This article originally appeared in the November / December issue of the magazine Gambling Insider : Aaron Phelps, US Director of Accounts for Digital Fuel Marketing, oversees global media buying, and here he describes various ways to help bookmakers prevent a pandemic.
It is nothing new to say that COVID-19 has changed the way we operate in 2020. In fact, just like me, you may have rolled your eyes reading this without doubting that you've heard the same sentence, which seems to be a hundred times out of a hundred times the meeting magnified already. While we're all still in the middle of managing pandemic-related business disruptions and day-to-day work, the sports calendar is back active, considering how forward-looking advertising plans for further disruptions are a key part of getting ready for what to go on.
As most sports have been canceled since March and have gradually returned to the game since June, both operators and their agencies had to react quickly. Making my job and yours (and probably everyone else involved) much harder: sifting through advertising plans and pulling major TV campaigns, spinning above and below the campaign lines, and promoting new casino offers instead. Now the sport is back. The Premier League, the NFL, horse racing, and other races are back and it's tempting to kick back and get back to your usual plans. However, even though the calendars have been restored and adjusted to account for delays during the lockout, last-minute changes are now much more likely.
In the United States, the NFL recently experienced its first COVID-19 epidemic this season, forcing the league to postpone the Pittsburgh Steelers match against the Tennessee Titans to a later part of the season. Thanks to the promotions already scheduled for this game, sports betting operators had the option of either canceling their offers altogether or changing the offer and replacing it with another purpose. Advanced scenario planning ensures that these decisions are not left to the last minute, and the backup campaign is ready to run when deferral is announced.
“Having multiple ad campaign options always ready to respond to COVID-19 delays or cancellations ensures minimal downtime for promotions. While postponing play will have an impact on the number of bets placed, it may not have a large impact on brand visibility to potential new customers. "
Recently, I have had a lot of conversations with customers about the fine line between cheeky and opportunistic advertising and responses to promotions. Disregarding appeals due to a pandemic should be handled with care and the response is very dependent on the tone of each brand's voice. Switching to evergreen digital advertising as opposed to event advertising (eg, "Missing the Steelers vs. Titans? Check it out instead") protects brands from calling them too opportunistic.
Having multiple evergreen ad campaign options to respond to delays or cancellations due to COVID-19 ensures minimal downtime for promotions. While postponement of play will have an impact on the number of bets placed, it does not necessarily have a large impact on brand visibility to potential new customers. This is the tactic I have used for our pay media clients in both the UK and the US. By working with an in-house team to identify their most effective promotions and campaigns, we built evergreen security on that basis. When games are canceled, it is usually a multi-day notification so we can change the planned promotion of the game to evergreen ads, and the whole process is relatively stress-free.
The pandemic tests companies for their efficiency; the ability to communicate internally with your agencies and suppliers, and externally with customers to keep your business as normal as possible. Operators with clear and fast communication channels are one step ahead. A communication plan (if not already) should be put in place to ensure that errors are not passed on to the customer risking void bets and annoyed players. To use the cancel game example again, there must be a process in place that allows this information to be circulated quickly by the operator team, to the sales department, marketing team, SMT, and the ad management agency.
For operators to stay ahead of their promotions and do their best to maintain acquisition and retention levels, preparation is key. Our clients' best results over the past few months come from prior preparation as well as from changing and marketing skills. An agile approach is the best (and least stressful) way to prepare for future disruptions.