We work in a digital industry. Without computers, mobiles, tablets and, most importantly, the Internet, none of us would be in our current roles. The customers that we provide products and services to all have access to some form of device that allows them to go online, that’s the lowest common denominator of iGamers. As technology continues to evolve and young adults are become more used to the possibilities that it brings, the population in general is becoming more tech savvy. As a result, it’s no surprise that most offline businesses worth their salt have developed some form of online presence.
For many businesses, the Internet has presented them with their best opportunity for expansion in the last 20 years. Those that haven’t capitalised on it, such as HMV in the UK, have found themselves in financial trouble. But rather than being a homage to Tim Berners-Lee, this is a look at how marketing can extend online and off as well as whether it’s possible to convey the same message. Because, while offline businesses have taken to the digital world, many online brands have been able to remain in the confines of their browsers. The question is, is this the best way to attract customers?
Sticking to Search
The first port of call for pretty much any online business is to get your SEO in order. That’s a given and is necessary regardless of what industry you’re in. It just so happens that in iGaming it’s especially important given that the market is so saturated in most places.
PPC, site sponsorship, banner runs and particularly the use of affiliate networks are all very common within the online gambling industry. They all have their benefits and have been successful; hence the continuation of their use but there’s also problems with each. PPC has become quite costly for the most popular short tail terms with companies paying as much as $100, and in some cases many more, per acquisition. The trouble is that you can’t even guarantee what search terms will work well for you. The quality of the traffic may be low and force you to search out long tail terms, where success can be found but it’s not without a hard work.
Some operators rely almost entirely on affiliates but this is no sure thing either. As well as having to keep existing affiliates happy, you have to be able to stand out against other brands on their sites. Many affiliates are likely to be more willing to feature well known brands more prominently on their site. Many put lots of effort into ranking well for brand name searches and the amount of searches can be massively boosted by offline advertising.
While there are plenty of ways to gain traffic online, it still seems like there’s something missing. In an age of SEO and digital marketing where we are constantly being told how important building a brand is, it’s difficult to do so without venturing offline. For the smaller brands, the idea of traditional marketing is perhaps intimidating – it shouldn’t be. Aside from the fact that it is much trickier to measure ROI offline, most operators should definitely be thinking about some form of traditional marketing. After all, it’s no coincidence that the biggest brands have a large presence away from computer, table and mobile screens.
Offline Advertising Opportunities
Given the vast difference in regulatory stances towards online gambling across the world, it’s no mean feat to find methods to suit all areas. But rather than listing the lack of opportunities in some unregulated areas, it’s most likely going to be more helpful to consider the gambling lands of opportunity. In general, that means the regulated markets and given the size of the regulated markets around at the moment, that, in turn, means focusing on the UK. As such, the majority of methods and examples below will be in the context of the UK market.
The first and perhaps most commonly used, especially among sports books, is sponsorship. There are few sports and leagues in the world that don’t involve gambling shirt, event and stadium sponsors while many sports clubs have now embraced betting partners. Not only is this a form of marketing that’s been used by European heavy hitters such as bwin, Betfair and William Hill but Asian-facing sportsbooks have found it to be a great way of exposing their brand to markets far away from the UK. In fact, if you ask most UK football fans what they can tell you about SBO Bet and 188Bet, it won’t be much.
A considerably less global approach to offline advertising is the more traditional forms of print and television advertising. The trusted format of ringing up a magazine and placing an ad, or something like that. The more limited exposure, especially in print ads, means that this can be a fairly low cost option given the cutting of marketing budgets in most other industries.
Then there’s the fun stuff. The PR stunts that have become particularly synonymous with Paddy Power. Be it putting a billboard in a train station, adding a jockey to a famous landmark, sky writing or anything else the Irishmen can dream up, they’ve gained considerable publicity from simply being a bit sily. They aren’t alone either. Betfair got involved in the London mayoral election by wandering round town with giant blow up heads of the two main candidates in a campaign very cleverly titled ‘A Load of Hot Air’. More recently, JackpotJoy sent a giant rubber duck up the River Thames in order to launch their ‘Fundation’ – a move that caused quite a stir among commuters. In addition, there are also opportunities for product placement and even to create partnerships that see digital brands being given a physical presence. Pokerstars are certainly the frontrunners in this at the moment with their poker decks at The Hippodrome, Casino Gran Madrid and the possibility of their New Jersey casino. In the end, it seems that you just need to be creative offline – something that should come easy to marketers that consider themselves to be shrewd in the digital environment.
In reflection, many of the offline advertising opportunities listed above are by no means limited to operators facing regulated markets. As we’ve seen with shirt sponsorship, there are ways of contacting you’re audience, even if it the delivery of your message isn’t traditional, just ask Paddy Power.
Even publicity stunts can gain traction across the world in an online viral form. So while land based operators look to come online, there are plenty of opportunities for iGaming companies to get out there in the big wide world. Rather than brick and mortar companies or digital companies, we’re now in the age of click and mortar operators.