SBC Digital Summit: Keeping the traffic coming during COVID-19


The fourth day of the SBC Digital Summit turned to digital marketing and affiliates. It took a broad look at how their businesses have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and what changes they expect in the future as the world adapts to the new normal.

sbc-digital-summit-keeping-the-traffic-coming-during-covid-19Stuart Simms, Group CEO of XLMedia, delivered the keynote of the day. He emphasized the need for businesses to focus more on working healthy, than working smart. That means, rather than focusing on the traditional key points of strategy, marketing, finance, technology and sales, companies can do more by minimizing politics and removing confusion with better communication. As a result, he said organizations will see higher morale, higher productivity, and lower staff turnover. “We need to think more about people, and more about culture,” he said. “Healthy beats smart every day of the week.”

Next, Simms joined a panel discussing Affiliation in the time of COVID-19, moderated by Lasha Machavariani, Founder & CEO of Setanta Sports Media, with panelists Jonathan Edelshaim, General Manager of Natural Intelligence, Simon Pilkington, CEO of KaFe Rocks, and Ricardo Pinto, CMO of Clever Advertising Group.

When asked about how their respective companies are doing, Pinto said there’s been a lot of cutting at Clever Advertising, to make the machine as efficient as possible. Pilkington, on the other hand, noted that usually 60% of portfolio is sports, but there’s been a heavy to pivot to casino now. Fortunately, most of company was working from home already, so there wasn’t a need to move the business.

Looking forward though, Pinto commented that now is the time to make a full analysis of the company, and “reorganize, see where the value is.” He predicted that once the lockdown period ends, there would be a pent up demand for sports, and products currently boom like like poker would fade away. Simms expected there would be an organic increase to casino sites.

But as compliance has been high of mind at the SBC Digital conference, Edelshaim noted that there will be an increased focus on social responsibility. Simms added that people are more mindful right now of how they are living, so although gambling is up, don’t forget you can promote other things.

Does any of that affect how operators and affiliates should approach their SEO strategies? To dicsuss that, moderator Nick Garner, Founder of Rize Digital, spoke with panelists Edoardo Ganetti, SEO Expert for Betsson Group, Lee Beirne, Head of SEO for Ladbrokes Coral, and Koen Bongers, Head of Search for Blexr.

Naturally, the group had to take a look at what’s popular right now. Beirne noted that, while “live sports will never be dead,” it’s interesting to see products like virtual football have spiked over 400%.

Overall though, the principles of a great SEO strategy haven’t changed due to the current crisis. As advice, Ganetti said to leverage what you can, regardless of if you have affiliate or operator page. The best strategy is to operate based on the resources you have.

The outlook was much the same for the affiliates panel. David Clifton, Director at Clifton Davies Consultancy, moderated the “Brand Control – Working with Affiliates” panel. He was joined by panelists Eitan Gorodetsky, Director of Acquisition of the Betsson Group, Marcos Oliveira, Chief Affiliate Officer of Clever Advertising Group, and Ivan Liashenko,Chief Marketing Officer for Parimatch.

Gorodetsky noted that he hasn’t seen “a massive challenge currently in any of the jurisdictions.” Everyone’s been careful for quite some time, and has moved to more responsible marketing before this started.

But to keep your operation protection, Oliveira noted you need to build a strong compliance department, as he has. Since COVID-19, he has worked with partners to restrict advertising and give a responsible gaming approach. Its hard work, but its mandatory.

But small time affiliates can sometimes ruin it for everyone, and the question turned to how to police them. Gorodetsky noted his firm takes a proactive stance, scanning affiliates and look for undesirable keywords. Liashenko added that some are very technologically savvy, covering their tracks when they’ve done something to leave a stain on a brand. Gorodetsky agreed, noting that’s a problem in areas of the world with great hacking talent.

Giving a broader view of the topic, Oliveira noted that there are no bigger braggers than affiliates when it comes to traffic, and operators are traffic whores. Offshore operators run into problems when they operate with as many sketchy affiliates as they can find, and then decide they want a license. Important to build a huge relationship with partners. If you want to do well in the industry as an affiliate, you have to be professional.

Finally, Clifton asked if licensing for affiliates is a positive or a negative. Oliveira saw it as a good for affiliates, because it differentiates white hats from black hats. Liashenko firmly disagreed, because affiliates are entrepreneurs, and forcing licensing would kill startups and innovation. Unfortunately, before a rigorous debate could come from the disagreement, the panel had come to a close.

The SBC Digital Summit is also nearly coming to its end, but there’s still a chance to catch all of the great content that’s been on offer. All of the talks and panels have been recorded, and there are still some great networking opportunities, so you can still register and see how the industry has been responding to COVID-19.