As one of the biggest spectacles in world sport, preparations for the Super Bowl can never start too early, writes Hans Neskvern, Head of US Sports Trading at Kambi. Competition is fierce among sportsbooks to acquire new customers and to excite and retain existing customers. This requires a unique offering that bettors have come to expect for such a big event across both pre-game and in-game, including a strong same game parlay product and an array of game/player props, instant betting markets and Super Bowl specials.
For Super Bowl LVII, the high-quality offering Kambi was able to provide partners was the culmination of everything we have worked on and learned since 1998, when we first started trading NFL. In the months leading up to the event, experts from across different departments at Kambi, from traders to quants to product developers, researched and utilized Kambi’s powerful network data to identify potential new opportunities within our offering and created a dedicated roadmap to further strengthen its offering in time for the Super Bowl.
As we approached the end of the post-season, the trading team, with the help of engineers and regulatory compliance managers, were busy planning out each possible outcome of the conference championship games and what each offering would look like depending on who the winning teams were. Everything from main markets to the color of the drink dumped on the winning coach was outlined and ready to be rolled out over the course of the two weeks between the final whistle of the AFC Championship game and the coin toss on Super Bowl Sunday.
Eventually, this led to one of the most extensive and comprehensive pre-game and in-game betting offerings in the market, with more than 850 offers and a high level of combinability for what was the second largest turnover event in Kambi’s history. Below, I pull back the curtain for a step-by-step look into the process and preparations in the run-up to Super Bowl Sunday.
Conference Championship Sunday – 14 days before kickoff
Immediately following the conclusion of the Chiefs vs Bengals AFC Championship game, the world knew who would be competing for the Lombardi Trophy and bettors everywhere would look for the opening main market lines. Within minutes, offers such as money line, point spread, and game totals were made available, with other popular markets such as Super Bowl MVP and touchdown scorer props to follow shortly after. Even knowing that there will be hundreds of bet offers available come kickoff, these were offers that bettors favored the most in past Super Bowls and would look to wager on first.
Monday – 13 days before the kickoff
With the main markets already available, Kambi was around a pick-em to start with an initial movement towards Kansas City, followed by a big movement towards the Eagles which is when we moved the line to -2 in favor of Philadelphia. The injury reports throughout the week didn’t designate Patrick Mahomes with an injury, so it didn’t have much of an effect on the pre-game odds that were compiled. Taking away that uncertainty, there may have been a point moved in the Chiefs direction.
Following the initial movements from the opening lines, we then began to build out the offering with even more player props. This is when bettors will have started to see some of the most popular player prop bets, next to touchdown scorer, and other play prop bets such as player yards totals.
Wednesday – 11 days before kickoff
By this point, most of the popular markets had been made available to bettors, and this is when they started to see some of the more unique markets offered for the big game. In addition to the available player props, bettors began to see other markets such as offensive and defensive player occurrences like total rushing attempts or total sacks, as well as player combination bets such as player rushing and receiving totals.
Friday – Nine days before kickoff
With just over a week to go before the Chiefs and Eagles faced off in Super Bowl 57, Kambi’s complete market-leading offering of more than 850 betting markets had taken shape with a few last-minute additions, including kicking markets. As the entirety of Kambi’s offering was rolled out, our global presence allowed traders to monitor bets and adjust them accordingly 24/7. In addition, regulatory compliance worked to make sure that the markets being offered met the standards that each state and province had set.
At this point, the attention turned to the operator and, in addition to the markets already offered, we worked closely with our partners on unique bets and special offers that ensured an even greater market fit to their customers. At the request of our partners, we worked diligently to create hundreds of unique offers that catered to their specific audience.
One week before kickoff
Final preparations were made and from a trading perspective, it became all about monitoring betting trends, adjusting accordingly, and setting up communication and coordination strategies for live offerings.
The point spread and total for the game stayed relatively steady throughout the two weeks before the game and there wasn’t much of a reason to adjust. As expected, there was a lot of action on the touchdown scorer markets, a trend that has become more and more popular over the course of the last couple of seasons. We also saw a lot of bettors looking for a fast-settling win, as heads or tails on the coin flip was one of the most wagered on markets.
The MVP market is also popular for bettors pre-game, and quarterbacks take up a large probability. Patrick Mahomes was the favorite to win Super Bowl MVP, followed closely by Jalen Hurts, and then Travis Kelce. Despite being the underdog, we felt a Chiefs win would be because of a big performance from Mahomes, which would make it extremely likely to result in him winning MVP. For the favorited Eagles, there were several other players after Jalen Hurts who had a realistic shot for the individual award had they won, including AJ Brown, Devonta Smith, Miles Sanders and Hassan Reddick.
Bet Builder bets continued to grow in popularity again this year, with 36% of all pre-game bets placed being SGPs, and 50% of all bettors on the Kambi network placing at least one Bet Builder bet. We saw a peak of more than 1,000 SGP bets placed per minute as we approached kickoff, highlighting its popularity and underlying the strength of Kambi’s market-leading product with the best values and high-margin pricing.
This year, bettors were able to enjoy some new features from Kambi, including alternate player props within Bet Builder bets, as well as in-game Bet Builder cash out for the first time. As all the action unfolded, viewers of the game were able to cash out a large majority of pre-game Bet Builder bets live throughout the duration of the game.
As soon as the Chiefs and Eagles took the field, the priority became cashing out pre-game bets that quickly settle, such as the result of the coin-flip. A fast cash out for these bets is incredibly important for bettors looking to continue to wager on the game live.
The live market during halftime of this year’s game was particularly unique. The Eagles were heading into the half up 10 points, and it appeared Mahomes re-aggravated his ankle which had sustained an injury earlier in the playoffs. Elements such as injury can be difficult to quantify mathematically, and decisions need to be made on the fly based on what you think might happen. Even as Kambi moves to a more automated algorithmic approach, this is a prime example of why the human element and knowhow remains important and will always be required when compiling odds.
Taking those into account, Kambi went into the half in favor of the Eagles by 8.5 points, with the unknown of a Mahomes return baked into the pricing. With an extended halftime, the team was able to work on his injury longer than they would have for any other game. Once it was clear Mahomes would continue to play, an adjustment was made, and the Eagles were 7.5-point favorites due to the comeback factor that Mahomes has shown throughout his career.
Once the game concluded, all Super Bowl bets – as well as futures placed throughout the course of the season – were settled while the Kansas City Chiefs hoisted the Lombardi trophy. Months of hard work and preparation had come to a conclusion and the Monday following the Super Bowl is a day where everyone steps back to take a deep breath and enjoy a job well done, but not before offering some early odds for Super Bowl LVIII in 2024, which has the Chiefs as the favorites to repeat at +600, followed by the Buffalo Bills (+750), Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers (+800).