SBC Digital Summit: It’s time for affiliates to get a seat at the table

Stuart Simms, group CEO of XL Media, and former global CEO of Rakuten Marketing, called for affiliates to be repositioned as a strategic channel for operators. Insisting that affiliates work more closely with them to understand the business goals and go from being a “blunt instrument” to a “strategic partner.”

Speaking at the Juicy Stakes sponsored Digital Marketing Day track, as part of the Affiliation during the time of COVID-19, on the final day of the SBC Digital Summit, Simm expressed his view that this period of lockdown is an ideal time for “reflection” and adaption as the market changes. He said: “The elephant in the room is there’s a huge marketing opportunity due to many countries being in lockdown to generate more revenues from gambling and gaming and we’ve seen two extremes from operators.

“Affiliate has been perceived, historically, as a blunt instrument and almost taken for granted. It generates income and it keeps working, especially in gambling and sports which have been revenue share.

Simms continued: “I think this has given us a great period of reflection to make sure we reposition affiliate as a strategic channel for the operators and work a lot closely with them to understand the business goals to make sure we can adapt and evolve as the market changes, to go from that blunt instrument to that strategic partner.

“To do that you need to have great communication and sometimes I feel like affiliates can be taken for granted as being seen as this strategic channel. My hope is that the key trend for affiliates is we get a seat at the table to really define the industry’s future, whatever vertical it is that we are operating in and get the opportunity to really set out to get the future vision to how affiliates are going to add significant value to the product and service they are willing to represent.

“There’s a huge opportunity for all of us to set out a future vision for the industry and make sure our position is clear and the value that we add accordingly.”

Jonathan Edelshaim, general manager at Natural Intelligence argued that post-COVID, operators will have to cut down on its affiliate channels. He explained: “Coming out of this, operators will have to work even harder on its social responsibilities and keeping certain things intact.

“It would mean the major company’s business will need to work with stricter codes and more requests will come our way. For the operators, it’ll be a must to cut down on its affiliate channels because they will need stricter controls and more visibility that any of their partners are doing because they will need to focus more on its social responsibilities, so this is an opportunity for us in terms of communication with operators and bookies who need to narrow down the list of active channels that they work with.

“It’s an opportunity but it comes with responsibility.”

Joining Simms and Edelshaim on the panel was Simon Pilkington, CEO of KaFe Rocks, Riccardo Pinto, CMO of Clever Advertising Group and moderator Lasha Machavarinai, founder and CEO of Setanta Sports Media.

The panel then went on to discuss branding and how important it is within the industry with Simms expressing his opinion on the subject: “One of the biggest observations I’ve had coming into this industry from retail, there is limited amounts of branding and I 100 per cent agree it’s important to build the brands and understand the demographic to give them a very enriched experience.

“Branding is not managing a website, from an SEO perspective, it’s about adding true value and thinning about the tone of voice and the visual identity. I think we will see a shift (post-COVID) around having more strong brands in the gaming industry.

“If you look at the current move from unregulated to regulated, that is almost amplifying those needs for brands to exist.”

Pinto and Edelshaim argued against Simm’s focus on branding believing value in the product was more important than creating a brand identity. Edelshaim commented: “The bottom line is about value. The value that we bring to the market for the company and the operator and generating value for ourselves that’s the true nature of what we are trying to do and what the big companies are trying to do.

“Investing in branding is great but you have to be there to add value to the industry.”

Whereas, Pinto added: “We just have to keep creating value for the operators. If the value is there then there is value to the user and there’s value for us. We’ve been doing this for many years, it’s why we are here (on the panel) and the operators are happy. Value for everyone.”

During the session the panel also discussed trends which are appearing in the market, how businesses are handling the current pandemic and the potential economic effects post-virus.

The SBC Digital Summit, currently in its final day, features seven conference tracks, a virtual exhibition and networking lounges, attracting 10,000 delegates from around the world.