SSG CEO Renshaw on the group’s US expansion

Mark Renshaw Spotlight Sports Group
Image: Shutterstock

Coming in as the CEO of a company can often be a daunting task, but the learning curve isn’t so steep for new Spotlight Sports Group CEO Mark Renshaw. His time with SSG dates back 14 years to when he joined Racing Post as head of digital back in 2008. Even though quite some time has passed since his hiring, what he is doing now does resemble what he was asked to do then.

“I joined the business 14 years ago. At that time, the business was very much a print organization, with a small number of people on the digital side, this is Racing Post back in the UK. But it was very clear to me, both during the interview process and when I got there, that there were huge opportunities to grow the business digitally,” Renshaw recalled.

Now, he continues to grow the business digitally, particularly as the company expands its footprint in the US. As many European companies have learned the hard way, coming into the US requires a different approach.

“It would be naive of us just to wander in from the UK and just say we’ve got it all cracked. So, it’s using the base of what we have, and then having people on the ground to be able to supplement that with the detail required really to hit the spot,” he said.

What Spotlight Sports Group does have going for it is a history rooted in data. 

“A lot of this is underpinned by data. While we were a print business, and while we have a lot of digital assets, data is absolutely the beating heart of what we do. And, as you will no doubt be thinking, that is very relevant in the US market as well. So, our business really is a data and technology business.”

Unlike more traditional, SEO-driven affiliates, Spotlight Sports Group offers up data to consumers as tools to help improve both their sports betting acumen and their fantasy sports prowess. Be it Pickswise, Racing Post, or Fantasy Alarm, the company brings in users, then keeps them with the tools it offers.

“We use that [data] for probably 70% or 80% of the content you see across all of our products, so I think data is key. And what we look to do with that data and when thinking about engagement is to build a really respected and credible position. So we’re on the side of the bettor and we are a trusted source of information,” Renshaw said. “That puts us into a very strong position, both in terms of how we deal with bookmakers or sportsbooks, but also in terms of how we then think about monetization.”

Given that Renshaw thinks the biggest trends he has seen in the US sports betting industry are data and immediacy, he believes the company has an edge in the market even though it may not have the search engine dominance of competitors. As the industry starts thinking ahead past acquisition to retention, this different approach will hopefully pay dividends.

“I think it’s absolutely huge. And the reason is that, with information and tools, we’re hopefully giving customers what they want. They’re more engaged, they become more valuable, they want to place bets more frequently. And it’s sort of a virtuous circle that we’re creating,” he said. “Without a doubt, you need the digital affiliation basics. You need SEO, you need these things to be in place. But, from our perspective, having both digital affiliation basics and the ability to offer customers more than just the basics is key because it really creates a business which is more interesting, a more valuable audience, and we can then create something which is far more material. And, from a business perspective, we can expand our long-term revenue opportunities“

How Spotlight Sports Group and other affiliates make that cash is something that has been a huge conversation in the marketplace. Better Collective started the conversation with an announcement on its Q3 earnings call that it will be moving from a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) model to revenue sharing. Group and Catena Media have not gone so far as to say they will pursue a similar structure, but they did say they are investigating it.

Even if the operators aren’t giving rev share deals now, Renshaw thinks the writing is on the wall.

“I think it will inevitably happen. And when it does, it will provide opportunities for us 

definitely, because we obviously have a huge heritage when we think about that side of things,” he said. He also pointed to the UK, which learned through trial and error what the right kind of model was for the industry. What started out as a CPA-driven market eventually shifted to rev share, and the same thing could happen in North America. 

With a model that brings customers back with tools and data, Spotlight Sports Group certainly seems well positioned for the long term, and with someone at the helm with the longevity of Renshaw, the company seems to be in good hands.