It has been just over one year since the Canadian Senate voted to pass Bill C-218, which legalized single-event sports betting across the country. Since then, a lot has changed in the sports wagering landscape in Canada, including the launch of the Ontario market.
SBC Americas recently spoke to Aubrey Levy, Senior Vice President of Content and Marketing at theScore Bet, about the operator’s experience of the year since the bill was passed, as well as the Ontario and overall Canadian market, and its unique customer experiences and partnerships.
SBC: It has been one year since the Canadian Senate voted to pass Bill C-218 and legalize single-event sports betting. Including the launch in Ontario, how has the past year been for theScore Bet since the bill was passed?
Aubrey Levy: “A lot has happened in the year. It has been an incredible year. I’m very proud of all that we have accomplished.
“Looking back from where things were last June to now being operational in Ontario, providing public vocal support for the bill as it made its way through, to all the preparation that went into getting ready for this launch, launching incredibly successfully and smoothly, first time launching icasino, standing up the biggest launch marketing campaign we had ever done for theScore Bet.
“We’ve also lined up some grade-A partnerships with Golf Canada and the Toronto Blue Jays, and we’re starting to bring those to life like activating into our home opener around launch weekend and what we just did a week or two ago with the RBC Canadian Open.
“So to think about we were talking about this all conceptually a year ago when C-218 passed thinking ‘Okay well, Ontario could become a reality,’ to actually living it and executing it, it’s been fantastic. I’m very proud of everything that we have accomplished.”
SBC: theScore Bet recently provided a unique customer experience at the RBC Canadian Open with its Skyline Seats. How successful was that fan experience?
AL: “We knew it was going to be successful. We knew it was going to be exciting and outside-the-box and an unconventional activation for a golf event, but I think we even underestimated how successfully it would resonate.
“Anecdotally, it was everywhere. It wasn’t just golf media, it wasn’t just Canadian media, the Skyline Seats got picked up on ESPN, CNN, Golf Canada, the Tour, local press, and influencers all wanted to go up. We were booked pretty consistently with a wait list for all four days, and then capped by Tony Finau after he hits this monster putt on the 18th to come second, he and his team wanted to go up 20 minutes after walking off and finishing his round.
“It was a massive success and it drove a ton of awareness. Operationally, we were thrilled and proud of how smoothly everything went. So from an execution, operational, and an awareness perspective, it was great. It got great brand exposure, created a memorable and unique experience for as many fans as possible and it also resonated as an extension of our brand and our brand campaign, helping fans get closer to the sports and action they love, ironically in this instance, by hoisting them up to 100 feet in the air.
“This was also the first big activation we had done in [the Ontario] province. We’ve announced a couple of great deals with them and with the Blue Jays, and we don’t do a lot of those partnerships and sponsorships and we knew we want to do something that was unexpected and exciting but supportive of the brand.
“Ultimately, that was the flagship activation, the centerpiece to a full experiential and integrated marketing program that we ran around the event. That included our member’s lounge which was rocking, putting challenges throughout the course that were getting lines for participation, and bespoke markets that we had stood up. It was, all in all, a really successful initial activation weekend.”
SBC: theScore Bet has also recently discontinued its operations in the US to focus more on Canada. What challenges is theScore Bet expecting to face in the Canadian market now it has consolidated its marketing and content strategy to the region?
AL: “I’ll say two things to that. One point is the Canadian market and in particular Ontario – it’s not just any market. It is one of the biggest, most commercially actionable markets in North America which, from the challenging side, means it’s a huge opportunity for all operators which is what you’re seeing with a lot of operators coming in.
“On top of which, it has been a robust, grey market for years, so the competition landscape in Ontario is pretty aggressive and pretty unique.
“The flip side of that to us, on the positive, is that it’s a market where we have, without question, a brand presence and a legacy that cuts through in a way that it just doesn’t in the US even though we have great penetration, an amazing user base, and a huge media business all across North America. Our brand resonates in Canada just in a different way.
“We can also operate icasino, there’s no tethering to retail property, it’s commercially favorable, and the regulation is as such that it can actually benefit operators who have a brand, versus operators who aren’t necessarily looking to build a brand, they’re just looking to market incredibly aggressively.
“It doesn’t mean that operators aren’t marketing aggressively in Ontario, but it does put more of an onus on ‘to succeed in the province, you better show up with the best-in-class product’. You have to stand for something differentiated. It can’t just be who has the best biggest sign-up offer because you can’t promote your sign-up offer externally.
“Ontario forces operators to be more strategic and sophisticated with how you bring your message to the market, which aligns very well for us. We have a brand, we don’t do the kind of traditional, conventional, aggressive marketing that some of our competition does south of the border. That means when we do decide to go bigger on our marketing efforts, as we have in Ontario, we can be more thoughtful and strategic about it.
“This leads me to my second point – the type of marketing that we are doing in Ontario, we’re doing that because of our presence in the province. We weren’t doing these kinds of brand partnerships for theScore Bet south of the border. We weren’t doing these kinds of marketing campaign pushes south of the border. It’s just a different strategy.
“In Ontario, given our presence, given how our brand resonates, it does make sense for us to find partnerships like the Blue Jays and Golf Canada where we can really lean in and do something unique with them. It does make sense to lean in and support it with brand campaigns above the line work, which is what we’ve done and we’re very excited with how those are starting to take shape.”
SBC: In April, theScore Bet agreed to a 10-year sponsorship deal with the Toronto Blue Jays including a branded sports bar at the Rogers Centre. Why such a long-term partnership? Will long-term partnerships be a trend for theScore Bet?
AL: “Well not just long term, but exclusive. In a market where a lot of operators are fine sharing exclusivity, I think for us, it was a unique opportunity. The Blue Jays, they are Canada’s baseball team. We are Canada’s digital sports brand.
“To take two brands that resonate as strongly as they do and unify them in a partnership made a ton of sense, and if we’re going to do it, do it in a way that is meaningful. Do it in a way that actually allows us and the Jays to lean in and for us to get a full mind share from the Blue Jays so that we can do interesting and creative things.
“It’s the same strategy and thinking that went into Golf Canada. Part of the reason we did that deal was that they were so eager to work with us and lean in with us and bring that to life in interesting and creative ways. It was a huge reason why we were able to get the Skyline Seats up was because of Golf Canada’s support to make that happen.
“So for us, when we’re finding these partnerships, it’s important that we find ones that are meaningful, that we can lean in and actually activate in a differentiated and unique way, that we have full mind share, and that they’re willing to sit there with us and be creative and come up with interesting solutions.
“It’s not that there is a holistic ‘we must go and do partnership strategy’ that we’re actively pursuing, it’s more ‘what are opportunistic partnerships that exist where we can get this kind of buy-in and do something that cuts above what might be existing in the market’.”
SBC: What’s next for theScore Bet for the rest of 2022?
AL: “We’re working on bringing our risk and trading platform in-house, which will complete the vertical integration of our tech stack and sportsbook operations, which is going to be a huge milestone for us. Unlock a ton of additional customization and market availability to serve our users which is going to be fantastic. It’s really exciting to have that at our disposal as we head into football season.
“We also have some of these partnerships that are underway that we haven’t even begun to really bring to life. There’s a ton of stuff to do with the Jays, we have the CP Women’s Open coming later this summer, and we have a partnership with Canlan Sports where we’re doing some activation stuff with them. As soon as we spend a day or two recovering from the Canadian Open, it’s right into planning for the next so the hits don’t stop.”