Genius Sports - Josh Jolliffe

Josh Jolliffe, Genius Sports: F2P games key to sportsbooks’ World Cup strategies

As the World Cup in Qatar edges ever closer, sportsbook marketing teams continue to search for the formula that will deliver impressive levels of player acquisition and retention, and a return on their substantial investments in promotional campaigns.

Traditional tactics such as bonuses, free bets and newspaper advertising still have a role, but as Josh Jolliffe, Sales Director – Media & Engagement at Genius Sports, explains, a combination of free-to-play games, programmatic retargeting and a holistic social media strategy could help operators to achieve more of their goals during the tournament.  

SBC: As with all major football tournaments, the FIFA World Cup will trigger an expensive race among betting operators to acquire new players. What can savvy operators do to win that race, without breaking the bank?

Josh Jolliffe: While sign-up offers like free bet promotions and boosted odds increase registrations, they often lead to high-churn rates and minimal further engagement beyond the first bet.

However, at recent major tournaments we’ve seen operators start to approach their acquisition campaigns differently by launching prediction-style, free-to-play games  – such as Sky Bet’s ‘Super 6’ and BetVictor’s ‘Million Pound Goal’ – that drive meaningful, daily engagement. This tactic converts new players and lowers CPAs but with the added benefit of greater loyalty and higher player value throughout the tournament. 

Of course, programmatic and social media will remain key channels ahead of the first game on 20 November – and we’re already preparing campaigns for many of our clients – but free-to-play games add an extra, cost-effective dimension and really help sportsbooks differentiate themselves from the competition.

SBC: Acquisition is only half the equation. What strategies can operators deploy to engage and retain football bettors during the entire four week tournament? 

JJ: Three strategies immediately spring to mind. First, free-to-play competitions have been proven to build daily engagement. They keep players returning to your site where, via free bet incentives and odds promotions, you can convert them to real-money betting markets with high conversion rates.

Second, we also see great results with programmatic retargeting. Using personalised creative based on individual user profiling, marketers can re-engage dormant players, for example those who abandoned their bet slip, have not logged in within the last 48 hours or not deposited in the past week.

Finally, a holistic paid and owned social media strategy is highly effective. World Cup engagement on Twitter and Facebook will be 24/7 and to convert, operators need to be top of people’s feed with relevant, live data and odds-driven content as big moments occur – be that team news or a goal being scored.

SBC: What formats of F2P games work best at major tournaments? Do the different formats lend themselves to particular goals?  

JJ: At tournaments like the World Cup, predictor games tend to perform extremely well because they attract new and casual audiences that can be successfully cross sold into the betting markets. This tried-and-tested approach has proven to be highly effective in increasing operators’ new customer conversion rates.

These games can range from contests that allow players to predict the first goal scorer across the next six matches, to more daily, frequent predictors that combine outcomes like who will win the match, which player will score first and the total goals in a single fixture.

Additional features such as leaderboards and built-in social sharing help to increase the levels of competition to maximise tournament-long engagement.

SBC: The World Cup advertising space can be very noisy. How can marketers ensure their campaigns always standout?

JJ: Both in the run up and throughout the tournament, it is essential that any creative executions are contextual and relevant to your customers. The key lies in dynamic data like live scores, odds, match stats and kick-off countdown clocks. 

Whether through display advertising, social or connected TV, embedding this data into your creative will immediately capture fan attention and ensure meaningful connections. 

Over the years we have also learned that the timing of campaigns is critical. To make our clients’ content as relevant and timely as possible, we use an automated pacing curve that ingests live game data to accelerate media-buying at high-impact, real-time moments that resonate. 

SBC: Could you give our readers a real world example of how F2P games have driven results for a sportsbook operator? 

JJ: BetVictor has been phenomenally successful with its F2P strategy. Over the last two years, its Pick 6 game has helped the operator acquire new players and drive loyalty across the UK and German markets, with a strong conversion rate to real-money bets.

Our F2P game is available on the Premier League, German Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League, and challenges players to predict six results on its website and app for a chance to win a jackpot prize. During the off-season, the game was even reskinned for Formula 1 to expand engagement to F1 fans.

F2P games are becoming increasingly popular with operators all around the world. A number of recent high-profile fantasy and prediction game launches, as your readers will have seen, have drawn even greater attention to this trend.


Genius Sports is a sponsor of next week’s SBC Summit Barcelona conference and trade show, where its Head of Business Development Judd Goldstein will take part in the ‘Sports Gamification – has the future finally arrived?’ panel on 21 September at 11.30 CEST.

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