The extraordinary, pandemic-driven, situation that has impacted the world since the first quarter of 2020 has completely changed the way consumers experience sports. While some turned to alternative sports, especially digital ones, others continued with their traditional preferences. Almost two months into 2021, it can be said that all the major leagues around the world have resumed, enabling the industries that surround sports to make a much-needed return to business.
When it comes to North America, one of the most important events is undoubtedly the Super Bowl, the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL), averaging an audience of more than 100 million people, of which 23 million end up betting.
However, the US is not the only country in the region interested in American football. A recent study by the NFL focused site Primera y Diez revealed that the interest of the Mexican market in the NFL has grown in recent years.
Lenin Castillo, Online COO at Logrand Entertainment Group, in conversation with SBC Americas, confirmed that there is a trend in which more people are drawn to the NFL, but warned that the pandemic has also impacted its reach.
Before the Super Bowl LV between the winners Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, the American Gaming Association (AGA) revealed that 23.2 million Americans planned to bet on the event, around 3 million less than the previous year. This trend crossed the border, as Mexico also suffered a decline.
“Although we can see that the behavior of our audience is positive in terms of the response of our users when betting, this hasn’t translated into a substantial increase in the volume of bets during the recent 2020/21 season,” said Castillo, who highlighted that the current economic situation must be taken into account, as well as how much the pandemic as impacted Mexico in all areas.
“The behavior in the betting industry in general in all sporting events has not been favorable so far since the pandemic started, so a drop in the volume of bets for the Super Bowl LV was already expected,” he said, and added that “the results of the event complied with our projected figures, which represent a step back when compared to the previous year.”
In times when the global economy faces one of the greatest challenges in history, what can operators do to attract high-value customers more effectively? The strategy of the parent company of bookmaker Strendus is to offer a wide variety of markets, excellent customer service and easy deposits and withdrawals.
“Our entertainment offering focuses on having a great experience, in a safe and regulated environment in order to build trust so that [players] can focus exclusively on having fun.”
Besides high value customers, spending has also plummeted when compared to 2020. “The total number of bets, as well as the volume, has had a negative impact during the concluded season, but a decrease was expected beforehand,” revealed Castillo, who detailed that the drop was a little more favorable in terms of expected results, since it only fell 23% when compared to 2020.
Players were predominantly men, between 26 and 45-years-old. This customer profile will not radically change in the short term, Castillo said. Additionally, the most popular modalities among players are “two-way”, while the second favorite were “point spread” or “asian handicap”.
Many already expected the legendary Tom Brady, and thus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to reach the Super Bowl. However, the team did not rank in the top 5 most popular teams among punters before the start of the playoffs.
According to figures shared by Logrand, the Kansas City Chiefs (2020 champions) was Mexico’s preferred team, with 9.33% of the total bets, followed by New England Patriots (8.82%), Green Bay Packers (8.33%), Seattle Seahawks (8.15%) and the Dallas Cowboys (7.93%).
Mexico, between football and the NFL
Football is by far the preferred sport in Mexico. It’s so popular that Liga MX is currently the most popular and most watched by Latinos (and mostly Mexicans) in the US. So are there any benefits for local bookmakers to promote the NFL in a country that loves football?
The Online COO assures that the wide sports offering is “definitely favorable for our industry, since our potential market is diversified in parallel.”
“That’s why at Strendus we have odds for 20 disciplines, in addition to esports events, a new market that is getting more and more followers each day,” he said.
“Let’s remember that Mexico is the NFL’s number one market abroad, having the largest number of fans in this league outside the US. In recognition of the importance of this market, the country has hosted 11 NFL games, of which four have been regular season games,” he commented.
“American football is the most popular sport for punters after football in Latin America. Every year it gets more followers, which benefits the industry and forces competitors to have a greater offering to continue in the market.”
Could marketing and advertising suffer limitations?
Colombia is undoubtedly the leading country in terms of gambling and online gaming. Mexico, however, is considered by many as the second biggest in Latin America, at least until Brazil launches its own sports betting market and tops the list.
Many of the benefits that Latin America currently enjoys thanks to the gambling industry are due to the progressive Colombian regulations, but it’s important to highlight the fact that these were based on the Spanish market, which years ago was considered as an emergent leader in Europe.
Currently, the gambling industry in Spain is facing a great challenge because of the recently approved Royal Decree that regulates advertising and bans sponsorships between sports books and football teams.
As Latin America follows the example of European markets, especially Spain, there are concerns that companies could face a similar challenge in terms of limitations and bans.
“So far, nothing has happened that prevents sponsorships between sports leagues and bookmakers in Mexico, although there have always been some limitations,” Castillo clarified.
However, he said that concerns could potentially arise, mainly for teams. “For example, this situation has hurt Spanish teams economically because they get significant revenue from their sponsorships,” he said.
Javier Tebas, president of LaLiga, had stated that a blackout of betting sponsorships would cost La Liga clubs around €90m in revenues. Operators would also lose brand exposure, as LaLiga is one of the most followed leagues in the world.
“For operators, the most affected part would be the customer acquisition cost, since sponsorships can achieve a direct connection with the end-user who is seeking excitement by experiencing their favorite sports. It also gives us the chance to support local leagues,” he added.
“In our case, we currently sponsor the National Professional Basketball League (LNBP) of Mexico. This strategic deal allows us to create added value for sports lovers, especially basketball, by giving them entertainment tools and a new experience when they’re enjoying the games. Through these actions, we reaffirm our commitment to promote a sports culture in the country.”