Long operating as one of the world’s largest horse racing events, the Cheltenham Festival draws to a close for another year. Spanning multiple days, the festival oversees record prize money while bringing in tens of thousands of people to watch it’s myriad events—with even more tuning in on tv and online. With the festival comes an onslaught of betting affiliates designed to inform the public on which odds to take, which to ignore, and which iGaming sites are best to place bets.
For operators who make their livelihood off of online bets placed around events like Cheltenham, this system is old hand. These operators will contract with online affiliates who position themselves as resources—often in the form of blogs, publications, or news sites—for betting online. Each contract usually stipulates promotion of the betting operator on the affiliate site in return for a cut of profits.
Sounds reasonable right? Not so fast.
The issue with the operator-affiliate partnership
In the pre-paid media, wild wild west era of online betting, affiliate marketing seemed like a fair partnership for generating awareness and signing up new players. But over the years, this has become the case less and less. Why? Because iGaming has become such a large industry in-and-of itself. While the current market for global iGaming and betting stands at $46B the market is expected to more than double in revenue to $96B by 2024.
This growth is driven by the rise of online operators that can cannibalize the market and inadvertently increase competition for betting dollars. This competition creates a bettor-favored economy that enables affiliates to increase acquisition costs to benefit them to the tune of double digit profit shares across the lifetime each customer they drive to an operator’s site.
If you’re reading this and thinking, yes, this is how it’s always been, but we need these affiliates to maintain our site traffic and customer acquisition? We’ve got some good news for you.
Affiliates only capture low-funnel traffic
Listen, we’re not here to say that you should stop running with affiliate partners. They do drive traffic to businesses and they do offer generous attribution windows to ensure that they’re providing value. What we’re trying to show is that they’re charging too much for the value they’re driving in today’s modern digital marketplace because the traffic they’re driving is already interested in placing bets online. This means a lot of the traffic they’re driving likely would have searched for your site or already known the operator in the first place.
Think of it this way. If someone was already driving to a movie theater to see a film, would it make sense for that theater to give such a high percentage of credit for that purchase to the film’s poster outside the theater? No, they were already interested in that film. The same is true for online affiliates. If someone is searching for the best odds on a certain race, it doesn’t make sense to give such high acquisition value or credit to a site that confirms or reaffirms the bettors previously-made choice. So what’s the solution?
Changing the operator-affiliate power dynamics for iGaming vendors
The solution is to not put so much weight in affiliate programs that bring in low-funnel customers with no loyalty to your brand. Instead, it’s more important to build out an audience of website visitors through onsite identification that you can then use to personalize outreach and build long-lasting relationships from there. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind:
Capture site visitors before site registration (in a compliant manner)
One of the easiest (and did we mention free) ways to capture audiences is to look at your on-site efforts. Whether it’s through onsite overlays or exit intent pop-ups consider employing things like risk-free bets, promo codes, and free money offers to capture the email addresses of people who visit your site. You can also engage your current email list through customer appreciation campaigns to bring them back to your site.
Nurture these visitors to sign up without spending an arm and a leg on affiliate partnerships
Once you capture these emails, enter the site visitors into a nurture sequence that speaks to their experience with your brand. If you’re offering a bonus offer, use that for the first email send. If they’re not engaged from there, continue to use the line of communication to hit on their specific actions on your site or other large-scale betting events that may come up in the future.
Unique offers, with 100% share of voice SOV
Affiliates are known for showcasing many different operators at once to maximize profits. This creates a higher amount of competition and drives higher bid prices for operators who want a larger share of voice. By identifying visitors on your site, you’re able to ensure 100% SOV with the emails you send. Not only that, but you’ll have more space and more ownership over the creative ways you showcase the unique offers you have to provide.
Own these relationships, with no profit sharing
Best of all, you’ll have full ownership of the relationship that you craft with your site visitors from day one. That means you won’t have to share brand efficiency with affiliates. But, more importantly, it means you’ll no longer have to agree to exorbitant profit-sharing schemes for the low-funnel traffic they’ve driven to your site.