With England’s Lionesses sealing Euros glory and the EFL kicking off over the weekend, it’s fair to say that the beautiful game is (finally) back. But stop tinkering with your fantasy team for a moment, because things might look a little different for the football betting industry this season.
Whether you’re a big betting company, pitch-side punter, government regulator or a club that has historically reaped the rewards of betting sponsorships – changes are coming. And they’re coming fast.
Take William Hill’s recent acquisition by 888 as an example. Their subsequent big-bucks deal to sponsor Sky Sports News has put their brand firmly in the shop window of all sports fans – or at least those who, like me, can’t go a single day without getting their fix of football headlines.
Can this sleeping giant (and others like it) fight back against the newer breed of online brands and really go on the offensive? Only time will tell. In the meantime, it’ll be gloves off kind of stuff, and there are four goals every brand will be trying to score…
Goal 1 – Meet the new regulations
The battleground for punters’ betting wallets may well be fiercer than ever this year, but it will all be taking place under the watchful eye of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and their review of the 2005 Gambling Act. And so it should. Existing gambling regulations have proved unfit for the digital age, and these reviews are there to make the industry safer for everyone.
The real question is whether these new regulations are going to come down on betting companies like a tonne of bricks. Whatever the answer, operators are going to need to think outside of the 6 yard box when it comes to getting their name out there, and will no longer be able to just rely on big budget TV campaigns or flashy kit sponsorships.
Goal 2 – Engage with fans off the pitch
You only need to look at the number of views on some of the Michah Richards/Roy Keane interactions, Jack Grealish foot-in-mouth interviews or behind the scenes videos at St George’s Park on social media to know that fans care about much more than just what happens on the pitch.
Fans want to be engaged with football in a broader sense, and there is clearly a massive audience for content that is interesting, funny and candid – and not to mention that gets us closer to the faces of the beautiful game. Brands that successfully latch onto the engagement trend of sports fandom have a great opportunity to drive revenue away from their competitors.
It’s more than a gilt-edged opportunity. It’s an open goal.
Goal 3 – Predict the World Cup
With the Qatar World Cup being held in November-December, slap bang in the middle of the season, betting firms have been thrown something of a curve ball this year. One where there is no precedent on what ‘good’ looks like and no blueprint on how to be successful.
But in this corridor of uncertainty, there is opportunity. Betting companies which are willing to take a gamble and do something a little bit different may come out on top. The only absolute essential is that they’re prepared, not only for the World Cup itself, but for how its unusual schedule could impact their traditional tactics for the domestic game too.
Goal 4 – Beat the cost of living crisis
One of the most interesting matchups we’re likely to witness this season is how the rising cost of living will impact on bettor’s ability and motivation to spend. The answer to that question is unclear, but we can look to the past for clues. In Iceland for example, following the 2008 financial crash, those who were financially affected by the crisis were 52% more likely to buy lottery tickets than those who weren’t.
While this may be promising news for betting companies, they also need to be realistic and acknowledge that money is tight for everyone. The more responsible firms, the ones which take their duty of care towards their customers seriously, may well be the ones to bolster customer loyalty during this cagey period of play.
Whatever way you look at it, the football betting industry is set for a crazy 6 months. Which operators will score first? It’s anyone’s bet.
So get the popcorn in. It’s going to be good to watch.