March Madness to bring in a new era for bettors and operators

Close up of a basketball with the march madness logo on a basketball court
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The start of March Madness on March 19 will usher in a new era for states, operators and bettors.

Research has found that March Madness is a major catalyst for first-time bettors while this year’s tournament coincides with the opening of the North Carolina online sports betting market as well as marks the first time that ESPN Bet and Fanatics have been live during the tournament.

Effective retention strategies key for operators

Research by Optimove on the betting trends of the 2023 tournament found that March Madness is a catalyst for new bettors and could result in an 87% increase in betting. It also found that new bettors were more likely to bet on the first or second round of the event compared to the later stages.

Despite this, only 50% of new players returned after placing their first bet.

As a result of this, the CRM marketing solution provider recommended that sportsbooks should focus on post-initial interaction engagements, offering personalized experiences and incentives to nurture and retain customers.

“To leverage these insights effectively, sportsbook operators are encouraged to adopt targeted marketing strategies and employ journey orchestration techniques. With these insights, operators can tailor experiences for first-time depositors, ensuring maximum engagement and retention throughout the tournament and beyond,” said Optimove CEO Pini Yakuel.

Checkd Group Head of US Operations Callum Broxton also mentioned the importance of incentives when he revealed the five biggest trends for the tournament. He said that, as the fight to bring on new users will be crucial for major operators, they would be offering a large number of bonuses in a bid to boost customer acquisition.

North Carolina key to a record-breaking year

Although the Super Bowl is seen as the marquee event on the U.S. sporting schedule, March Madness typically surpasses the NFL’s showpiece event when it comes to betting revenue.

This year is expected to be no different and the opening of mobile betting in North Carolina, the ninth-largest state by population, is set to ensure a record-breaking tournament for the major operators.

Checkd also added that the opening of the North Carolina market will allow for a unique opportunity to see the direct correlation between a state going live and acquiring new users whose interest will be piqued by the NCAA action.

Fanatics and ESPN Bet enter the fray

While the 2023 tournament saw major operators capitalize on their respective brand strength to take the lion’s share of the revenue, Checkd noted that this year has more sharks in the tank competing for business.

Fanatics Sportsbook debuted midway through 2023 and, with its acquisition of PointsBet, it is now live in 15 states. Meanwhile, ESPN Bet launched in November following Penn’s rebrand of Barstool Sportsbook and has made a strong start in the 17 states it is live in.

This means that although operators like BetMGM and FanDuel could see their market share decrease, Checkd believe that it will likely be offset by a larger market in 2024.

Optimove and Tipico add further insights for sportsbooks

Research by Optimove and Tipico has provided sportsbooks with key insights into the behaviors of consumers during March Madness.

Optimove found that there is an increase in bettors on game days compared to the average non-game days in the month. The highest increase of bettors, 87%, was during the first and second rounds which Optimove believes is linked to the greater number of teams still left in the tournament and the greater number of games during the initial stages.

Furthermore, players who bet 10 days or more of the tournament will wager 194% more than players who only bet on one day, which highlights the importance of player retention.

Meanwhile, sports betting operator Tipico surveyed 2,000 basketball fans about their habits during March Madness.

Key insights from the survey include that those surveyed who bet on the tournament expected to win on average $261. Furthermore, 54% of sports bettors have never placed bets against their favorite team and never will while only 24% of bettors have placed bets against their favorite team and would do so again.

“It’s encouraging to see that basketball fans are feeling optimistic about their betting prospects and are taking advantage of the chance to win big money during the March Madness tournament. Whether it’s your first time betting or a yearly tradition, we’re excited to see where the bets fall during the pinnacle sports saga of the year,” added Tipico VP of Sportsbook Andre Zammit