Reputation management, showing support to its affiliates and growing the team with new talent have topped the bill for Sebastian Jarosch in his first few months at Betsson Group Affiliates.
It hasn’t been the easiest of starts for Jarosch, who joined the team as Head of Affiliates with the Covid pandemic in “full swing” and with affiliates partners facing new compliance measures, reduced sports coverage and a restrictive Google update. Yet, he has nothing but praise for the response of his new employers.
He also opens up on completing a centralisation of Betsson Group Affiliates and gives us both sides of the affiliate licensing debate, before explaining that online casinos were the big winners in 2020 and why the popularity of esports – another vertical to come out well from the pandemic – is here to stay.
SBC: How have you found your first few months in the role?
SJ: I joined Betsson Group as Head of Affiliates in August, while the pandemic was already in full swing. It has always been a dream of mine to join the company and finally the opportunity has come.
The onboarding and orientation phase was done completely remotely, a good example of how operators had to adapt to the Covid-19 situation and the execution was honestly flawless. Betsson Group has an outstanding company culture and I felt at home very quickly.
The first few months are mainly about getting to know the organisation, the processes and most importantly the team. All of this happened completely remotely from my home office, the first virtual 90 days basically. My team is the best and have already achieved a lot in those few months, yet although the company is in great shape, we always strive for improvement.
We have already completed a centralisation of Betsson Group Affiliates, essentially by moving the regional affiliate teams under one umbrella, to encourage more cooperation between them and to create a sense of team spirit. We’ve also invested a lot of time in reputation management, stepped up our affiliate support tremendously and are constantly growing our teams with new talent.
The recently acquired GiG brands, such as Guts, Rizk, Thrills and Kaboo, have already been fully integrated into our Betsson Group Affiliates platform and we have welcomed the GiG Affiliates team into our BGA ranks.
The best part towards the end of 2020 was most certainly when Betsson Group Affiliates won an award for Best Affiliate Programme of the Year, which makes me very proud and happy to be a part of this winning team.
SBC: What key learnings have you brought across from your time in previous jobs?
SJ: I have learned a lot about operational excellence and customer satisfaction at my previous endeavours. Our goal is to provide players and partners alike with a flawless experience throughout their journey with us.
During my seven years at GiG Media, I was able to see the industry from the affiliate perspective and had the opportunity to understand what really matters and how the clocks tick at the other side. I can now utilise all of this at Betsson Group Affiliates and I’m certain it will drive the company forward.
SBC: How has the affiliate landscape developed in 2020? Has the emergence of big media companies changed the way operators look at working with smaller affiliates?
SJ: Affiliates and operators alike had to adapt to tightening regulations, a lack of sports events and a bigger interest in niche products such as poker, virtual sports and esports. To make things worse, a lot of affiliates were impacted by a Google update in early 2020 and have yet to recover from the shock waves.
New channels such as Twitch emerged and have gained a lot of traction during 2020. Meanwhile, emerging markets such as LatAm, North America, Africa, and Asia have landed on the radars of affiliates and are quickly gaining popularity. We cater to affiliates of all sizes, what really counts is the quality of the traffic and dedication. We have enough resources to give every affiliate the same amount of attention to nurture our relationships.
SBC: Is the trust still there between operators and smaller affiliates? And do you think standardised affiliate licensing across regulated markets is the best way forward?
SJ: We have worked very hard to build trust towards our affiliate partners and the BGA team has gone the extra mile to earn great reviews among all the major affiliate portals out there. We are proud to offer some of the best services to our partners and are looking at how we can improve on this even further. Our brands speak for themselves and provide our customers with one of the best experiences.
Affiliate licensing is somewhat of a double-edged sword, on one hand it encourages affiliates to be compliant with the local regulations and it generates an accountability towards how brands are promoted and how players are engaged. It creates a safer gambling environment for the customer and will overall work in favour of the reputation of the industry.
On the other hand, a standardised affiliate licensing will favour the larger affiliates mainly. The smaller ones will have problems stemming the additional costs and might eventually get forced out of regulated markets. This could then lead to another black-market scenario, like we’re seeing it in Sweden, and resulting problems with lower channelisation.
SBC: How has Betsson worked its way through the pandemic? Has the lack of events and subsequent onboarding of new affiliates offline impacted the business?
SJ: The pandemic had a significant impact on our daily lives and Betsson Group reacted quickly to comply with local regulations in all our offices across the globe.
Most employees work remotely, and communications happen mainly via emails or video calls. Like the event organisers, our strategy for 2020 was to go digital, which has worked very well for us and compensated for the lack of iGaming conferences.
In my opinion the biggest drawback was the ability to meet our partners face to face for networking and the personal relationship we like to build with them. Additionally, we love taking care of our partners during industry events by taking them out to dinners and parties, none of that was possible unfortunately, but we are all eager to do that once the situation returns back to normal.
SBC: How about the relative impact on Betsson brands? Have you been fortunate in that most of your brands are casino focused?
SJ: The big winners of 2020 were certainly our online casinos with record breaking revenues. The lockdowns definitely played a role here, with people staying at home and looking for entertainment. Land based casinos were forced to shut down and punters were looking at other verticals with sports betting slowing down. Especially our poker product had a great comeback with player traffic hitting numbers we haven’t seen in five years.
Sports betting naturally took a hit during the beginning of the pandemic with large events being delayed but we’re almost seeing a full recovery with the major leagues continuing again. Esports gained a lot of popularity due to Covid-19 and is here to stay, one of the verticals to look out for.
SBC: And finally, what does the affiliate marketing sector look like in 2021? What have you learned from this year that you will take into the next?
SJ: We’ve learned how important it is to adapt to changes quickly and that a diverse product range can make the difference. We’ve also learned that working remotely does not impact the productivity of our teams – we have done exceptionally well during the pandemic.
We’re definitely going to see more technical innovations around product and affiliate marketing, data is going to play an even bigger role and automation and machine learning will be refined further.
Next year is a year to look forward to with industry events returning and life beginning to normalise again. We’re already keen on meeting our partners face to face and have big plans to improve the quality of our workings.