Acquisitive opportunities and Brazilian possibilities were logical points of focus at the recent SBC Summit Latinoamérica, however, hearing of a significant family move coinciding with these core themes was reserved for one sole occasion.
This is the story of Simon Hovmand-Stilling, Better Collective’s South America CEO, whose move to Brazil earlier in the year came alongside the company’s strategic entry into the continent in a bid to gain ground and steal a march on competitors.
Prior to the $187.7m purchase of Playmaker Capital, he elaborated on the group’s widespread growth ambitions, a significant focus being placed on M&A, of which it is assured that “there’s definitely more”, and just how the company will fulfil a goal of becoming the world’s leading sports media group.
SBC Americas: We’re here at the SBCSummit Latinoamérica, so it’s only right that we adopt the necessary focus to start. With the region having been a hotbed of activity for some time, could you just talk us through the core nations of interest for Better Collective and why?
Simon Hovmand-Stilling: On a group level our foundation is in Europe. That’s where we’re coming from. We’ve been really investing a lot in the US and the North America market, doing lots of acquisitions and building out the organisation. We’re in a super strong place now with our brands.
Most recently, during what I would say is the last 18 months, the focus has really been on South America. As part of that, I moved with my family to Rio to set up our operations on the ground back in March of this year. So, it’s been quite a journey.
Brazil now looks like it’s going to happen. Brazil is obviously the biggest market in South America for us. So here we’ve set up offices in Rio, we’ve set up an office in Sao Paulo, and we will probably have more in the future because it’s just huge.
SBCA: Let’s focus on Brazil, which is attracting a significant amount of attention from across the industry. How do you go about securing growth in what will surely be an ultra competitive landscape? How do you attain a strong position within the country? And do you apply any learnings from the US to your strategy for growth further south?
SHS: I don’t think it’s a secret that we have a playbook that we’ve been applying first in Europe, then in the US, and it’s the same playbook we apply for South America.
We go in and gain some traction, get the right deals, and then we look to do media partnerships, which I also run on a group wide basis. Following this, M&A will come into the picture. We also have a strong paid division that is helping out.
So, we have that playbook and we’re applying that to Brazil. You’ve seen we have some strong media partnerships for the region, we have teamed up with goal.com and a few others, the bigger media in the region, and we’ve looked into M&A and acquired Torcedores.
We’re applying exactly that playbook to this region.
SBCA: You spoke about Torcedores, could you talk us through what appealed about the company regarding the purchase? And touch on what appeals to Better Collective with proceeding down this acquisitive pathway?
SHS: What we’re looking for in general is that we really want to connect with football fans. For this region, it’s very much football, football, football.
It’s like a religion in South America, and that’s probably a little different than other regions, where in North America you have other sports. In South America, you do have other sports, but primarily it’s a football region. That stood out when we looked at Torcedores. It’s media that we think we can really help in applying what we’re good at within Better Collective.
They are a good organisation and have a strong connection to the fan bases of lots of different teams. It’s a case where we think this can really help us realise our ambition of becoming the leading digital sports media group. It just ticked all of the boxes.
SBCA: Let’s cast the net a little wider. and look on a more global scale. What other regions are on the radar of Better Collective as you expand?
SHS: The wider strategy is that M&A is something we’re going to see continue across other countries. Obviously we’re a listed company, so I can’t really comment too much on plans for M&A. But you have definitely not seen the last M&A from our side.
It’s safe to say that it’s a big part of what we do and how we grow. It’s a central part of the busy playbook. Of course we grow organically, but we do have this aggressive approach as to how we think we can achieve the ambition of becoming the leading sports media group.
SBCA: This ambition has now been stressed on more than occasion. So, with the race well and truly on across numerous jurisdictions, what sets Better Collective apart? And how will you rise above the rest?
SHS: What sets us apart I think is the media play, and we’ve also recently acquired well in Europe. This will enable us to not only rely on igaming and operators. We’re looking very much into growing our non-endemic revenue, and that’s setting us apart a little bit from most of the affiliates.
A central part of our ambition is to do exactly that, and grow into a true media company. Of course we want to keep the strong things we have going with affiliation, that is the bread and butter, but really at the minute we have 180 million visits across all our brands, and I think that’s also a thing that sets us apart again.
That’s something we are super proud of, but we need this number to grow. That’s why we’re looking into finding the next Torcedores and other media sites to add to our portfolio.
SBCA: To end, as we’re quickly hurtling towards the end of the year, what can we expect through 2024 and beyond for Better Collective?
SHS: There’s definitely more M&A, but on a more generalized basis I think we’re just getting started. You asked about markets, which markets are we looking into, for this region? I’d say Peru, Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. We’re looking to grow there, and we want to grow fast.
That’s the ambition. Still, Brazil is obviously the key market in this region. It’s going to be for a long time, I think, just because of the size, the potential of the market and with regulation coming in.
So that will be the media ambition. We will look to grow in those markets, but we are definitely on the lookout for opportunities. That’s always the case. We are going to be super aggressive. We’ve only just started. I came in March, and now we’re a team of around 60 people in Brazil, so we’re growing fast, and we’re not looking to slow that down.