Fnatic and Dafabet – Conquering the tough esports landscape

Many traditional sportsbooks now include some markets on esports and there’s no doubt that it’s a rapidly growing market but perhaps due to a lack of understanding and regulatory concerns, many have so far avoided commercial partnerships with the organisations within it.

Jason Hutcheson, Dafabet

Dafabet became the first major sports betting operator to establish a deal with an esports organisation in the form of Fnatic. Fnatic’s HQ is in London but it has further offices in Belgrade and Cologne.

SBC spoke to Dafabet’s Head of Esports Jason Hutcheson and Fnatic’s Head of Business Development Darren Newnham on the partnership, engaging esports fans, skins betting and fostering regulation.

SBC: How was the Fnatic partnership established, how does it work and how are you measuring the success of the partnership?

Jason: Sponsorship is a key part of Dafabet’s marketing mix and an area that the brand understands well so the first step was to identify the best esports organisationto sponsor. A number of esports organisations were considered but Fnatic stood out as the leader, with a globally recognised brand and strong teams across multiple esports. Together we set up the deal quickly as it was important for Dafabet to be the first traditional betting provider to sponsor a world class esports organisation.

The sponsorship plays an important role within Dafabet’s brand communications particularly in terms of providing content that lives on dafaesport.com and is distributed through the brand’s social channels. As a result of the partnership, esports fans can access content that they can’t get anywhere else. Dafabet and Fnatic will be launching some really exciting video content of the Dota2 team in Kuala Lumpur very soon which will be strong example of this.

Darren Newnham, Fnatic

Dafabet measures ROI of the sponsorship agreement through awareness metrics and appreciation metrics tied to social following and engagement. 

Darren: The Dafabet partnership has been symbiotic from the start. Dafabet understands esports and its unique and challenging landscape. In particular Fnatic have learnt much about the SEA market and have a unique platform from which we can engage our loyal and dedicated DOTA 2 fan base.

SBC: Were there any concerns about tying a betting brand with an esports brand? This is naturally a concern with a high percentage of young fans.

Jason: Young fans engagement with esports gambling is associated with skin betting which we have no connection with. Dafabet is one of a number of betting operators taking bets on esports that is licensed, regulated and strictly accessible to adults only.

However, everyone within the industry has to take responsibility for maintaining and developing the integrity of esports and we are committed to playing our role.  By partnering with a credible esports brand, Fnatic, we can educate fans on the benefits and risks of gambling through an established platform.

Darren: Our fan base is made up of mostly 18 to 35 year old males.  In addition to this we rely on Dafabet and its professional approach to esports gambling to lead the way when it comes to licensing, regulation and accessibility for adults only.  We spent a long time before entering the Dafabet deal ensuring there were safeguards in place to protect our younger fans.

SBC: Do you expect to see other major esports organisations and betting brands following the lead of Dafabet and Fnatic?

Jason: Once more betting brands start to see the similarities between esports and other sports they’ll understand that the symbiotic relationship between sports and gambling will be repeated with esports. As a result we expect to see more and more betting brands solidifying partnerships with major esports organisations which in turn will help the esports industry, as a whole, grow.

Darren: Absolutely.  Both Fnatic and Dafabet pride ourselves on being leaders of the industry. The more licensed and regulated partners that enter esports the more legitimate the sport becomes. We welcome the competition.

SBC: How much do traditional bookmakers need to adapt their products to attract the fans of various esports, if at all? Is a partnership such as the one between Dafabet and Fnatic the best way to reach these customers and establish engagement?

Jason: Traditional bookmakers who are targeting esports fans need to be particularly focused on creating online experiences that are right for the time we are in. A large proportion of esports fans fall in the coveted millennial age bracket which means their expectations of online experiences are led by digital disrupters such as Airbnb and Uber. Their life exists within the social realms of Facebook, Weibo and Snapchat, not to mention the online forums and chat related to the esports they are connected with.  In reality traditional bookmakers won’t be able to engage with esports fans with traditional approaches.  

Fnatic are already engaged with esports fans – in a sense they have grown up with them- and have over 2,000,000 social fans and followers. We are using this platform to reach new customers and establish engagement with them through a credible brand that is well and truly accepted within the industry.

Darren: For us the complexities and range of things to bet on are huge.  Take CS:GO for example.  Not only is it about the end result but one could bet on first victory, first knife or shot, triple kill or the first to defuse the objective.  The variations are enormous and add a lot of dynamics to a betting product.

SBC: The need for increased regulation has been much discussed in regards to esports betting, especially in terms of skin betting. Do you see the increasing involvement of traditional bookmakers in the scene as beneficial to this end? 

Jason: Traditional bookmakers are part of one of the most regulated industries in the world with established, compulsory practices in place to ensure that young people are protected from being exploited or harmed by gambling.

Skin betting on the other hand is completely unregulated which means that children can place and lose bets without fully understanding the consequences of their actions. This problem stems from the nonexistence of age stipulations and account verification as well as the lack of clear communication around the risks of gambling. In essence, everything that skin betting providers lack, traditional bookmakers have, so if their involvement in the industry means that the processes, rules and regulations can formally spill over into a relatively new area of betting it will be beneficial to esports and the fans within it.  

Darren: Many traditional aspects of industries are coming into esports, from non-endemic sponsors to teams adapting traditional corporate company structures, traditional TV networks broadcasting games through to more traditional business practices such as Objectives and KPI’s.  Having traditional bookies enter the market can only benefit all by bringing known working practices to the field.

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