It really has been a turbulent year for the online gambling industry, a statement that Sport and iGaming Conference 2011 Chairman Michael Caselli supported in his opening speech. Everything from Black Friday to the eventual removal of the UK white list, to fragmented Europe, taxation and the declining economies around the world have taken the online gambling industry for a ride.
The Sport and iGaming conference provided a great opportunity to dissect what happened in 2011 and learn what’s in store for the sports gambling industry in 2012. The event itself took place at the beautiful Pinsent Masons headquarters in London, attracting around 100 delegates who enjoyed a series of panels and presentations, several networking breaks and a casual lunch catered by “five star sandwich makers”.
Trevor Watkins of Pinsent Masons led the morning’s first panel, three sports industry veterans who all emphasized that successful sponsorships and partnerships are all about data. Paul Fisher of the Jockey Club stated that consumer brands want access to sports teams’ data and the reverse while Trevor Birch of PKF stated that all clubs need to improve on data capture and data use.
Next up was Paddy Power of Paddy Power (!!!) who delivered a fun loving, charismatic and all around excellent presentation, without a doubt the highlight of the whole event. Over 20 short minutes, Paddy took us through the best PR stunts that Paddy Power PLC has pulled off over the years. Some of the stunts featured included putting out odds on the papal election, branding an Irish team’s hurling sticks, putting up (and pulling down!) huge “Hollywood style” letters spelling ‘Paddy Power” behind the Ryder Cup race course, sponsoring a confession box and calling it the “sin bin” and creating a “last supper” ad with the message of, “there’s a place for fun and games, clearly the last supper isn’t it”. And the list goes on.
The message Paddy got across was even if publicity stunts fail or cause controversy, the goal is talkability. There are very few who can argue that Paddy Power has mastered the art and is the industry leader in this department.
Later in the day Mike Shaw of comScore presented data on the digital sports gambling industry. In summary, Mike left us with three key points, 1)The UK is one of the leading markets for digital sports, 2)Not all users are created equal and 3)Social media may offer untapped opportunities for users. All delegates will receive a soft copy of all the data presented and if you want to learn more, sign up with comScore.
For the rest of the day, the focus shifted to mobile gaming and the rise of social media, two very important things for the sports gambling industry. Aideen Shortt, author of the Mobile Gaming Report, emphasized that operators are mainly focusing on smartphone mobile products despite the fact that feature phones are more prominent, especially in emerging markets such as South America, Africa and Eastern Europe. As a result, we will likely see different mobile gaming market leaders in emerging markets as we do in smartphone heavy regions.
One of the takeaways from Aideen’s presentation included that stadium owners should consider investing in technology that supports in-running betting. Such technology would add great value to potential online gambling company sponsorships and of course the punters would love it too. Another valuable takeaway emphasized the power and importance of facebook comments and likes. An example of just how powerful these tools can be can be is the “Jesus Christ in Richmond Park” amateur YouTube video that received over 1 million views in a day due to the power of social media.
Before enjoying wine and refreshments at the concluding networking session, Michael Caselli closed out the conference and left us with the following thought: you need state of the art technology in order to stand out. Improving technology is great advice for success in 2012 and we look forward to seeing what Sport Business and iGaming Business come up with for next year’s event!