When the legal sports betting market in the US kicked off last year, it opened up a billion-dollar industry for bookmakers and affiliates. According to Adthena, the competitive intelligence platform specialist, it’s a brand new competitive landscape where everything’s up for grabs, the competitors are yet to be determined, and the first order of business is to acquire as many players as you can, as fast as you can. 

The challenge is that in new territory like this, everyone’s competing in the dark, which makes competitive visibility the ultimate advantage. To get that visibility while maximizing ROI, you need a complete view of the market.

A major shift. A massive opportunity.

US states can now officially legalize sports betting within their borders following a 2018 Supreme Court decision that struck down a federal ban. As of September 2019, 13 states have legalized sports betting and six more are getting close. 

The decision opened a huge industry, and the floodgates to  a significant cultural shift in the US. It’s also creating a marketing goldrush, as operators sprint to be the first to reach and engage players and capture all-important debut deposits. 

For now, it’s not about attracting high-rollers and big bets, it’s all about volume—building a database of new customers to nurture into dedicated players. 

The game is on in SEM

In June of this year, Google updated its Google Ads platform in New Jersey to allow licensed NJ online sportsbooks to use the advertising service for the first time. Nevada and West Virginia soon followed, and other markets are in the approval pipeline. As more states come online and more operators get certified to advertise on the platform, search will be at the epicenter of the battle to reach and engage new players in discovery mode. 

By 2020, there are expected to be at least 25 brands competing for a share of the estimated $500m market. What will separate winners from losers will be the ability to monitor rival moves, spot rising challengers and newcomers, exploit opportunities, and avoid fruitless strategies. That’s tough when you don’t even know who you’re competing against let alone which keywords are in play, how often competitor ads are appearing, or how much rivals are spending and where.

Reading the market 

Driven by the need to launch quickly, sports betting in the US has primarily been dominated by American companies partnering with established European operators. But over time, this uncharted marketplace will coalesce into an ecosystem of  bookmakers, online apps, US casinos and their partners, and a new generation of operators and innovators all vying for the same pool of players. There are a lot of unknowns. But by carefully monitoring the landscape and the competitors, operators can be both effective and efficient at claiming market share in this new market. 

Here are four ways to get competitive clarity:

Look before you leap: Bookmakers considering entering the fray should benchmark their relative positions by state before running a single ad or campaign. A whole market view allows an operator to preview the landscape and create the strongest possible competitive strategy from day one based on the most effective search terms and ads. 

Google’s tools (keyword planner and auction insights) can provide basic insight to get your campaigns off the ground, but AI-driven competitive intelligence platforms can provide the added strategic advantage when entering a highly competitive new market.

Optimize every play:  As you continue to acquire players and build your database, you’ll need to monitor your search competitors to keep your strategy and budgets optimized. AI-informed visibility will enable you to exploit other operators’ weaknesses and maximize reach. You’ll also have a way to proactively monitor and be alerted to competitor moves, so if a rival bookmaker suddenly doubles down on certain terms or tactics, you can respond. Catena did just that, using Adthena’s Strategic Advantage solution, the company discovered that a key competitor was investing heavily in mobile. Based on that intelligence, Catena scaled up mobile campaigns and achieved a 26% increase in first-time depositors.

Spend where it matters: In established markets, gaming has a notoriously high CPC. Without visibility into what your competitors are doing in search, it’s easy to throw away money on overvalued terms, miss out on undervalued ones, or get stuck on the sidelines when you should be bidding aggressively. With competitive data in hand, you can see exactly which terms and tactics will deliver ROI. Unibet (part of the Kindred Group network) has used Adthena solutions to reduce CPAs for new depositing sportsbook players by 7%.

Dominate the action: In the lead-up to a sporting event, bookmakers must be particularly tuned in to competitive activity. It’s vital to see when rivals start to change ad copy, offers, promotions, or targeting ahead of peak betting periods. Leading up to the 2016 Melbourne Cup, bookmaker William Hill used Adthena solutions to actively monitor competitor search activity and dynamically manage its own strategy. As a result, they sustained an average PPC listing position of #1 in the lead up to the race.

Post-event, in-depth analysis of competitor activity can provide valuable insights to improve future performance.

For operators entering the new US sports betting marketplace, Adthena offers deep experience working with the largest European igaming leaders including GVC, Kindred Group, and the Stars Group. Adthena solutions empower you to make informed strategic decisions across your search campaigns by leveraging our AI-powered Whole Market View technology, the world’s most comprehensive competitive intelligence dataset. Reach out to an Adthena representative now to get started.