Moving beyond sponsorship: How Fonbet’s KHL deal is “much more than a business decision”

In Russia, hockey is considered to be the national sport and so securing a partnership with the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) is a “strategically important asset” for Fonbet

Speaking to SBC News, Fonbet reflected on the ways in which the operator’s collaboration with the league transcends the typical sponsorship model, highlighting the importance of fan-engagement and social responsibility for hockey fans across the CIS region.

SBC: Could you tell us a little about your partnership with the KHL? How did it start? Why is the KHL a key partner for Fonbet?

Our partnership with the KHL began four years ago. The contract we signed was for five years, and at the time it was the most extensive agreement ever between a betting company and sports representative. Our partnership with the KHL is important to us because of all our hockey fans. 

Unlike most countries, where no other sport even comes close to football in terms of popularity, in Russia, hockey is considered the national sport. We win a lot, have lots of traditions as well as one of the strongest national teams in the world. 

Entire regions of the country are considered major fan bases. In fact, the rating of KHL streams is often higher than for RPL matches. For us, hockey is a priority sport, and we regard cooperation with the KHL as a strategically important asset.

SBC: The new KHL season is about to start. How is Fonbet interacting with customers ahead of the season? Will there be any new promotions, higher odds and off-line fan events?

Another reason for the importance of this partnership is that Fonbet operates in several CIS countries where the league is also present. For example, In Kazakhstan where we have been operating for three years now, the KHL is watched and loved by lots of fans rooting for Barys, a club we also work closely with.

SBC: How does your collaboration with the KHL help popularise hockey among sports bettors?

In general terms, we want to say that the KHL is a very technologically advanced league. Many of its employees in the past have experience working or interning in the NHL, and have adopted their international experience.

The league is constantly growing, developing and integrating new technologies. They are as dynamic as hockey itself, and are always moving forward. So it is really interesting to work with them. 

SBC: In terms of sports, how has Fonbet helped in the overall development of the league?

Our cooperation has long developed beyond the simple application of a logo on the ice or a billboard at a stadium. We are trying to develop interesting activities in terms of CRM, interaction with fans, and interesting contests, as well as three-way events with the KHL and other large hockey resources. 

We also have plans to expand our partnership with other clubs. This season we are already poised to sign agreements with several clubs. This is important for us, including from the point of view of working with the teams’ fan bases. 

SBC: The last two KHL seasons were affected by the pandemic. Was there a decrease in participating teams or a shorter season? Do you think there will be an increase in demand this year now that everything is more or less getting back to normal in the sports world?

Our partnership with the KHL is so much more than just a business decision. It has a social component as well. For example, we operate the Assist charity programme, where we donate RUB 1,000 for every KHL goal scored. When the Gagarin Cup starts, this amount doubles. We transfer the amount received to special funds involved in the development of children’s sledge hockey. 

At the end of last season, Fonbet donated almost RUB 4,500,000 to organise children’s teams in Khabarovsk, Ulyanovsk, Cheboksary, Izhevsk, Novosibirsk, Sochi, Kazan and Chekhov (Moscow).

The industry is continuing to cope with the effects of the pandemic. We hope that this KHL season will go according to plan without any unexpected changes, and that the stands will be full of hockey fans.

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