This football season will see an unprecedented number of clubs across Europe partnering with sports betting brands. With premiership matches often pulling in millions of worldwide TV viewers, tens of thousands of fans watching live in stadiums, and receiving extensive online exposure, the potential value is undeniable. But exposure is one thing, engagement is quite another.
One major potential problem is brand differentiation. Most sports betting brands are offering a similar product, and often have names and visuals that can be confused with each other. Contemporary consumers exist in such a media saturated environment, that messages need to be exceptionally targeted and seen in the right place, at the right time, to be effective. If consumers, for example, remember a sports betting ad, but not the exact brand, then whilst it may benefit the industry as a whole, it will fail the originator.
Football clubs come with ready-made, committed and passionate fan bases, and these need to be connected with. Partnerships need to tap into, become part of and add to, that passion. Though sponsorship money is obviously a positive for any club, brands need to be sure that partnerships are seen as a positive by the fans. Perception really is everything. Campaigns must be on message, targeted and relevant from the very outset, but they also need a receptive audience to be truly effective.
For example, newly-launched sportsbook EnergyBet has carefully cultivated partnerships with two British football clubs, Championship Aston Villa and League Two Leyton Orient. Being Aston Villa’s official betting partner means that EnergyBet enjoy extensive exposure on the pitch-side advertising screens, in-stadium screens, plus co-branding on official Aston Villa websites and social media. In the case of Leyton Orient, EnergyBet is their main sponsor, with their logo on the shirts too. Though two very different clubs in terms of scale, the approach has been similar for both. By working closely with the clubs they have identified what makes them unique, and put together fluid, changeable strategies. EnergyBet has positioned itself to go on a journey, with the club and the fans, to write a story with them rather than trying to force a rigid pre-set narrative.
In both partnerships the Energy team have been making extensive efforts to be seen at the stadiums, and club-related events, themselves. Often this has involved the EnergyGirls, their in-house promotional models, giving away free merchandise to fans, running competitions and producing content for social media. This interaction links together the various branded media and builds rapport with the fans. Though only a small fraction of the reachable consumers will be fans actually attending matches, social media can be employed to the same effect. Responsiveness and natural interaction is at the core of EnergyBet’s social media strategy. Again, building trust with fans around the world is paramount. This is the kind of model that is vital in order to make partnerships deliver value as we move forward, and will only become more so.
So are football-sports betting partnerships worth it? Absolutely. Such partnerships hold enormous potential for any brand, but to realise that potential is no easy task. The very energy that makes football so popular, and maintains the huge fan bases of clubs, is passion. It is that passion that needs to be harnessed in order to make a partnership successful. That can only be achieved if the fans feel like the partnership is ‘on their side,’ delivering obvious, visible benefits to their club. Football clubs themselves thrive because of loyalty and teamwork, and partnerships need exactly the same.