Sport & iGaming 2012 key takeaways

Published 18 December 2012

Thursday 29th November 2012 saw a now permanent fixture in the sports conference calendar returning for its third year: Sport & iGaming 2012, organised by SportBusiness and iGamingBusiness, and hosted by Pinsent Masons LLP in London, with LawInSport as media partner. The day promised a varied agenda in terms of both content and delivery with something for all stakeholders within the sport and/or gambling sectors.

Setting the scene: Getting it right commercially

The first session of the day focused on commercial issues, particularly how to maximise rights and build a successful strategy in the medium to long term. The view of the panel was that rights holders on the whole still take a traditional view of commercial deals with activation only working one-way. There was also the interesting revelation that top brands are not interested in Corporate Social Responsibility or the grassroots when they sponsor a sport. Advice was given that opting for a second tier sponsorship, rather than a title sponsorship, is lower cost but often provides higher brand awareness. This can also be incorporated into what was termed a 'trojan horse strategy' whereby a sponsor comes in at a lower tier of sponsorship but becomes a key partner for the sport by working harder at activation, which will have benefits upon renewal.

Match-fixing – A winnable war?

A representative from an Asian bookmaker sought to dispel some popular myths about operators in the Far East. Asian bookies are all about high liquidity and high stakes, in contrast to many European operators, and are therefore not interested in offering markets on in-play or spot betting as the liquidity is tiny. It was said that two distinct areas have developed as regards sports-related betting and integrity: on-the-field match-fixing and the use of inside information, with the latter being more closely related to sports betting. The role of politics in the match-fixing 'war' was said to be focused on the role of organised crime, which grabs the attention of politicians whereas match-fixing doesn't. Furthermore, although the principal strategy employed in this area is often player education it was stressed that player communication was of greater significance. A question was asked regarding the panel's views on a worldwide match-fixing body similar to WADA. They said sport is a long way from a global, structured approach to match-fixing and poured scorn on the Council of Europe and European Union's efforts believing the IOC is the only body with the political, social and sporting clout to get a unified approach.

Sport, gaming and television – An eternal triangle?

The final panel of the morning session examined the relationship and current trends between sport, gaming and television. Of course gaming sponsorship, particularly on football shirts, where it was said that in many cases football clubs would rather not have gaming sponsorship on their shirts because they can have them as an official betting partner instead and have a non-gaming company as shirt sponsor, therefore increasing revenue. It was also mentioned that horse racing is the only sport where incremental betting revenues are recycled back into the sport, although consultants are trying to convince the football industry that this is the way to go. Data and betting is still seen as the big untapped revenue resource for sport.

Case study: Club sponsors

There was then a case study of how sportsbooks can activate their sponsorship by Paddy Power, who are of course infamous for the way eponymous way in which they use sport to further their brand. Their overall message was that if it is going to be huge tomorrow then you want to be there yesterday. To achieve this there are three key factors:
Create a positive fan experience at venues;
Understand the ROIs of each stakeholder; and
Be innovative in using the rights you have.

Changing platforms – Gaming, sport and technology

This session discussed how sportsbooks can maximise the user experience across platforms through constantly evolving technologies to gain deeper engagement with their target audiences. Recent studies have revealed some interesting statistics and trends. For one, tablet and smart phone use leads to an increase in TV consumption rather than replacing it. Also, 96% of the 700 million adult sports fans in the top ten countries for consumption do not currently bet online. Sport content is seen as a key driver of 'second screening' as sport is live, global and cannot be time shifted. In terms of social media it was said that Twitter is the best data driven platform to try strategies out. There are also moves afoot for the UK to catch-up with the US by having the first in-stadia Wi-Fi network which significantly will have a considerable in-play sports betting component. The prediction for the future is that big, brave and agile companies will succeed in this area within 3 years.

New technology and in-stadia advertising

The final panel of the day started by selling the benefits of LED in-stadia advertising as it allows both global and locally targeted advertising to co-exist. Unfortunately technology is often considered a cost centre rather than a competitive advantage where new products in development can be utilised, such as digital menus for concession stands which would allow gaming advertising. Overall both sports and sponsors need to think about 'media campaigns' rather than traditional 'sponsorship'. Surprisingly, the UK 'media market' is bigger than the global 'sponsorship market.'

Overall Sport & iGaming 2012 used an engaging format with a variety of speakers to discuss topics which will undoubtedly become key areas of commercial opportunity and threat in the sporting landscape.

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