Rob Painter Non-Executive Director at FOTW Rob was Marketing and Brand Director of Sky Betting and Gaming for 6 years with FOTW as consistent partner agency. With the Betting, Better positioning, Sky Bet enjoyed market beating growth and became the UK’s most popular online sportsbook.

The Betting industry has become one of those behemoth sectors, where all eyes are on the Marketing teams to provide an edge in an extremely competitive environment.

Like the newspaper industry a long while back, the Telcos are enjoying their rapid rise, Price comparison giants more recently so and the grocers seemingly forever – these are some of the sectors with fierce competition. They tend to share similar characteristics: usually mass market, enjoying high frequency of brand interaction and lucrative growth due to structural market changes. But before maturity at least, they are also limited by a lack of substantive brand differentiation and were at the mercy of customers’ willingness to be brand disloyal! Management and shareholders are used to growth, and understandably troubled when that starts to level off.

Perhaps growth came too easily – so management don’t have enough foresight to make changes in advance. They are fixated by competitors often at the expense of calmly carving out an attractive brand position of their own. This leads to aggressive marketing and internal cultures that can be short-termist and all about today’s numbers – never mind building for tomorrow!

An obsession with acquisition

Not that long ago, all Betting operators were obsessed with new customer acquisition. The marketing department was defined, structured and measured by acquisition. The only point in buying media and to invest in creative was to drive recruitment. If marketing spend wasn’t driving these numbers there really was no point in it at all. And so the skill then was to really optimise channels, play with sign-up offers, be agile in switching money to and from channels, according to volume and payback. Staff needed to be experts in their channel but didn’t worry too much about what their colleagues were doing as long as the numbers came in. Creatively, the art was in finding ways to communicate the welcome package effectively. You needed expertise in Direct Response especially for big investment channels like Telly. Lots of operators were happy to shelve consistency and brand building for the latest, more effective ad style. Alternatively, hit upon a winning formular and you would run the same ad to death, without adding future value for repeat viewers. It was all about results then and of course still is today.

The switch to multi-channel 

The next phase was the big switch to communicating to ‘All customers’ rather than merely new customers – and the creation of multi channel and aligned campaigns. Now this was daring…some moved to this a lot quicker than others. We found that creating attractive ‘every week’ offers that could appeal to your existing customers and drive repeat revenues also did the job for acquisition. Bingo! That meant more bang for your advertising buck!

This evolution wasn’t quite at the brand building stage but at least started to work the engine of customer value, and the profits began to rise more quickly. It was still about results but a little more varied: the number of returning players, promotional participants, brand preference, retention curves, margin per customer as well as new customer volumes. Marketing teams still needed communications partners who were brilliant at communicating offers with clarity and effectiveness.

Build the promise with brand response 

The third stage for the Betting sector – well at least for some of the major players – was Brand Response. The more enlightened realised that customers would start to reduce their brand repertoire. They would tire of relentless switching and the acquisition volumes had plateaued. Encouraged by the move away from acquisition, the next move was to start to better define your brand – to give audiences the reasons to choose your brand everyday. This meant focused communications around product features, a philosophy and an overall promise on top of offers. The task was to create campaigns that continued to build the promise, communicating brand ‘reasons to believe’ for consumers. But the real art was not to let any of this ‘brand nonsense’ get in the way of generating customer revenue today.

The solution was to sit your trading campaigns alongside brand. And importantly, to lightly wrap your offer-led communications that were commercially valuable within your brand message. That way, every piece of communication would contribute both money today, as well as money for tomorrow. The world had become complex. You needed a range of smart partners, those who could help you define your positioning, to skilfully weave that into your comms, to create communications that were consistent enough but that would cut through. Your partners needed to help you retain your core competence of eliciting customer response.

Do all of that well – meant winning in this most competitive of sectors.

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