Move from an uncertain sports calendar you cannot control to one your brand can own, right now, writes Steen Madsen, CEO of A Game

The Current Climate: We are operating in unprecedented times. Before today, we had lived through cancelled or abandoned sports fixtures on an individual basis, and dealt with crises like the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak in the UK and Ireland that decimated horse and dog racing for much of that year.

At that time, the betting and gaming industry had other products to introduce to the
audience: casino, poker, bingo and virtuals were all beginning their rise in popularity.

Now? We have seen the cancellation and postponement of most key sports events for
2020. The Euros, Wimbledon, the Olympics, NBA, NCAA March Madness, national soccer
leagues and cups, are all gone.

Is it wise to pivot to foreign sports events, often with questionable integrity, in an attempt
to ‘replace’ the matches, fixtures and games we have lost? And is it possible to aggressively cross-sell to virtual betting through the same old bonus offers?

The reflex pivot to foreign sports and virtuals can be understood, without question. As an
industry, we need to do something. Especially when so many of us are suffering freefalling
share values and facing a year of quarterly earnings adjustments and, in some cases to
come, multiple profit warnings.

“Right now, we need to create engaging and exciting events for the customers”

Right now, we need to create engaging and exciting events for the customers. We also need to have a serious, and sincere, view about our broader appeal towards the audience. Given the current self-isolation, curfews and stay home orders – many are turning to online
gaming platforms like Twitch, Steam, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network.

To be clear, I’m not talking about esports here. In betting and gaming, today, we are in a
fight for audience attention and share of wallet. All the time. We compete against other
brands constantly, but must become more aware and mindful of simply needing to compete
against other entertainment, all of which also comes at a price and time cost to consumers.

We must consider whether we are really replacing, to any revenue-reliable extent, the void
of events the coronavirus crisis has created? What is going to mitigate revenue re-forecasts
and shore up the share price? What, in short, is going to help right now and for the future?

The Need to Adapt: Much of the ‘bad medicine’ that we don’t like the taste of to do with
the coronavirus crisis is similar pressure, albeit in a much shorter time-frame, that
regulation has brought and will continue to bring to our business.

In the UK, there are current calls for online stake and deposit caps to be imposed. We’re not naïve to think that these limits, if introduced, would simply ‘go away’ with the virus.
The reality is, change like this – whether introduced now or later – was always coming. Along with the closure of VIP schemes, removal of bonus, affordability checks, enhanced KYC and verification, and other top-down pressure from politicians, media and regulators.

“We have to take the current crisis, and find new and different ways to work to meet our audience”

Alun Bowden, senior consultant for Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, wrote in a recent report (Eilers & Krejcik Gaming: Euro 2025 Outlook) about the six factors creating a gathering storm for betting and gaming:

● Revenue: Slowing growth
● Regulation: Higher barriers to entry
● Scale: Being redefined
● “The Death of Fun”: Forgetting the player
● Regulation: Country by country fragmentation
● Audience: Changing tastes

All of these factors are telling us one thing – We need to adapt.

We have to take the current crisis, and find new and different ways to work to meet our
audience. At A Game Above, we see past all of the ‘bad news’ one could focus upon right
now towards a window of opportunity, leading to a bright, regulatory-compliant future.

The Product Challenge

Brick and mortar and online gaming share many similarities:

● Mass marketing
● Branding for difference
● Portals to service the audience

There is one constant challenge – The Products.

Essentially, very little to no difference exists across betting and gaming products, outside of
price and brand. If we push the price button, a licensed market can rapidly descend into a
race to the bottom amongst operators, furthering the view of us as a commodity industry in the eyes of those we are hoping to engage.

The Las Vegas Lesson

Las Vegas casino operators overcome their product challenge by never selling gambling.
They welcome the audience to:

● The Lifestyle
● The Resort
● The Adult Playground – Sin City – What Happens in Vegas…

So what is the lesson to learn? Packaging the product with the experience. This has huge,
step-change relevance for us as an industry, regardless of distribution channel, product
vertical – and allied across igaming and brick and mortar.

The Player Experience

I founded marketing experience agency, A Game Above, following many years of working
for betting and gaming brands. Specifically, to address this Las Vegas Lesson.

“Customer experiences should create a mission or a reason for being on a journey”

Putting together a team of talented and like-minded individuals has enabled A Game Above to build a platform of player experience events, for execution online and in brick and mortar properties, that create the gain / retain / maintain customer essentials for our

Within the current crisis, and going forward, we see the need to focus upon the player
experience: their changing desires, demands and need to ‘just win, something’.

That need not be money from the transaction of gambling. Simply the achievement of
winning a ‘session’, local championship or against the clock challenge will justify, legitimise, and create much needed entertainment from gambling behaviour.

Customer experiences should create a mission or a reason for being on a journey. And this
sort of engagement is packaged with our philosophy on player protection: the ‘little but
often’ revenue strategy. We don’t want problem play. We want our brand partners to have
revenue – frequently, sustainably, and over years of a positive player lifecycle, with the
lifetime value increased to levels unheard of via existing customer acquisition models.

Regardless of how difficult the business future may seem right now, we would love as many
operators, in as many markets as possible, to hear about our stories that celebrate players
and campaigns that captivate audiences.

We can move from the uncertainty of a sports calendar we cannot control, to one that
brands can own, right now, through player experience promotions and events.

Welcome to A Game Above the gambling.