstream to appeal to younger demographics, for want of a better word, to appeal to a broader collection of the population. It has an image of exclusive, wealthy, and rooted in heritage – which isn’t a bad thing, but it can act as a barrier to entry for the wider populace, especially from a betting perspective.
It is something that horse racing undoubtedly prides itself on, but it isn’t necessarily something that resonates with young people. We need more dynamic digital services and integration to excite and engage. We also need to create content around this that can make the fans and betting customers part of the story and narrative. This means getting to know the jockeys, horses, and everything else that makes the sport special and package that up in this generation’s content – social, Netflix series, you name it.
We need to remember that to reach new demographics, we don’t want to change the sport, we just need to bring in new channels for potential fans to engage with through innovative content and a narrative they can get behind. Formula 1 is a fantastic example of getting this right.
Liberty Media has completely transformed the viewer experience by providing an interactive betting format that is yet to be imitated across any other sports vertical. This has driven engagement exponentially, by focusing on more than just the race.
SBC: How much do you believe ‘experience-based betting’ to be essential in engaging the next generation?
AK: Without a doubt and not even a question – this is absolutely essential for the new generation. Betting should be about the experience. The whole process should be entertaining and making betting as immersive as possible.
The transactional element – accepting a bet and paying money back – is a formality, but there is no excitement generated from this. It is essential that the whole process is engaging, so players come back as they’ve enjoyed the experience.
We need to remember that we’re beyond that market phase of the utilitarian nature of betting being enough. It’s not enough to offer the best bonuses or speed of cashout. Your brand needs to resonate with your audiences’ values. This is of course something my fellow panel participants, Paddy Power and Fitzdares, have done fantastically with some really top-notch marketing.
SBC: When it comes to retail, horse racing and betting shops have a very strong tradition together. Do you expect that to continue through to the next decade?
AK: It’s all about giving a reason to go into the shop. This is just like any other retail experience on the high street in the UK right now. You need to create an immersive betting experience in that location – approach it just like Nike Town would on Oxford Street – you want sports events, brand ambassadors and anything else that matches your audience.
Looking at horse racing in particular for betting shops, over say, football. I believe as long as you’ve got a reason for players to go into the shop, horse racing is always going to be an interesting component. Assuming you’ve created that next-gen betting shop environment, then any customers coming in to bet on football are going to want other forms of entertainment while they wait for the match to play out. Racing is perfect for that, with a race at anything up to 10-minute intervals during the day in the UK.
Alongside that, the heritage of racing is destined to be interwoven into betting culture, just as it always has been. Football is a spectator sport and so much more than a betting event – that’s just a small component of enjoyment. Horse racing on the other hand, is intrinsically related to the betting experience. It just makes up too much of a core part of the sport.
SBC: Last but not least, what are you looking forward to at Betting on Sports Europe? What key trends should SBC’s readers be keeping an eye on right now?
AK: Let’s think about the nature of conferences – why are they important? It’s about meetings and networking. I’ve been in the industry for a decade, and I believe that relationships play a massive part in this industry being as resilient as it has been over the past two years, and that’s something we at BETEGY really value.
On trends, it’s going to be all about a professional approach and speed of delivery. Times have changed and the industry is innovating far faster post-COVID. Betting on Sports offers the chance to be a great springboard for the UK and European sports betting scene to do exactly that, and we’re looking forward to starting that journey with many of our new friends and partners that we’ll be meeting at the show!
The Betting on Sports Europe conference and exhibition takes place at Twickenham Stadium, London on 7-9 June 2022, and features an agenda that looks at industry leadership issues, the next generation of technology, payments systems, how to improve player protection, the opportunities created by the FIFA World Cup, the latest developments in regulation, marketing strategies, and the potential of the esports betting market.
Full event information, including details of how to attend, is available at the Betting on Sports Europe website.