14 June, 2022

A single source of truth

We sat down with Gaming1’s Head of Affiliates Martin Janovcik to discuss his background, affiliate marketing and the challenges facing operators in an ever-changing environment

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your career and your role at Gaming1?

I have leaned towards the sports betting industry since university. I started as a freelancer for a couple of affiliate websites, and then I worked for Betradar at a very early stage in the company’s evolution, helping to translate the user interface into various languages.

I also spent some time at a major Czech sportsbook. It was very technologically advanced, with a digital and product marketing-oriented strategy. But fast-forwarding to where I am now at Gaming1, I joined the company in the summer of 2017, and so far, it’s been a very interesting challenge.

We really started to build things from scratch with a very small team. My first focus was actually on affiliate marketing. My role evolved into Director of Digital Marketing and acting as Head of Affiliates at the same time, so we are developing the whole scope of digital marketing, with an emphasis on acquisition and affiliate channel.

Is there anything more you can tell us in terms of markets, products, that kind of thing?

We have our own platform as an operator, and we buy games from other providers as well. The sportsbook is our own, in-house product, and there is a significant strategic focus on improving our specialist sports betting capabilities. And it’s very important because we are going to enter new markets in 2022 and 2023.

The French market will be one, with our flagship Circus brand, which is going to be Circus Bet in France, and there are a couple of other big ones, as well as some states in the US. Now our current portfolio, geographically speaking, covers Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Colombia, Peru, Serbia and then France with
our partner brand.

So when you’re looking for good affiliates to work with, what qualities are you interested in?

Consistency of communication with affiliates, and the potential for building mutual trust. I always mention it to the affiliate team, and I’m really proud of what they have achieved over the past few years. In the past year — knock on wood — we haven’t seen any significant technical errors on our site.

The payments are also in great shape and handled in a very timely manner. So when you ask what we are looking for when it comes to affiliates, I always prefer to look, firstly, at what we can do better, and what we can excel at, internally.

On many occasions, it’s very obvious who the key player is in a market. But you also have very niche, smaller businesses, especially in places like Portugal, so we need to make sure that we have a little bit of everything, from the biggest players to that niche, local expertise.

What are the biggest challenges facing companies like Gaming1 at the moment?

The big challenge is to be competitive. That’s why we are putting a lot of emphasis on the products, but also on the affiliates side, when it comes to conversion rates and retention rates, as well as the average value per customer we can deliver and sell.

When it comes to challenges on the commercial business side, it’s mostly about how we split our budget in the best possible way between the different digital channels. But we also have to consider how to allocate the cost on top of the revenue share on the affiliate channel — on affiliate media buying — and how we ensure profitability and a return on advertising spend.

How difficult is it to get that balance right?

You cannot rely on a single source of truth. You always need to have an open mind and be able to see a variety of options. We know that, going forwards, with regulations, with GDPR, it’s going to become more and more challenging. So you need to simplify and deconstruct how you evaluate your return on spend.

When it comes to the value of channels, our industry is built on the bonds between the three points of a triangle: operators, vendors and, crucially, affiliates. Even the major players with big brand recognition take affiliates seriously. They’re capturing a lot of high-intent organic search, so I prefer to take a holistic perspective, and regard the affiliate channel as a part of SEO, where we, as operators, will be never able to compete with well-established, highly Google-ranked affiliates.

Certain things are changing as the industry evolves. To name one, the revenue share models and the duration of the revenue share — which is always sensitive — will probably change. We try to keep things transparent, so as not to surprise affiliate partners with unexpected events, and I think we do things the right way, but there’s always something to improve. We are very strict on ourselves, but the channel is growing. It’s growing in revenue, the cost ratio is at a good level — we have good profitability — and it’s getting bigger and bigger percentage wise.

If we go back to what you were saying earlier, what are Gaming1’s plans for this year? What’s on the horizon?

A couple of really big milestones. We’re adding another affiliate software into our portfolio, besides NetRefer, which we currently use. We’re going to be using MyAffiliates for expansion in the US. We have a very strong joint venture with an established hospitality and gaming company, Delaware North, in the States.

Secondly, we’re launching in two, new European markets with our Circus brand. And again, within 30 days of the site going live in a new territory, we will also launch our affiliate programme. Those are the key developments for Q1 and Q2, but when I look more long term, we want to boost sports betting affiliates, and the sports betting affiliate channel, to build up on the road to the FIFA World Cup in November.

What are your expectations for the World Cup?

I think it’s going to be an even bigger growth event than championships we have previously experienced. I remember the first campaign I worked on was for the Germany 2006 FIFA World Cup, and it was a whole different world in gaming than what it is now. I think one of the reasons why it’s going to be even bigger, is that it happens in November, which is one of the top months for betting in Europe.

We know all the reasons why the September-October-November period is always the big season, so I think this is going to be the icing on top of the cake for operators in 2022.

Assuming ICE and LAC go ahead, does Gaming1 have any big plans for those shows?

We’ve been waiting since our first appearance at affiliate fairs in July 2019. Definitely Amsterdam and London are the places that we plan to be and exhibit with our stand, and we want to every year if the current confusing situation in the world will allow us to. So we’ll be at London in April, and then Amsterdam comes afterwards, so we are definitely going to be there.

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