Stephen Appleton – bet365 – Player Acquisition 2015

magnet2015 has seen a higher emphasis on acquisition costs and player margin efficiencies.With these factors in mind, Team SBC caught up with Stephen Appleton bet365 Performance Marketing Manager to discuss how acquisition practices are changing in the face of new marketing challenges and industry conditions.

Part of one of the most effective igaming and sports betting acquisition teams, Stephen Appleton tells SBC readers that with tougher conditions acquisition and player value has to be at the forefront of the industry…


SBC: Hi Stephen, we have seen bet365 restructure and re-brand its affiliate team to focus more on performance marketing. What changes have been undertaken by your team and how does bet365 define performance marketing?

Stephen Appleton: Here at bet365 we define performance marketing as any form of marketing or promotion from which the results can be tracked and measured against specific variables. The nature of the affiliate system we use and affiliate marketing in general means that we have always been involved in performance marketing, with a real focus on acquiring new players and maximising revenues. In addition to affiliate activity we also have other partnerships in place and other marketing activities that we are responsible for. It was important that this was reflected in the structure of the team, which is where the change to the bet365 Performance Marketing team came about.

One of the main changes to the structure of the team was the uniformed job title and role for all of our Performance Marketing Managers. Previously, some Affiliates Managers managed the ongoing relationships with our established partners, whilst others were specifically tasked with developing new business opportunities and cultivating relationships with partners who were new to the bet365 affiliate programme. The standardised role means that all members of the team are now involved in both of these aspects, so we all experience a wider variety of partnerships. Our marketing partners have benefited in that there are more members of the team who are involved in day-to-day account management, making our service even more efficient and effective.

The Performance Marketing title really sums up the work we do. We analyse all deals on the key performance indicators that we as a department are evaluated on, to help ensure that returns are maximised, which in turn benefits our affiliates. All members of the team are involved in a wide range of marketing partnerships, and this helps to ensure we are in a great position to advise on how to continually improve results.

SBC: In a wider context do igaming and sports betting marketing services and mechanics need to be revalued in order to counter changing and more challenging market conditions?

SA: Igaming is such a unique industry, and with this comes its own set of challenging market conditions. Regulations are ever-changing, and operators and affiliates alike need to keep on top of developments to ensure that they are compliant with the marketing requirements for the territories in which they operate.

In addition to the legislation requirements, it is important to stay up to date with advances in technology and the effects on people’s routine. Social media, for instance, has become such a big part of people’s everyday lives that it is impossible to ignore from a marketing perspective. Marketing through social media then brings its own challenges, in terms of meeting the advertising requirements set by the sites in question and ensuring that the social strategy being implemented complements the other marketing activities.

The constant changes in legislation and other external factors make it imperative that services are revalued consistently. If you’re not keeping up to date with relevant legislation and technology then you can be sure that you’ll fall behind your rivals in a truly competitive market.

SBC: In a market where igaming operators are more margin sensitive, will affiliate marketing have less of a significance in player acquisition, when compared to other marketing verticals – search, TV, display which maybe more margin friendly in the long-run?

SA: I don’t think the importance of affiliate marketing can be underestimated in this industry, and I don’t foresee it becoming any less significant. The great thing about the affiliate model is that the revenue share arrangement means that both sides of the partnership continually benefit from activity of referred players. It’s always beneficial for affiliates to refer more players, and it’s always beneficial for bet365 to receive those players. We pride ourselves on being industry-leaders in terms of lifetime value of customers, so commissions continue to be generated for a long time after the initial referral.

Other marketing channels may provide more margin friendly results in the long run, but it is very difficult to be certain of this. The initial, and often ongoing, outlay on other verticals means that it is inevitable that there needs to be significant activity before this is recouped. Obviously it is also much more difficult to track exactly what returns are being generated. For example, it’s difficult to know how many new accounts were set up following a TV advertising campaign, whereas with the affiliate model we can directly attribute the exact number of new depositors that have been acquired from specific campaigns.

Affiliate marketing is a hugely important avenue for online operators, and the continuous internet and mobile development means that customer acquisition is likely to continue through this channel for years to come.

SBC: bet365 has placed a high emphasis on performance marketing, however as a marketing team how do you balance performance marketing values and can too much emphasis on performance values be negative to an operator overall marketing strategy?

SA: I think that the emphasis on performance is very much a positive thing. After all, we as operators, and our marketing partners; need to see good performance in order to thrive as businesses. We don’t look at performance figures for a way to penalise our partners if results drop. Our whole function is based around continually improving performance levels. Of course, it’s not possible for every single account to increase month on month indefinitely, but if ourselves and our partners are focused on continuous improvement then we can identify what is working well and what perhaps isn’t, and make amendments to the strategy where necessary.

Any marketing strategy aims to increase awareness and improve perception of the brand being promoted. This in itself helps to achieve key performance indicators, and without any focus on the performance of marketing campaigns it would be impossible to evaluate what has been successful. Of course there needs to be a balance and consideration needs to be given to more intangible factors like brand awareness, but although there will be fluctuations in results in the short term, the long term focus has got to have a degree of a performance marketing perspective

SBC: Finally how do you see marketing services evolving in the coming months/years for the igaming and sports betting operators? What core values need to be prioritised in order to ensure long term growth and player values?

SA: There’s no better operator than bet365 in ensuring long term growth and player values, and that’s down to the whole ethos of the company. Players continue to use bet365 because they have trust in the brand and receive excellent service. Our website is slick and easy to use, our offers are consistent and we offer a huge range of payment options. The products we offer are of the highest calibre, which is enough to attract players in itself, but the market-leading opening bonus for our sports product complements these and helps with customer acquisition. On top of this, our Retention Team do a fantastic job in maintaining the custom of existing players and reactivating players at key times of the year. The retention bonuses on offer across the site and the loyalty bonuses awarded help to keep players betting with us. All of these factors contribute heavily to the fact that we have sustained continued growth year on year

The igaming sector is such a hard one to predict, so it’s difficult to know how marketing services will evolve over time. What you can be sure of though is that bet365 will stay ahead of the game with innovative and exciting products and marketing campaigns that continue to deliver strong results for our marketing and affiliate partners


Stephen Appleton – Performance Marketing Manager – bet365



Player acquisition strategies, media partnerships and brand brand marketing will be discussed at the Betting on Football Conference on 10 September, find out more below

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