Tom Zanelli – Panbet – ‘Non-League Challenge’ bringing fans into play

Tom Zanelli – Panbet

Tom Zanelli Panbet Ltd’s Video Content Manager details to SBC readers the success and coverage of his firm’s ‘Non-League Challenge’  for its Marathonbet brand.

Placing content and storytelling at the heart of its ‘Non-League Challenge’  campaign and promotion, Marathonbet aimed to engage with a dedicated fanbase that  other bookmakers’ had neglected. Zanelli a key stakeholder in the campaign’s creation details to SBC why Panbet had undertaken this difficult marketing project, engaging with smaller football clubs and their fans in order to drive coverage of Marathonbet.


SBC: Hi Tom can you give SBC readers a breakdown of your ‘Non-League Challenge’ campaign

Tom Zanelli: In a nutshell the NLC is a nationwide competition to find non-league football’s best goal celebration. But beyond that it’s a campaign that champions the best of the beautiful game – the clubs, fans, employees and volunteers who keep the sport ticking away from the bright lights of the Premier League.

The winner of NLC bags themselves a £10,000 cash prize from Marathonbet and gate receipts from a match against a team of Premier League legends with a medley of honours between them.

That kind of money is a big deal to non-league clubs. It might fund a new player or go towards improving training facilities or the stadium. But as well as that the local community benefits because they’re given the chance to see some of the world’s greatest footballers in action on their doorstep.

A match against a team of Premier League legends entices people, who might not have a particular interest in their local club, to get down and watch a match and experience the buzz and thrill of non-league. We hope it plants the seed for future generations.

SBC: As a marketing team, why was the Non-League Challenge such an important campaign for Marathonbet’s brand and services?

TZ: We’re fairly new in the UK and still finding our feet, establishing ourselves in a very saturated market and competing to not only win new customers but build a trusted brand that people can enjoy betting with.

We realised that the industry big players haven’t really tapped into the non-league network and saw an opportunity to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the marketplace and help non-league clubs at the same time.

Our first NLC season last term was won by Wealdstone FC – and we were really thrilled for them. But we were also delighted that as a business we’d come up with an original, organic and successful recipe for setting up camp in the British betting market. What’s more is that we learned lots of lessons during our first NLC season. Things can only get bigger and better from here on.

SBC: As betting brand why did you want to engage with fans from non-league clubs, that don’t have the reach and following of professional outfits?

TZ:  We all love our Premier League, European and World Cup footballing heroes. The slickness and skill of Ronaldo to the magic of Messi and co is undeniably brilliant. But we’re also aware that life exists outside the top flights – away from the glitz, glam and money found at the highest level.

We wanted to champion grassroots football and give it the attention it deserves. Yes, the quality of football found in the lower echelons of the game might not be as pleasing on the eye as Arsenal against Barcelona, but there’s also an art in being a big, burly non-league centre-forward who’s trying to get on the end of a huge punt upfield on a dodgy pitch in the spitting rain.

These clubs are built around communities, generations of families and raw love of the game. Sometimes that’s missing in the mega-money world of football.

SBC: Before launching the campaign, what research and analysis did your team undertake with regards to Non-League football.

TZ: We did the important stuff including looking at non-league attendances, how many of those fans were partial to betting and what proportion of them would be likely to engage with a brand like ours.

We worked closely and spoke with our friends and colleagues at the Non-League Paper and we also paid close attention to social media too – analytics, trends and so on.

SBC: How did you extend this campaign throughout multiple social media channels in order to gain best uptake and coverage?

TZ: So to expand on that last point about social media, we found lots of individuals online who showed either through their bios or content of tweets that they were fans of non-league clubs. In fact Facebook and Twitter is littered with them.

So, knowing there was a big audience to cater to, we embarked on a content plan during the first NLC season to produce original videos that’d be shared online – with the intention of promoting the NLC and of course the Marathonbet brand.

We did this mainly by teaming up with players who’d feature in our Premier League Legends side – the side that would play the winner of the NLC in a game at their home stadium.

We filmed with former Republic of  Ireland and Charlton hero Matt Holland, met Arsenal star Nigel Winterburn for a game of pool and a chat and got Bolton big man Kevin Davies to give the Wealdstone Raider some footie lessons.

Towards the end of the competition, we also shot one piece of original video content with each of our five NLC finalists. For example we took Whitehawk’s star player, Jordan Rhodes, to a hawk sanctuary (see what we did there?) to film a funny clip that was lapped up by fans across the non-league spectrum.

We pushed all the content out on social media and created a real buzz for not just the NLC but the clubs who were involved in the competition too. It was a plan that created real momentum for the campaign.

SBC: How has the ‘Non-League Challenge’ campaign influenced future Marathonbet campaigns and brand engagement?

TZ:  Our first NLC was a success in the grand scheme of things but like I mentioned, it provided lots of learning curves. We have a lot to improve on going forward and were given the chance to really analyse how we work.

When I say that, I’m talking about internal processes, better ways of working we’ve learned along the way to improve our video content and different strategies for social media.

I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details of those because we want the secret to success for ourselves! But as a team we’ve all grown from the first NLC experience and learned new ways of working that we can take into future campaigns both in the NLC and outside it.

The next NLC is going to be bigger and better than before. We’re reaching out to even more clubs in the football pyramid and have invited some 140 teams to take part.


Tom Zanelli – Video Content Manager – Panbet 


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