Mirio Mella – Pinnacle: Betting Resources – Why education matters

Mirio Mella, Pinnacle

Placing player education at the forefront of its business strategy, sportsbook Pinnacle has launched its ‘Betting Resources’ program as a key initiative for 2017.

Mirio Mella Head of Customer Engagement details the program’s execution and why player education can mark a difference within a saturated online betting market.

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SBC: Hi Mirio great to catch up, can you detail to SBC readers, Pinnacle’s ‘Betting Resources’ initiative and why you have placed ‘education’ at the heart of player development?

Mirio Mella: Hi SBC and thanks for opportunity to talk about Betting Resources, something that I am very passionate about.

I started at Pinnacle over 10 years ago as a Copywriter (via the Racing Post) and as soon as I understood the unique way we operated I saw both an opportunity and real commercial benefit in communicating our USPs in an interesting and diverse way. Betting Resources is the culmination of a journey to achieve that via educational content.

It is because of the unique nature of the Pinnacle model that we have placed education at the heart of player development. Value-seeking players generally find us, we don’t have to find them, and they appreciate what we have to offer – low margins, high limits and the security of knowing that we won’t restrict them if they are successful. That low margin model isn’t, however, compatible with a huge above-the-line marketing spend, so reaching an audience beyond the savvy value-seekers requires a different approach.

The general expectation within bettors outside of that savvy group is the incentive-led model, which is well served by what we consider the ‘soft’ books. Pinnacle doesn’t offer incentives, and without the big ATL spend, our brand is less recognisable, so we are playing a longer game to build awareness among the wider, more recreational betting community. A large component of the strategy to overcome those challenges and build brand trust is telling our story via content.

Courting customers in this way – without incentives and big Marketing spend – takes a little bit longer but the content led approach – especially our focus on transparency and no gimmicks – engenders trust and produces a much longer lasting relationship, and greater LTV. It also generates a lot of brand ambassadors who, in turn, help to spread the word and reduce CPAs.

SBC: For Pinnacle what is the overall gain in its development of Betting Resources, is its overall purpose geared towards player acquisition, retention or branding?

MM: It is actually all three. With SEO a core component of the development of Betting Resources we certainly acquire customers directly via organic search, particularly around intent focused keywords, though naturally competition around these terms is high.

We have also focused on making content easy to share and embed through our Affiliate network and share via Social Media, which both drive direct acquisition, but the assist component of Betting Resources is significant. Our data shows that a new visitor journey that includes Betting Resources is far more likely to convert than one that doesn’t.

We have also incorporated Betting Resources into our CRM strategy, where content consistently generates better engagement, with our monthly Pulse Newsletter – featuring the latest and best articles – a key content-led initiative. The use of a real-time CRM middleware enables us to pull our RSS Feeds in seamlessly into emails, and target them by user preference.

The branding impact has in part been covered in my answer above. Betting Resources features articles falling in four main categories – Features, Explainers, Previews and Facts & Figures. Of those the addition of Feature style content – more magazine like – was a conscious decision to reach a broader audience, covering subjects like the history of gambling or how fake news impacts information gathering. This is intended to help expose the brand, by planting a seed in a curious visitor’s mind who isn’t necessarily expected to sign up on the strength of the piece, but leave with a positive impression of Pinnacle as a different kind of bookmaker, which in time might grow into a desire to return and become a customer.

SBC: Can sports betting brands differentiate through education driven content? Can and should a bookmaker really teach its customer base?

MM: It really depends on the brand and how you define ‘education’. I am not sure how credible a bookmaker would seem producing educational based content yet charging its customers a 10% margin to place a bet when 2% is available elsewhere.

Education can take many forms, such as a greater appreciation of the statistical nature of sport – as opposed to a subjective armchair fan approach – but I personally see value as fundamental to betting education, so unless a bookmaker genuinely offers value, any educational approach may come across as slightly disingenuous.

Exchanges are well placed as betting facilitators to take an educational approach, and several are doing a good job. Just like Pinnacle, they are volume driven, but I am not expecting soft books to emulate what we are doing with Betting Resources.

Given what I have already said, I firmly believe – in the right circumstances – that it makes commercial sense for a bookmaker to teach its customer base. It can also provide huge brand value so long as there is a genuine commitment to offering useful information. If you are just ticking a box, or copying what is already out there you will be perceived as derivative, in much the same way as anyone trying to banter like Paddy Power would be called out.

For Pinnacle, education makes perfect sense. Our Director of Trading likes to talk of our informed customers acting as his consultants, helping shape our lines. We are happy for them to win, given the value of the insight they provide; in essence we need intelligent customers to make our model work so educating them through content is entirely sensible.

SBC: What internal/operational gains has Pinnacle gained through developing Betting Resources and placing a high emphasis on education?

MM: This is an interesting question, and actually quite topical. Our Director of Trading was recently speaking at a Data Science event in Brussels, and in order to help promote his attendance and message – that Pinnacle is heavily immersed in data science – we leveraged Betting Resources to tease his presentation and explore the themes. You can read about how R is driving sports betting innovation here.

This is just one example of how Betting Resources can act as a focal point for many aspects of the Pinnacle brand, whether it being our focus on education, our transparency or our innovation through data science.

SBC: How do you see ‘Betting Resources’ developing in the coming months?

MM: We added a Betting Tools section in June, with a range of Betting Calculators, which moved BR from passive education, via great content about themes like odds formats, maximising payouts, measuring value and arbs, to allowing customers to actively measure these things for themselves.

We haven’t finished the full development of the Tools section, which will soon include widgetised versions of the calculators for our Affiliates to easily embed on their sites.

You’ll see our feed – Betting Resources’ home page – become even more dynamic with short-form posts complementing longer form articles.

As mentioned above SEO is huge component of BR’s acquisition value and there are several structural upgrades specific to improving SEO that are in pre-production. Along with the improvement in Google’s eyes, they will enhance the user experience.

We have an amazing group of contributors, who help maintain an exceptional level of content, and I want to expand that pool, but keeping the standard high, so expect more recognised authors and academics.

There are also a couple of exciting developments ahead of the new domestic soccer season that I want to keep under wraps, but rest assured when the time comes SBC will be among the first to know.

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Mirio Mella – Head of Customer Engagement – Pinnacle