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SBC Digital Summit: FTP games not a stop-gap until normal service resumes – Cillian Barry

Speaking on the Leadership in Betting track on day one of the SBC Digital Summit, SportCaller’s Managing Director Cillian Barry outlined five key points which look at how free-to-play (FTP) games can boost engagement and retention with audiences during the live sport shutdown.

During his presentation Barry looked at how the changing industry might transition from the current situation under lockdown, to a situation where we have a full sporting calendar.

Entertain and engage your audience, a responsible approach that avoids over promotion of bonusing, Casino or Virtuals.

The entertainment industry has many channels looking to focus our eyeballs and capture our attention. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 has put the world on hold, applying its brakes to the global sporting timetable along the way.

While now is assuredly a time to entertain and engage your players, we must also employ a responsible approach that avoids the over-promotion of bonusing, casino or virtuals at a time when ethical missteps count double. A race to remain relevant has consequently ensued for operators who pride themselves on their sportsbook brands. But the pivot to other verticals will only go so far, it’s important to retain a similar sense of theme and underlying fun in sportsbook, if you want to retain and involve your audience. 

At SportCaller, we’ve released an eclectic series of FTPs over the sports shutdown with the intention of overcoming these particular challenges. Each is exclusively geared to maintaining appetites and attentions in an organic, social fashion that harnesses the competitive instincts of both casual fans and more committed sports bettors in daily battles for bragging rights and free cash prizes.

Retain base, remember log-in, and even an opportunity to grow your audience.

With many distanced from their daily diet of sports and betting for so long, games that stimulate consistent repeat-visits, without risking a player’s hard-earned offer a logical place-holder. This has been the cornerstone tenet of all the FTPs we’ve rolled out during the pandemic, And, happily, our partners have quickly found that engaging free-to-play games keep their base returning on a regular basis.

Just take our recent WFH (“Win From Home”) launch with FanDuel, enhancing our longstanding relationship with what is now Flutter Entertainment’s stable of brands. WFH is an eclectic Daily FTP Predictor, which tests customers’ general knowledge on subjects ranging from last week’s NFL Draft to reality TV, current affairs, politics and even the weather. BetMGM have gone for a month long series of trivia quizzes, with questions ranging from sports stats to state capitals. Aggregated daily returning players across both games have averaged over 60% and they have secured a significant uptick in new player acquisitions. Which proves that there’s also an opportunity to even grow your audience during this downturn if you can set the dials for engagement and responsible entertainment correctly.

Needs to be fast and flexible, adapt to the gradual and unpredictable return of live sport.

Another key is the ability to stay fast and flexible, quickly spinning up these games from ideation to deployment for our partners. The returning cycle of live sports is beginning to look more promising, but is riven with the same variability that defines the worldwide lockdown itself. UK racing and the Bundesliga are targeting May; the Premier League and the PGA Tour have earmarked June; while the ATP and WTA Tours say nothing before mid-July at the earliest. It appears we’ll all have to make it up as we go to some salient extent.

Seeing as no-one knows for sure and only second waves of the coronavirus seem for certain, you need a platform that can adapt to an interrupted, ad-hoc timetable in order that you can deliver as demand dictates. Which is why the real-time reporting of our market-leading platform, coupled with client-collaboration, allows us to react to respond with agility and constantly refine our approach.

A short-term innovative solution that will also provide improved product and marketing mix in the medium and long term.

It’s important to recognise that this innovative pivoting isn’t a stop-gap until normal service resumes. Instead, at SportCaller, we view these games as short-term solutions that will also naturally evolve to secure their own medium and long-term place in an improved product and marketing mix.

The barren sporting landscape has allowed other pursuits to flourish, some will be short term – like casino and poker – however others were naturally rising and this allowed for an acceleration of their growth. eSports is one such example, placed at the forefront of betting opportunities and its reach extended into a whole new audience, which will lead to it becoming a much greater part of the product mix when sport resumes.

Musical chairs with industry disruption. Role of FTP to grow market share once Stage 2 and Stage 3 return.

Accordingly, FTP’s flexible faces are now placing a premium on light relief from life’s current stresses and strains, providing a softer marketing tool that improves dwell-time and brand loyalty at a time when customers might otherwise disengage from sportsbook. 

All of which suggests that, wherever the record needle skips on this stop-start game of musical chairs, free-to-play will continue to pull up a safe seat at the table as an entertainment vertical in its own right.

The SBC Digital Summit runs from 27 April to 1 May 2020 and features seven conference tracks, a virtual exhibition and virtual networking lounges, attracting an estimated 10,000 delegates logging in from around the world.

There is still time to register for the event, with company discounts available: https://sbcevents.com/sbc-digital-summit/tickets/

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