Sports betting

Promoted feature: What have we learned from the lack of sport and what comes next?

Shane Bennett and Rafael Rodrigues of Facebook consider the changing face of sports betting throughout a challenging 2020

If sport ceased in your main betting market as a result of Covid-19, then you likely faced considerable challenges.

The postponement of local, continental, and global sporting events like the Premier League, Euro 2020, Champions League, and the Olympic Games created significant challenges in the betting industry. But as Benjamin Franklin once said: “Out of adversity comes opportunity.” This unpredictable time has forced businesses to think outside the box to explore nuances that previously weren’t a priority. While the world wakes up to what many are calling the ‘new normal’, the betting industry is no different.

We would like to share three key insights we’ve learned during this period of change:

  1. The importance of product diversification

For many operators, the sparsity of sports has shifted attention to diversifying product offerings. Casino, poker, slots machines, bingo, and esports became valuable sources of user acquisition and retention during this time, while creating brand affinity. The situation has been effective in highlighting the importance of diversification; many operators are now reconsidering budget allocations to protect their casino base, even as the return of sports has intensified.

  1. CRM’s role in understanding players

Companies who used their database to monitor changes in player behaviour during the pandemic could see the bigger picture. Understanding changing habits is key to developing a better gaming experience and has allowed operators to cross-sell players to new products based on their preferences. For this reason, the benefits of pivoting to a casino-led strategy will be long lasting. Frequency of play (crucial for responsible gambling initiatives), lifetime value, session counts, and the type of games your customers play are important indicators to adopt.

  1. A change in player behaviour

Different world, different behaviour. When people can’t do what they’re used to, it can drive change. This was evident over the last few months where people familiar with betting in retail shops and land-based casinos migrated online. New audiences discovered how to play online, which trended towards a slightly more mature and valuable customer mix. Operators with good onboarding strategies, coupled with strong communication, saw the greatest success with these audiences.

Navigating the return to sport

While the industry lost a number of key events this year, there’s a lot to look forward to, and ample opportunity to refresh your marketing strategy. As sporting activities returned in mid-May, there was increased interest around peripheral events. During the Bundesliga, many operators reported activity rivalling a UK Premier League weekend. When the Premier League itself returned on 17 June, consumers’ anticipation was high and was matched by operators. With games nearly every day in the opening weeks, the battle for market share intensified. According to the UKGC (Gambling Commission), there was a 146% month-on-month increase in UK sports bets placed in June, when horseracing and football resumed and restrictions eased. Many traditional sports bettors migrated back from gaming, while operators with strong cross-sell strategies reaped the dividends.

The return of the 2020-2021 Premier League on 12 September will be a key focus for operators. So, how can they prepare for the return of the start of the new season? Here are the areas we think will deliver the biggest impact to your customers and business during this period:

Evolving your communications strategy

When it comes to re-engaging players, the new climate will be survival of the smartest. You may see a new mix of customers, so communication plans that were put in place pre-pandemic may be outdated now. Some players may have shifted from sport to casino, some might have migrated from betting shops to online, others may have stopped playing entirely. These changes in behaviour call for nuanced segmentation to ensure you’re hitting the mark.

Re-activating players around tournaments will be a key focus, so customer profiling and player database management is important. Businesses who optimise targeting to retain and protect the existing base, while engaging with recently acquired players, will see the greatest benefit.

Finding the right channels to talk to customers  

Media can seem like a broad topic to tackle, but it doesn’t have to be. Start granular: identify where your audience is and speak to them through the right channels. Media consumption may have changed in recent months with shifts towards social gaming products, so it’s possible your players have migrated to different channels since you last spoke to them. Hitting ‘send email to all lapsed customers’ will not only be costly, it’s likely to draw negative attention from a responsible gambling point of view, with a greater shift towards protecting at-risk players and responsible gambling. A more personalised, well-timed message delivered through the right channel can go a long way.

Capturing attention with creative

While it’s often overlooked, a sharp messaging strategy around key events remains a necessity. Many operators may run competitive offers and promotions during this return to sport phase, if they’re smart they’ll be delivered with relevant, well-branded creative. Advertising conditions may vary geographically as markets and economies reopen. So, operators need to ensure they have sufficient creative assets lined-up to anticipate fixture cancellations. From a digital perspective, creating thumb-stopping, mobile-first content is the answer to landing a succinct well-branded acquisition or retention message. Consider doing more creative testing against existing champion assets, this will help you adapt your ads, undertake changes with confidence, and optimise your strategy for the current environment.

The last few months have been challenging, but there are plenty of opportunities on the horizon. Whether you’re looking to advertise through a long-running international event or regional tournament, taking the time to focus on the key areas in this article will help you find your message and be seen. This will help you navigate the coming months (and beyond) and prepare for the new normal in an ever-evolving world of sport.

To find out more about our products and solutions and the ways in which Facebook can help you to achieve your campaign objectives, please contact us at

Shane and Rafael

Shane Bennett (left) has been at Facebook for the past seven years, working on the ad operations side of the business before moving into a sales role working on the tech vertical and now real-money gaming. Bennett has huge passion for the industry and brings that passion to his accounts, which include some of the industry’s largest operators.

Rafael Rodrigues (right) is a client solutions manager on Facebook’s real-money gaming team. With more than 10 years of experience in digital marketing, he worked for global media agencies as a digital manager, partnering with global brands across different channels and verticals.

Covid-19 | CRM | Facebook | Sports betting