Laura Fernandez, SXM Media: Are music platforms the next frontier for sports betting engagement?

My music streaming platforms are, by and large, the most used apps on my phone. From my morning commute to my lunch break and even when out exercising (who am I kidding, I mean shopping) I constantly have music or podcasts playing through my headphones—and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Recently, I started noticing some of the adverts that appear on streaming apps—and, much to my colleagues’ annoyance, I also found myself humming along to some of the jingles. 

This got me thinking: Can streaming services be used to engage with audiences, particularly in the sports betting space? The answer is yes, which brings us to another question: How? Enter SXM Media

With flagship services such as Pandora, SiriusXM, and SoundCloud, SXM Media is well versed in the world of music streaming platforms and podcasts, particularly when using these mediums to reach new audiences. 

Laura Fernandez, VP Head of Industry for Travel and iGaming/Sports Betting at SXM Media, sat down with SBC Americas to give us some insight into the ways that the company is making its mark within the sports betting world. 

DJ, play the music

It’s been a few months since SBC Americas caught up with Laura. Nearly six months, to be exact. During that time, SXM Media has been donning its planning caps as it gears up to host not one, but two music concerts in Las Vegas. 

You’re probably wondering, what does a music concert have to do with sports betting? Well, for Fernandez, music is intrinsically linked to major sporting events, whether it’s being played as you’re getting ready, as the players are walking onto a pitch, and even during a halftime show. So hosting a concert in the run up to the Las Vegas Formula 1 Grand Prix and then a second ahead of the Super Bowl was a no brainer.

She began: “Formula 1, Grand Prix happened in Las Vegas on Saturday, November 18th. To help build up the hype and kickoff the race weekend, Pandora and SiriusXM hosted a free concert at The Chelsea in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Thursday in partnership with MGM Resorts International, November 16th. We booked Jack Harlow, who just dropped the chart-topping new song ‘Lovin On Me’.  He put on such an awesome live show”. 

“And then for the concert leading up to The Big Game in Las Vegas, we’ve just announced that we will be doing a concert at The Theater at the Virgin Hotels with J Balvin. He’s one of the biggest global superstars that helped catapult Latin music to the top of mainstream charts and pop culture. 

“So that’s where we are with Pandora and SiriusXM as a company. We’re looking at all these major sporting events and making sure we’re aligned with them. After all, every sporting event has some sort of musical element—just look at the halftime show at the Super Bowl. We’re making sure we’re bringing that entertainment factor.”

But it’s not just big concerts that SXM Media is focusing on. This year, SiriusXM will also deliver audio coverage for every game during the 2023/24 NBA season, as well as the league’s new in-season tournament, which includes all 30 teams.

Fernandez added: “The season has already started, but our coverage will be available in cars, as well as via the SiriusXM app. Our app also provides 30 dedicated NBA team channels, so fans can hear their favorite announcers for each game.”

A huge opportunity

Gambling operators have been making investments in audio-based channels for several years now, Fernandez told SBC Americas. 

In fact, Pandora has been working alongside land-based casinos since the brand first launched in 2005, covering properties’ gambling campaigns, slot and poker tournaments, and entertainment-led campaigns, as well as general branding. This has then been extended to sports betting operators since the repeal of PASPA.

In the 18 years since Pandora was created, we have seen a complete shift in the way we use mobile technology. As a result, audio has become an ever-present part of our daily lives. And for gambling operators, this opens a number of doors. 

Fernandez continued: “Our lives really do revolve around audio. On average, for every household, there’s more than 22 connected devices. And over the past year, people have spent 12 more minutes each day listening to audio when compared to the previous year. 

“Audio truly helps us to escape from so much visual stimulation in our daily lives. Around 73% of the US population aged over 12 years old are listening to digital audio—that’s 200 million monthly digital audio listeners that are spending close to five hours a day. That’s a lot of people!”

