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The State of the New Sports Bettor

By - 5 August 2020

Ed Moed, CEO at HPL Digital Sports, delves into the findings of the speciality group’s third-party study on the new American sports bettor. Ed also offers insight into how Coronavirus has impacted the US betting landscape, and when sports betting will be able to enjoy the access that gaming and fantasy brands have to partnerships with professional leagues. 

What services does HPL Digital Sports provide fantasy sports, online betting and esports brands?

HPL Digital Sports is a speciality group that focuses on two core areas that are essential for fantasy sports and ebetting companies. We help companies build their brand in this uber competitive space as sports reignite again and regulations continue to change, especially in the US. We also help companies separate their brands from one other and find new customers. Our services integrate brand building, communications, and marketing to help our clients get real results. We know the landscape extremely well as our studies allow us to really understand their audience and therefore know how to build more engagement and loyalty with them.

HPL Digital Sport conducted a third-party study on the new American sports bettor entitled ‘The State of the New Sports Bettor’. Could you explain the rationale behind commissioning the study and its main findings?

We commissioned the study to help our clients understand who the sports bettor is. Knowing how this audience is growing, its habits and gender split are instrumental in understanding who the new sports bettor is. Modern sports bettors are so very different from the pre-digital middle-aged guy. We conducted the study to help get in-depth information for our clients on how they can build better engagement and loyalty with end users.

One finding showed that the fantasy player and the sports bettor are nearly one in the same, with 89 per cent of sports bettors playing fantasy sports. In addition, the top concern for players in picking a platform that has ease of payouts followed by security and brand reputation. Why is this the case? Is functionality and the ability to redeem money from transactions quickly more important than pre-covid?

It is a great point. People often dabble in fantasy sports before joining millions of others who take it seriously. Once they start doing that, there is a natural easy bridge to get into online sports betting. What we are going to find more and more is that they are one and the same and, with that, the sportsbooks have to think through everything from their use of language and terminology through to the ease of playing on fantasy and consider how to transfer this to what they are offering. Most people play fantasy and go to sports betting as it is so easy to transition online.

Secondly, covid has changed the rules of the game. Although fantasy and sportsbooks have been around a long time, I almost see pre-covid as wave number one where a lot of people were trying a number of things – people would spend a lot of money across a number of brands with little regard for loyalty. Post-covid, players are getting a lot more particular. Players have less disposable income and want immediate payment to pay bills or bet elsewhere. That is why we saw that this was the number one thing they care about. Security and brand are always important but the ease of payouts is not something we’ve seen players prioritise before, however, it makes logical sense based on where the world is.

51 per cent of sports bettors have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the 33 per cent of all Americans that have a bachelor’s degree or better. How does this finding aid HPL in its work with sports betting brands?

What we’re seeing is well-educated people betting to achieve an incremental income. It has become more than a hobby. Whereas before you would physically go to a track or visit a casino, it is now so accessible. A lot of players who play fantasy have graduated from college and now have a greater interest in college sports and their favourite professional teams. It has almost become a part of college culture for graduates to then bridge the gap to sports betting following their inauguration into fantasy sports.

How has the US sports betting landscape shifted following the impact of the Coronavirus? What were people betting on during the crisis and do you foresee these verticals sustaining their success over the coming months?

In the US, the fantasy and sports bettor missed playing and betting. In the absence of sports, a lot of sites went to esports which is not a great money maker as the player demographic is younger and generally does not spend a lot of money. Other sites were creating their own contests but there was not a lot out there so not a lot has happened. Now that golf is back there has been a swell of interest both in fantasy and sports betting in golf tournaments whereas previously this was 10th to 12th in terms of popularity. There is a huge yearning for the return of baseball, hockey, and basketball. Once they return, there are going to be crazy figures as there is such a pent-up demand for play.

What more can sports betting and fantasy platforms do to engage their players and what would you describe as the difference between loyalty and engagement?

How smooth is the experience of your site to understand, bet, play, and securely get your money out? How unique is it? Do you have something different in your offering or betting methods? How creative is it? How do you communicate and market through advertising and emails? What is it about your brand that stands out and what are you offering to your customers to get them onto your site? Ultimately, our findings show that users want more than just betting or playing. Offering content, from tips to facilitating chats between players, helps keep bettors on the site rather than having them go to five other sites to gather knowledge. How brands market is key to customer acquisition. Keeping players motivated to stay on your site is a big differentiator.

Women, millennials, Generation Z – each in their own way are largely cast side or ignored by operator’s in their marketing strategies. What advice do you give brands to engage these player types?

It has been almost exclusively men that have been the focus for the industry. Whilst it is still a male-dominated industry, 28 per cent of bettors are female and this could reach 30 per cent in fantasy sports next year. It is important marketers start looking at how effectively they target women and consider what they care about, the games they play, how to engage and attain loyalty. Nor should they simply target a population by gender. Considering different demographics through geography and age is key. Understand how to segment correctly and make sure your offering is approachable and brand centric to what the demographic of the audience wants.

How soon will sports betting be able to enjoy the access that gaming and fantasy brands have to partnerships with professional leagues?

Gambling is becoming more acceptable but official leagues like the NFL will not partner with sportsbooks yet. We are seeing fantasy sites create an increasing number of partnerships with teams and individual sportsmen and women. Those partnerships are creating a lot of credibility and awareness in the market among fans who follow them. You are going to see more co-branding across sports and teams with fantasy sites. For gambling, this is a couple of years away. However, as states continue to regulate sports betting, leagues will join the fray.

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