The Return Of US Sports: Bringing Players Back To Lifecycle

Written By:

Bill Pascrell, III – President, North America, A GAME

Pandemic…to Fandemic?

Much has changed for us all over the past several months. The ways we live, work, school our children, take care of our elderly and socialize have all changed, dramatically. For our industry, we’ve witnessed the cancellation of nearly all professional sport, for an enduring period, and must remain mindful of this pandemic’s ability to echo across our lives, and business realities, for many months, and perhaps years, to come.

I’ve written in recent months about the need to view the coronavirus crisis as a wake-up call for our industry – an industry that was already “under siege”, across regulation, redefined scale from M&A activity, the changing tastes of the audience and a lack of dedication to the player experience, all acting as elements of a gathering storm for betting and gaming.

A storm that descended, tangibly, as COVID-19 hit. The loss of sport, long seen as the battering ram for audience participation in all regulated markets, rapidly showed how revenue-reliant operators were upon sports betting. Pivoting by product certainly brought a renaissance to online poker, and the revitalisation of virtual betting products, but was the player participation matching, in terms of little but often revenue, across the lifecycle, sustainably?

At the time of writing, we’re fortunate to have seen the successful return of most European soccer leagues, US horse racing, and are close to a widespread return for US sports. The latter half of this year then could witness a period like no other for sports fans, with more events crammed into a “catch-up” calendar across leagues.

Age of Empires: A new dawn?

Before the pandemic, the example of New Jersey showed how might made right for certain brands. The publicly-traded, large scale firms, like FanDuel and DraftKings, known for saturation marketing campaigns to become the best-known brand names, typically accounted for over two-thirds of sports betting revenue in any given month.


Those brands maintain huge player databases, but the distance between them and the competition has been cut, given product specialisms claimed by competitors across casino, virtuals and poker – the products that rose in popularity and revenue across the quarantine period, in particular. Responding to the return of sport with business as usual attitudes are not likely, then, to be relevant across adapted audience expectations, and the new normal for brands who have seen just how popular their products can be when players have time, options and are given regular reasons to try, buy and establish loyalty, as poker catered to, clearly, across the quarantine.

The land grab conducted since 2018, and the landmark Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision to strike down the federal ban on sports betting across the USA, will not be reset to zero by the pandemic, but we are likely approaching a market-share period with everything to play for, like no other since legalisation began.

The Player Experience

In betting and gaming, we should always remember that regardless of the current challenges we face, we have one fundamental challenge that defines our business:

Our Products. 

As they are all the same, to the vast majority of the audience. 

Some might characterise this “a problem” for an industry, but it is not one for betting and gaming – a clear solution has existed, for years, and it is up to each of us how we interpret and effect that solution for our operations, across whichever channel, product and market.

The solution?

The Las Vegas Lesson. 

Las Vegas casino operators never sell gambling. They welcome the audience to

▪ The Lifestyle

▪ The Resort

▪ The Adult Playground – Sin City – What Happens in Vegas…

The Las Vegas Lesson?

Las Vegas does not gain and retain by product alone. Las Vegas packages the product with the experience to captivate its customers.

I joined Steen Madsen and his team at customer experience solutions agency, A GAME, after many years of lobbying and advisory work for betting and gaming brands, to address The Las Vegas Lesson, and the impact it deserves to create across our online and land-based industry, today.

The positive experiences I witnessed from customer solutions A GAME ABOVE has been involved with - in terms of player response, retention, reactivation and, most significantly, revenue - across customer-focused events, showed the need for a different kind of audience engagement: healthy, mission and achievement-focused customer behaviour, with loyalty built-in, throughout participation with the game above. It wasn’t just about the transaction of gambling for these players. It was about the status and achievement in completing a mission, qualifying for a championship, or receiving a prize from an against the clock challenge.

Considering the imminent return of sport in America, what will be done to gain, retain and maintain the playing audience across the season, and beyond, outside of new customer welcome bonuses, and reactivation deposit-reload deals? For several of our clients at A GAME ABOVE, we are launching betting championships and challenges across US Sports and Live Betting to give players a journey, and an ability to challenge themselves, not just across a single win/loss cycle, but across the entire season, immersed in the sports they love, and the teams they adore.

Stories that Celebrate Players

The audience, and the players we seek to help brands gain and retain at A GAME ABOVE, come for reasons – “stories” we call them - not simply percentage-based commercial deals and welcome offers, that are, typically, generic, emotionless and very easy for competitors to combat with similar-sounding marketing.

If one thing is clear from the success of community engagement platforms like Barstool and Monkey Knife Fight, it is that content with emotion, that fans and players can relate to and become enthralled by, is predominant. 

In betting and gaming we need to move towards packaging The Product with The Experience, and seek new ways to turn the page upon gaining, celebrating and retaining “players”, and not just “gamblers”.

At A GAME ABOVE, we're committed to delivering a narrative of inspiring, entertaining and captivating stories for players, on behalf of brands, and alongside their marketing, CRM, social media and player relations teams – because we, as an industry, need to adapt creatively to celebrate the audience, and welcome them back to lifecycle with sustainable and engaging stories that establish a virtual career path for each player. We value the opportunity to help operators, providers and content partners make customer experience solutions a part of their marketing mix, to help meet, greet, gain and retain this audience, for the long-term view of the player lifetime.

In betting and gaming today, and for the future, it’s time to create stories that celebrate players and create community. We have the products to do it. We need the experience to be allied to them, and shift our focus from solely new customer-obsessed to becoming player and audience-obsessed across all stages of the lifecycle, for an industry that thinks, acts and is seen to be sustainable, responsible and fun. 

Welcome to A GAME ABOVE the gambling.

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