It should therefore come as no surprise that many operators choose to book out campaigns in and around sporting events—and quite often, these are booked out well in advance. For SXM Media, these campaigns take a range of different formats. 

She added: “Our platforms consistently have campaigns running, whether it’s general branding, driving app download or launching new live/legal states-audio is an always on partner for iGaming and Sports Betting brands. In the lead up to big sporting events, they’ll book takeovers via audio, display, or video on mobile or connected devices.  The Mobile Welcome Interstitial, which is the first impression you see when you open an app like Pandora, is a top used product with iGaming and Sports Betting brands.”

“We have these sorts of campaigns booked out way in advance because of how popular they are during sporting events. Many operators then have sustaining media, as well as heavy ups during key sporting moments. These types of campaigns are an incredible opportunity to drive FTDs and player retention.”

Recent figures have shown that the SXM Media portfolio—which includes SiriusXM, Pandora, and SoundCloud, to name a few—collectively reaches more than 150 million listeners, making it the largest addressable audience in North America.

With many people choosing to listen to music during their daily commute or in the run up to a sports game, it’s no surprise that there is an intrinsic link between music and sports.

But despite audio’s growing popularity, Fernandez noted that the allocation of marketing budgets towards music platforms hasn’t quite kept pace.

She said: “If we look at the overall landscape, consumers are spending 31% of their media time with audio. But only 9% of media budgets are allocated to digital audio channels. So, there’s a huge gap there, but also a huge opportunity too. 

“Music really is a key player when it comes to sports. We do our own research, but data has suggested that two out of every five of our listeners believe music enhances the watching experience. Again, you only have to look at the halftime shows, or today’s biggest music artists shouting out athletes in their songs. You don’t hear radio silence when someone scores a goal. There’s a huge opportunity for gambling operators here.”

“A recent study we conducted showed that audio proved to have a longer-lasting impact on memory and brand recalls after four months of the advert being shown initially. The research found that digital audio adverts have a bigger impact on long-term memory than ads on other mediums—49% better than AM/FM, and 36% better than TV.”

A constant flow of content

For Fernandez, the best way to engage with sports fans, and ultimately, sports bettors, is through the provision of new and engaging content. This isn’t limited to just adverts on music platforms, however. 

She commented: “Music isn’t just a part of the game itself. It forms a part of the whole experience—that’s something very important to consider. We have every single sports affiliate channel on SiriusXM, so fans can constantly be updated with new content and new shows. 

“We even have a show with Coach K. It’s all about understanding that if fans want to have a break to listen to music or if they want on-the-go sports content, our platforms are able to accomplish that for them.”

In her previous interview with SBC Americas, Fernandez highlighted that podcasts can play an important role in an operator’s marketing strategy—a trend that has become evident in the post-COVID era. 

One of the biggest benefits to audio-based entertainment such as adverts on streaming platforms or podcasts, she explained, is the ability to listen to content “on the go.” In this case, listeners are not confined to watching content on a screen. Instead, they can access it anytime, anywhere, no matter what they are doing. 

She concluded: “Audio truly is a part of every moment of a consumer’s day, especially when that consumer happens to be a sports fan. Music can play a key part in getting a sports fan hyped up for the day. I’m a Phillies fan, so I was pretty bummed at the end of our season, but I was listening to some really happy music to try to pump me up a little bit after our loss to the Diamondbacks.”

“Sports fans might then put music on while they’re commuting to work, or while they’re getting things done around the house. They might even look to their favorite sports satellite channel or podcast to keep them in the know of what’s going on in the league. Sports fans want sports content all the way through the day. 

“They’re waking up, they’re getting energized for a game, they might listen to music to get them motivated. And then after the game, they might tune into SiriusXM satellite or our app to get the latest news. 

“Then in the late afternoon or early evening when they’re prepping for the primetime sports game, they might be listening to a podcast on their connected home devices while carrying out other tasks. You’re not restricted in the same way as you would be with visual content.”