Joe McCallum: Why Sportsbet.io is taking a new approach to sponsorship
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Joe McCallum: Why Sportsbet.io is taking a new approach to sponsorship

Joe McCallum, Director of Sportsbook at the Coingaming Group, takes a look at Sportsbet.io’s fresh approach to sponsorship agreements before explaining why creating a long-term, sustainable partnership with clubs is the key to success.

Sports sponsorship has been under the spotlight recently, particularly when it comes to betting brands in the Premier League.

When Sportsbet.io made its first moves into football sponsorship back in 2019, we wanted to find innovative ways to support the sport, the teams, the players and the fans. And it needed to be done in a fashion which was both fun but also responsible.

Over the past couple of years, Sportsbet.io has been fortunate to work alongside some of the biggest names in sport. We’ve appeared on the shirt or as official partners of three major football clubs in England – Southampton, Arsenal and Watford – as well as Flamengo in Brazil.

All four are institutions with more than 100 years of history behind them. They inspire unparalleled passion and loyalty among their fans. So it is no surprise that these fans can be guarded when it comes to welcoming a new sponsor.

In the past, we’ve seen some gaming operators using Premier League football shirts as little more than a billboard for their casino or sportsbook brand.

Early on, we appreciated that creating mutually beneficial relationships means thinking beyond the value our brand can extract from our partners, and instead focusing on what we can create together.

Stronger partnerships

Our first major partnership was as the main sponsor of Watford FC. From the outset, we wanted to connect with the fans and we knew we needed to do something more than plaster our logo across the shirt and stadium to do that.

This is why we choose to make education a central part of the sponsorship, launching several initiatives designed to raise awareness around the benefits of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. This included a special club shop, where both Watford fans and crypto enthusiasts could buy exclusive rewards and experiences with Bitcoin.

We also crowd-funded an additional sponsorship slot on the Watford shirt sleeve, where we placed the Bitcoin logo, putting the cryptocurrency in front of a global audience of hundreds of millions of people every week. The move caught the attention of some of the biggest names in crypto, including Binance founder CZ.

Unfortunately, we suffered the pain of relegation from the Premier League alongside Watford at the end of the 2019/20 season. For many brands only interested in the global reach of Premier League matches, this would be where the story ended. But we see value in building something longer term. 

We’ve remained Watford’s primary sponsor, and as I write this, the team currently sit second in the Championship. We have the champagne on ice for what will be some promotion party if the lads can finish the job over the coming weeks.

Community-driven

We’ve also recently been working closely with another of our partners, Southampton FC, to find ways we can support the Saints Foundation, the club’s charity arm.

This included donating our space on the front of the first team shirts for Southampton’s recent match against Burnley, as well as matching fan donations up to £10,000 on the special charity matchday. The move was a huge success, not least because the Saints managed to come from behind to secure a thrilling 3-2 victory.

It was the latest community-focused partnership we’ve launched with Southampton, following on from last year’s “Listen To The Saint In You” campaign around Safer Gambling Week.

Our ethos at the Coingaming Group has always revolved around being fun, fast and fair, and this absolutely must expand into the way we conduct our sponsorships.

While we obviously want to showcase ourselves to fans, we understand that the best way to do this is to engage rather than to merely promote, and prove that we are a responsible partner to the club they love.

This means taking into consideration the fans, the club’s history, the community and so much more. It is about thinking through every detail, like how we adapted our logo to fit the Southampton shirt, rather than plastering it on top of the design regardless.

Both Southampton and ourselves have been so happy with the positive reaction from fans that we recently announced a three-year extension to the partnership.

At a time when there is growing scrutiny on the relationship between sport and gambling, a sustainable approach has never been more important.

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