There are significant lessons that sponsorship managers of North American sports betting brands can take from their European counterparts, writes Antourage CEO Johan Junker.
Almost three years after the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting, allowing states to legalise it if they wish, the industry is starting to gather some serious momentum. This has manifested itself in a flurry of activity from mergers and acquisitions to high profile sports partnerships.
Every week, a new announcement is made regarding a sports betting partnership as brands seek to stake their flags in the ground. For instance, the National Football League (NFL) signed deals with BetMGM, PointsBet and WynnBet ahead of the 2021 season.
Soon after, we saw the National Hockey League (NHL) allow sponsor patches on jerseys for the first time, with betting companies ready to jump on board.
Conversely, over in Europe, there has been an entirely different situation playing out. Unlike the fledgling North American market, the European market has reached a saturation point – particularly when it comes to sports partnerships on jerseys.
In England, 45% of Premier League clubs currently have sports betting companies as their jersey partners, including Leeds, Newcastle, West Ham, and Wolves. In other major European football leagues, governments have recently intervened to ban the appearance of these brands on jerseys, including in Italy and Spain. There is pressure on the UK to follow suit, too.
An unexpected advocate of such governance was by a prominent sports betting brand in the UK, Paddy Power (PP). The company, which is under the Flutter Entertainment umbrella of brands including FanDuel, FOX Bet, Betfair, and SkyBet, deployed a clever sponsorship campaign dubbed Save Our Shirt.
Realising they could not compete with the budgets of foreign betting brands when it comes to putting their logo on jerseys, they positioned themselves as official ‘unsponsors’ of then Premier League side, Huddersfield United.
After sporting a hideous sash in their opening pre-season match, they removed their logo for the entirety of the Premier League season. The result? Considerably more coverage than they would have otherwise achieved from such a partnership otherwise.
This, like many of PP’s marketing campaigns, was a masterclass in marketing and PR. The brand is notorious for its witty content and has used all of its sponsorship assets as a means to build a relationship with the audience beyond basic brand awareness.
While not every sports betting brand can emulate PP’s marketing guile, there are certainly plenty that have come to the same realisation that content is the best way to build a relationship with an audience, particularly when it is relatable, funny, or insightful. For PP, this has manifested with events such as the Paddy Power Golf Shootout (essentially a comedy pro-am) as well as even producing a TV sitcom called ‘The VAR Room.’
For Svenska Spel, a leading sports betting brand in the Nordics, this has manifested in a far more replicable way. The company has adopted Antourage, a media platform that delivers authentic creator content directly to owned and operated (O&O) channels.
This means that Svenska Spel, which is engaged heavily in sports sponsorship, is able to propagate modern-day branded content, narrated by personalities that the sports audience care about, on the owned channels of its partners as well as having it simulcast across their social channels.
This is exactly what they have done with the Swedish Handball National Team (SHNT), where they are a principal partner. Antourage sourced top creators and produced customised sponsored shows which it then simulcasted using its plug and play tech solution to the SHNT’s website and app, as well as across social.
The result? 30x more engagement with their sponsored content when compared to social and 20x more dwell time, too. Because the content is driving fans to their favourite team’s O&O, the audience is much more qualified; tools such as live chat and polls mean that Svenska Spel are also able to interact with them directly as well as receiving more prominent coverage on their partner’s home page.
“Antourage enables sports betting partners to surface live odds directly in-stream”
As Stina Packalen, Sponsorship manager at Svenska Spel, explained: “We are attracted by how easily we get real exclusive access to athletes inside the bubble, and are able to share that unique experience with the entire fan community.
“We feel like we are closer to the game and inner circle than even the press, which kind of put us in a new position as the actual carrier of news and narratives.”
The benefits of such a partnership have only since improved, too. Through a new feature released in November, Antourage enables sports betting partners to surface live odds directly in-stream on their partner’s owned and operated (i.e. website/ app).
For instance, if a betting partner of the NBA’s New York Knicks used Antourage (and had their permission), they could not only put sponsored creator content on Knicks.com, but they could surface their live odds within the content which, when clicked on, would funnel viewers directly to the sportsbook to place that bet.
While this functionality has just launched, it is bound to increase the conversion rates of sports betting sponsors. For this reason, it has already been picked up as a tool by betting media affiliates such as The Props Network as well as sports betting brands like ATG.
Looking to Europe, there are significant lessons that sponsorship managers of North American sports betting brands can take. Ultimately, the sports partnerships that are signed are only as valuable as the levels of engagement and connection with the fans that they achieve.
Plastering logos is certainly a proven way to raise awareness, however, those that can do so while also thinking smarter are set for the greatest success.