Ani Atabekyan, Chief Business Development Officer at VBET, discusses coming out of its “comfort zone” to enter a string of competitive gaming markets across the world, before explaining the natural shift to digital sponsorship assets and outlining an “unprecedented” deal to support Armenian football.
SBC: What would you class as your key target markets? And which of these are new for VBET in the last 12 months?
AA: We’ve entered a lot of very competitive markets in the past few years, expanding our operations to European, Asian and Latin American countries. We are planning for the long term and each one of these is important for us.
Right now in Europe, we are focusing on France, UK and Germany where we need to constantly innovate and plan smartly to stay relevant and succeed beside well established brands. We have recently obtained a licence from the Swedish Gambling Authority and will soon announce entries to two more newly regulated markets.
We obviously have big plans to keep growing there – more sponsorships, visibility campaigns, special offers. In fact, we’ve just launched our first 360° marketing campaign in France – #V4VBET, which has been a great success so far.
Another key market for us is Latin America with Brazil in the spotlight and Mexico as the next step. With the restart of the new sport season, we enhanced our global partnership with Onefootball, a leading football media platform, bringing the Bundesliga broadcasting exclusively to 210 million Brazilians.
It’s been a challenge to get out of our comfort zone in Armenia, where we are uncontested leaders, and venture out to international markets, but we’ve handled it well, and we’ll keep expanding, learning, and achieving new victories.
SBC: Sponsorship has obviously been a key driver of your expansion; are you concerned about the possible crackdown on kit sponsorship across Europe? How might this influence your marketing strategy in the years to come?
AA: Sponsorships are an important axis for our expansion, they play a big role in ensuring visibility for our brand, and we’ve built great relationships with the teams and organisations we’re partnering with.
Talking about the possible restrictions in Europe, kit visibility has always been considered a strong branding asset, but the pandemic period showed that brands and clubs always find alternative ways of collaboration to make the best out of the partnerships. In any case, we can see that there has been a natural shift of importance to more digital assets.
For example, our latest two-year partnership with AS Monaco; although as the official betting partner of the Ligue 1 football club we have also a branding space on the kit’s shorts, we worked together with the club to form an asset package with a strong emphasis on digital activations and “money can’t buy” experiences for our clients.
SBC: From an operational point of view, what is the VBET approach to acquisition and retention? Have you been able to offset the obvious revenue impact of COVID-19?
AA: Having a broad geographical coverage in a fast changing industry, the key to success is to continuously localise, adapting acquisition and retention strategies to market needs and trends.
We keep a close eye on the new entertainment ways of the next generation to be always on the same wave with our clients. To name a few examples, with streaming popularity growth we saw much potential in collaboration between igaming business and streaming platforms such as Twitch for acquisition.
It is also important to keep up implementing tech innovations to facilitate the user acquisition flow and gamify the user retention.
The gaming industry managed to adapt quite well to the circumstances brought on by the pandemic; everyone has been affected in some way or another with all the uncertainty around sporting events and we were not an exception. Uncertainties urge us to reinforce what is important and adapt to the new state of affairs.
So we worked closely with our providers to add new, innovative content to ensure an extensive amount of sport betting markets and pushed forward with other product verticals. We brought to the fore our rich esports and virtual sports offerings.
Esports was the big winner, showing great potential for the future. We’ve also seen a considerable surge in interest for casino and skill games which in its turn helped to balance the lack of sports.
SBC: Are small margins and bonuses still realistic in the current climate?
AA: Well, it’s certainly hard to make a profit with smaller margins, but everything depends on the way you balance your sportsbook pricing. Having competitive odds helps a lot with player acquisition and retention. In fact, we are listed as one of the best priced bookmakers by odds comparison websites and this is in the core of our global trading strategy which proves to be profitable in the long run.
As for bonuses, they’ve been a part of the industry for decades and have been the main incentive for players to sign up and try a new bookmaker. There is currently no successful operator that is not offering bonuses and doing well with player acquisition and retention, so we’ll keep listening to our players and find out from them how we can continue providing the best service we can.
SBC: You mentioned venturing out from your Armenia roots. Yet, how important is your backing for the country’s football federation and top-flight league? Can you share any marketing plans for the Vbet Premier League?
AA: In the framework of a three-year agreement with the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) VBET became the title sponsor of the Armenian Premier League and Armenian Cup. The partnership is a reminder that we are still the top gaming brand in Armenia, it truly is a testament to our success.
It is an unprecedented sponsorship deal in the history of Armenian football that will help us keep our visibility very high, but also, more importantly, contribute to the development of Armenian football.
We’ve always supported sporting organisations in the country. The latest case is the front shirt sponsorship of Pyunik Yerevan football club, a record overall titles holder among Armenian Premier League clubs. As for our marketing plans, I can’t share them with you at the moment, but keep an eye on VBET, there are interesting things to come.