Affiliate - Safe Affiliate Programs

Affiliate concerns: Maintaining trust in the modern market

Trust and integrity between an affiliate and a sports betting or gaming operator has always been a hot topic. This is based on an unusual relationship between the two partners, where the operator holds the key to any affiliate earnings as the affiliate business is a “deliver first” get paid after operation. 

Ellen Learmonth, who manages the affiliate program for Golden Euro Affiliates (a partner of Safe Affiliate Programs), discusses the ‘lowest point’ for the relationship, why affiliate marketing is harder hit when the market evolves, and whether there is still room for trust between the two. The answer for Learmonth, despite the recent history, is still an emphatic YES.

Historically, the gambling operators relied heavily on gambling affiliates, but once operators realised that digital marketing was more than placing a banner on a mainstream website wishing for conversions, they started re-inventing the wheel. The initial phase was heavy investment in staff to reduce dependence on affiliate traffic. The new approach led to inflated content, SEO and SEM teams.

The next evolutionary stage was to reduce the affiliate marketing costs by introducing new performance targets into terms and conditions, sometimes retrospectively. Performance targets and marketing disciplines that some operators themselves struggled to meet.   

Was this the lowest point? Not by a long stretch, because a new curse word appeared on the horizon – compliance. Let’s be clear the core of compliance is a good thing; it aims to reduce the risk of players that are connected to gambling issues, such as addiction and underaged gambling. It was no secret that some players failed to understand their own susceptibility to advertisement and their own addictive nature to gambling. 

Ellen Learmonth
Ellen Learmonth

The industry understood the need for further regulation, and compliance was it. However, this newest obstacle was left to some interpretation and different operators demanded amendments to the affiliates advertising space. In extreme cases, affiliates would be terminated under the guise of non compliance.

Why is it that affiliates are hardest hit when the market evolves? Affiliates deliver, fact! The issue is that as soon as a deal is struck, the control is never really in the hands of the operator. Does the affiliate really stick to the terms & conditions? Will they stick to the compliance demands? 

If they do not, then it is the operator who must pay the fine. In cases where the affiliate is self-hosting the advertising materials, the operator is unable to force an update unless the affiliate can be reached. The decision of when and where the adverts are placed is solely in the hands of the affiliate. 

The same cannot be said about the relationship between an advertiser and publisher. For example, an advertiser placing ads with the likes of DMG Media commits to a media budget in advance and this budget then has to be maintained by the publisher. 

The advertiser is still king and very much the customer. Service is provided to the customer (operator/advertiser) and the service provider (publisher/media company) does everything to keep the paying customer happy. Now we see a notion where this type of relationship is developing within the gambling affiliate market. 

Big media companies have emerged during a fast consolidation of the affiliate space, which are miles away from the lone home office affiliate of the past. These are multi-million euro operations with offices some operators are jealous of. Their trust in the operator is regulated by individual business contracts outside of the operators’ affiliate programs terms and conditions. 

But their responsibility and delivery of service is also held to account; i.e. they cannot ignore change requests by their “advertisers” when the marketing message changes. Whether this relationship – which is new in our industry – further mutates to that of the one described above, remains to be seen.  

So where does this leave the ordinary affiliate? Moreover, is there still room for trust in this modern market? YES! Of course there is, and why wouldn’t there be? If we look past the noise of the so-called ‘revolutionary’ platforms that cut and ditch all that has made them what they are today, there are quiet giants out there that have a history of doing the right thing.

Affiliate platforms that honour long standing agreements, that never change terms and conditions retrospectively, that coach partners through times of change, and respect their affiliates. This does not mean that they are dinosaurs, that they have not evolved themselves, it simply means that they value business relationships no matter how big or small. They believe in integrity and honesty.

Finding them is not so hard. There are prominent affiliate marketing forums that offer a world of insights into operators and programs enabling affiliates to find the ones with little or no open issues and great comments. It is also worth checking the ones with not much activity – not much activity could mean no complaints. Base your trust in programs on your own ability to do a little research. Failing that, word of mouth has always been a powerful marketing tool. 

As Ronald Reagan’s famous dictum read: ”Trust, but verify.”

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