15 February, 2021

Setting the pace

PlayAttack’s Helmet Guy outlines the reality of the year ahead for affiliates, and the best ways to stand out from the crowd.

What is PlayAttack looking forward to most this year?
2020 was quite a year for everyone. Some businesses suffered losses, and while others weren't affected financially, they still had to adjust their processes to the new reality. For us, 2020 was quite eventful. We assembled a Malta team, some of our brands launched under MGA and SGA, and we made over 200 technical improvements on our affiliate platform.

Last year, we didn't get the chance to connect with our partners on a more personal level due to events being cancelled. However, the whole situation helped us focus on what the digital space has to offer, and we can't wait to apply the lessons learned.

This year will be more about personalisation and customer satisfaction — it's all aboutimproving our affiliate marketing software and exploring our creative potential. Having our own platform means that we get to make improvements based on our partners' feedback, so we're definitely looking forward to making the most of it. We’ll also work to advance awareness for the brands that operate under the PlayAttack umbrella and focus on producing more educational content. We're planning to explore our creative potential and develop more methods that will help us communicate with our audience and those making their first steps in affiliate marketing.

Last year, you told us a big focus for Q3 would be video and content campaigns. How do you reflect on how those campaigns went?
2020 was a year where PlayAttack focused on brand awareness so we produced a lot of video content, wrote for the most prominent news outlets in the gambling industry, and did many advertising campaigns. Video was, is and will be one of the leading marketing tools.

We didn't want to be just a boring affiliate program,so we chose a more creative format to communicate with our affiliates we were thrilled with the response from industry professionals. We received tons of messages from the iGaming community congratulating us on our marketing efforts, while some of them sought advice that would help them improve their strategies. I think we owe that recognition to the infotainment format that we follow with our videos and the numerous thought leadership articles we published throughout the year. This response was essentially what we were aiming for, as fewer and fewer industry professionals don’t know who the Helmet Guy is or what PlayAttack is about. So yes, I'm happy to say that our goal was 100% achieved.

You also mentioned you were closely monitoring the situation in Sweden. What direction do you think the Swedish market will take this year?
I think we mentioned this in one of the first videos we had about Sweden's gambling restrictions. The country introduced temporary restrictions to combat a potential rise in problem gambling amid the pandemic. However, in line with both our predictions and industry professionals' estimations, we're now seeing that there are calls to make these restrictions permanent.

Such actions could potentially result in operators becoming increasingly uninterested in acquiring a Swedish gambling license and a subsequent rise in problem gambling. Some unlicensed operators are even advertising that they’re not bound by any license and are, therefore, not subject to any restrictions. While the Swedish government's intent is noble, all these restrictions may create an environment where unlicensed casinos have the ground to prosper. That said, the result of these actions could be opposite to what the government envisions: reduced consumer protection and difficulty in monitoring the public spending on online gambling. The Swedish government made promises to implement a strict monitoring system to ensure that players are protected, but I think this is a very optimistic view of the situation.

How is the pandemic affecting life in Malta right now for you and other brands or gaming partners you work with?
Land-based casinos suffered losses, and the pandemic hurt the revenues of operators with a focus on sports betting. The online casino sphere was not as vulnerable; casino operators were affected the least and even saw an increase in some cases. Therefore, both our businesses and our partners didn't suffer huge losses. But the consequences of the pandemic are not just financial. We missed out on theopportunity to meet our partners in person and to further strengthen our ties or create new ones. Then again, the pandemic gave us the chance to explore our potential in the digital sphere. So yes, it might have been a challenging year, but it taught us a lot, and I can say that the industry response to the new status quo was pretty much immediate.

What are some of the biggest challenges you'll face this year?
The only thing we can be sure about is that the future is uncertain. And this, I think, is the biggest challenge.2021 will put the industry to the test. Innovation and creative thinking will be valued more than ever. The new regulations, limitations and advertising restrictions are making it increasingly difficult to promote your brand or services, so I think the biggest challenge will be to stand out from the crowd when in reality, your hands are kind of tied. We will have to adapt and focus on making our product interesting, useful and entertaining to capture the audience's attention.

Moreover, as more countries come up with their own regulatory frameworks, the fragmentation of the markets might be an issue for the smaller affiliates and push them out of the market. Therefore, as an affiliate program, we’ll need to help these affiliates meet the requirements. Our activities are so intertwined that the non-compliance of partners could backfire on our brands, and this is something that we will work on avoiding.

Do you have any industry predictions for the affiliate sector?
We do expect some changes in terms of promotional tactics and the ways affiliates promote gambling operators. With all the restrictions that are being rolled out, the industry will likely start shifting towards replacing their hard sales pitch with non-intrusive, useful content. Affiliates might also begin to put more effort into establishing a social media presence to nurture a sense of belonging. Moreover, with the continuous advancements in the responsible gambling regulations, affiliates will have to adapt to the new processes and work alongside operators to promote player safety. They might have to start educating players on responsible gambling and help them recognise signs of problem gambling.

“As more countries come up with their own regulatory frameworks, the fragmentation of the markets might be an issue for the smaller affiliates and push them out of the market. Therefore, as an affiliate program, we’ll need to help these affiliates meet the requirements.”

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