Affiliates making their way in the US should adopt a similar mindset to that of the NFL, writes Paysafe’s Income Access Marketing Director Erica Anderson, as both strive for success in a “promising market that still has a long road ahead”.

Since October 2007, London has hosted 28 NFL regular season games, the most recent of which on October 28, 2018, drew an overseas attendance record of 85,870 to Wembley Stadium. This is just one tactic in the NFL’s strategy to diversify its global fanbase.

Exploring the merits of these initiatives could take one down several paths, each of which stresses the importance of engaging prospective audiences, while being mindful of their unique traits and expectations.  

US igaming affiliates should adopt a similar mindset to that of the NFL, as they too are pursuing success in a promising market that still has a long road ahead. An accumulation of market insights that leverage an array of resources would provide a strong foundation for their corresponding acquisition and retention strategies.

Power of Engagement

Part of what is fueling the rise of the US igaming market is the increasingly open dialogue between industry stakeholders. Supporting that dialogue is the proliferation of US-focused events, such as Betting on Sports America, which bring together the sharpest minds from marketing, legal, data science and other disciplines.

Leveraging the networking opportunities facilitated by these gatherings is standard practice for the igaming industry. However, many of those specific to the US have only existed for a couple of years, emphasizing the value of investing time and resources into building relationships and communication channels early on.

The sheer volume and diversity of available information disseminated by C-level executives from professional sports leagues, media organizations, land-based casino properties and state lawmakers, is an indicator of how quickly and aggressively the industry wants to grow. Affiliates are well-suited to navigate and extract what they need from these resources, heightening their ability to engage their target audience with the appropriate tools, language and context.

Earlier this month, New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement released figures showing that the state’s online casino operators brought in a combined revenue of over $39,134,300 in March. This new online casino record, a 53% increase from the same period last year, was accompanied by $13.3m in revenue for New Jersey’s online sports betting market.

To an affiliate considering entry into the US market, these numbers should prove encouraging. That said, a better understanding of the reasons behind these record-setting numbers, why they’re happening now and what factors could contribute to their sustained growth, are all vitally important for affiliates wanting to successfully grow alongside the market, rather than having to catch up to it.

An Influencer Mindset

In adopting an influencer mindset, affiliates should look to leading voices like that of the NFL’s UK Head of Marketing Sarah Swanson, who explained the importance of team-specific fan acquisition strategies in an interview with The Drum last November.

“In the UK, we have fans of the NFL, in the US we have fans of teams,” said Swanson. “You tend to be born into that and it is part of your life and your culture but we do know that when someone chooses a team, they remain connected to the sport for longer throughout the season, rather than a general NFL fan.”

The US is an expansive region that is subject to various regulations, cultural nuances and, in the case of professional sports, deep-seated allegiances. As a result, marketers need to be specific as to whom they are targeting and where, evaluating their acquisition strategy as well as the tone and format of the supporting content.

Affiliates can find a great source of inspiration in the fantasy sports sector, where there is an established role for influencers with a reputation for credibility and charisma. Stepping into this role are countless podcasters, data experts and other voices of authority from the world of sports.  This isn’t to say that affiliates need to invest in costly production equipment to achieve success, but it does speak to established expectations for quality content.

By embracing these expectations, affiliates will be better positioned to enhance their engagement strategy in tandem with the evolving US market.

Affiliate Goals

The NFL’s aforementioned expansion efforts are distinct from the objectives of affiliates entering the US market but their definition of success is comparable. The NFL’s most recent triumph came in early April with the opening of the 62,000-seat Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in north London – the first purpose-built NFL stadium to be constructed outside of the US.

While not a state-of-the-art sports facility, igaming affiliates have their own set of expectations, benchmarks and goals, the attainment of which is similarly reliant on unwavering resolve and a commitment to effective audience engagement and education.

Erica’s role focuses on developing the marketing strategy for the Income Access brand. Holding a decade’s industry experience, she also oversees the company’s in-house affiliate management team and its suite of digital marketing services. Income Access manages close to 20 affiliate programs.