SBC News Russell Yershon: Fan engagement is vital during crisis times 

Russell Yershon: Fan engagement is vital during crisis times 

SBC News Russell Yershon: Fan engagement is vital during crisis times 
Russell Yershon

Betting endures its most challenging landscape as COVID-19 eliminates all live-sports markets. These circumstances have forced the sector to adapt during this uncertain climate causing companies to ramp-up its esports and virtual sports content, seeking to provide some form of live market engagement for customers. 

Whilst diversifying product lines is a much needed measure, the coronavirus lockdown will test brand and marketing capacities, introducing new problems such as creating fan engagement opportunities and maintaining a solid customer base.

Russell Yershon the director of Connecting Brands, a company which specialises in sports marketing services, spoke to SBC to discuss how sportsbooks can engage with punters in order to deliver turnover during this unprecedented time.

He stated: “Adapting to the current situation is important. The emergence of esports is evident with an increase in global events during this time. Leyton Orient are running a FIFA20 competition with clubs around the world in which sportsbooks have been taking small stakes on.

“Gaming brands can promote virtual sports products, although it’s important to tread carefully as to the tone of how you communicate with customers. Then there are casino games and live casino product offerings which are available.

Yershon continued: “Brands can adapt by softly aiming to cross-sell sport customers to casino related products, and the sport-related slot games could be a start. Like I mentioned above, it’s important to get the tone right.

“This is also a good time to cleanse your customer database and analyse customer behaviour as once normality does return, which we hope will be sooner rather than later, gaming brands will have to be on the front foot to get back to its turnover before COVID-19 turned our world upside down.”

Sportsbooks in particular have taken a huge hit in the betting industry as most rely on live-sport to generate revenue. With a reduced sporting schedule available for the foreseeable future, many firms will not only have to find new markets, but new marketing opportunities as many of the firms use sports clubs to attract its customers.

One positive opportunity for the gaming industry was the Virtual Grand National. The race garnered 4.8m viewers, with bookmakers donating over £2.6m to NHS Charities. The money, which went to over 140 NHS Charities, was accumulated by bookmakers donating all losing bets to combat COVID-19.

Yershon added: “The virtual grand national on Saturday, which many UK sportsbooks ran online, was very important for the industry as profits made from the betting event was given to NHS Charities’. With a stake limit of £10 each-way per customer, the sportsbooks actively pushed this to drive turnover from its customers knowing any profits will be given to a very worthy cause.”

Nevertheless, whilst new markets are being developed for sportsbooks to latch on to the reduction of live-sports, particularly football, is having a massive effect on the betting industry’s marketing opportunities to engage with audiences.

He explained: “COVID-19 is having an impact on betting brands who currently sponsor sport organisations. In this unprecedented situation we won’t know the true impact until the governing bodies makes an announcement on the outcome of the current (sporting) season.

“However, many customers of sportsbooks who are safe at home, they do want to enjoy entertainment that a bet can bring, so engaging with them is important.

“So, paying close attention to any upcoming positive decisions on sport returning is important as the brands need to be on the ball when re-engaging with customers to promote events when they start again.”

In the Premier League this season half of its clubs are sponsored by gambling operators, including the likes of West Ham United (Betway), Wolves (ManBetX) and Norwich (Dafabet). Due to the season being suspended, sportsbooks will now need to find alternative methods to ensure that its brand remains active, with Yershon believing that alternative marketing on social media could maintain an operators appeal.

He emphasised: “As an activation specialist I would very much recommend that sportsbooks engage with the football club’s they partner with and create a content plan during this time. If you’re a sportsbook with assets such as signed merchandise, I would suggest running competitions to give these away to fans. If you have created content with players during the season, you can re-use this and share it with the club’s fans.

“Moreover, you can work with the club to see if they can show key highlights of the season so far / or great games of the past and tag you in this content. Likewise, with modern technology, there could be a way of the club arranging a video interview with a Manager / group of players of which you can be the partner of. 

“Outside of ensuring the health of themselves and family as number one priority, fans of clubs are happy to receive content from their clubs and sportsbook brands as partners can help deliver this to maintain being front of minds with fans. It could also be possible for sportsbook brands to utilise a legend from the club they partner with and deliver a video interview which can be posted digitally across the clubs channel.” 

Yershon does state that in these unstable times, just being able to maintain a gaming brand is the main priority, but also using the firm to help others in the community is just as valuable in the current landscape.

He concluded: “It is difficult for the betting industry to develop its brands, however the Leyton Orient’s Ultimate QuaranTeam FIFA20 tournament which is raising money for charity has seen SkyBet and Bet365 give generous donations.

“That for me is the only way brands can develop is going above and beyond to support charitable courses and helping the health care of the respective countries they operate in.”

Right now, like most other industries there will be financial hardships and so it is more apparent than ever to use these short term solutions in order to provide long term ambitions.

If a sportsbook can remain active with its community whilst also providing content to its punters, then the betting industry will be able to pick itself up when the virus is dealt with whilst continuing to have a loyal customer base to rely on. 

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