21 June, 2022

The Latest Craze

Adrian Schembri, Director & CEO, Excitable Gaming and Mark George, CMO, speak to Trafficology about the company and its brand Craze Affiliates

Hi guys, Thanks for talking to us. To start off, could you give us a background and some insight into Craze Affiliates? 

Adrian Schembri: Craze Affiliates started when CrazePlay started. CrazePlay is the main brand and was actually the first; it's where Craze Affiliates comes from. We came up with the name for Craze Affiliates in August 2019, which became an instant hit for the brand and the programme itself. 

I think our best weapon is transparency, something we have put into the Craze Affiliates programming. There’s nothing to hide from anyone so it’s quite easy to work with us; that would be our main strength. I remember dealing with affiliates back in 2019, as I have some background in affiliation. 

Craze Affiliates has grown into a good affiliate programme which endorses other brands. We have many partners currently and our portfolio is getting bigger every week. We are targeting different areas frequently and everything is going really smoothly right now. 

Mark George: I’d just like to emphasise what Adrian said, which is that the brand has been really well received. Now, at CrazePlay, we operate another three brands from the same affiliate programme. We’re seeing nice growth month-on-month, year-on-year. We’re hoping to keep the momentum growing while we focus on new ideas and new projects. 

AS: Something to add on this, we are currently looking for long-term partnerships in our affiliate programmes; partners who are willing to share the burdens of the industry with us. The industry trades pairings all the time, unfortunately. And, of course, there are those select few who try to get rich when you try to make a deal with them. For obvious reasons, we are not involved in that kind of relationship with anyone. Markets evolve, so affiliate programmes need to evolve and adapt to these evolutions. Sometimes things can evolve on a monthly basis, but one size should not fit all. However, we are open for opportunities with anyone and we have a great affiliate team. We are ready to deal with anyone, so we’re open for business for all suitable brands. 

For the both of you, what are your day-to-day roles at the company? 

MG: My role is pretty much marketing, across the board. From a nitty gritty perspective, I focus on retention marketing for all our brands. Of course, I involve myself in the acquisition stage of things. We work a lot with affiliates directly to try and improve their conversion, as soon as they send us traffic. We touch base from a retention perspective with our affiliates. So, we open the door to help partners who are not doing so well in a particular month.

We try to accommodate them, our partners, but also focus on us, to improve the profitability of the deal and target retention in partnership with all our affiliates. So, in short, my role would be retention, numbers, data and covering every aspect of CRM. However, as we keep growing, my responsibilities have started to evolve into business development, as new opportunities are coming in from different continents.

So, we are in the process of expanding our efforts in Latin America, for instance. It’s much more complicated to find partners there, a lot of work needs to go on underground to find the right partners. This is essentially an exercise to broaden marketing which is a little bit different than what I am doing at the moment. I can do this because the numbers are pretty good at the moment, it’s looking good day-to-day. 

AS: From my end, I’ve always been on the tech side of things. I’ve been on the developmental side for 13 years now, I think. So, I take care of more technical aspects and some design work. What I’m doing now is alleviating my responsibilities in these aspects and taking more control of the general day-to-day running of the company. I try to co-ordinate employees, explore business opportunities with Mark and make sure I’m at events such as ICE. There are various other aspects that are required on a day-to-day running of the company.  

MG: Just another point on us as owners, although we have different roles, that doesn’t mean we don’t work together. Adrian is just as involved with marketing as he is with the tech stuff. That is our strength, we try to be as unified as possible and everyone is encouraged to push their ideas. This is how we’re growing on a daily basis and we hope to keep it this way.

You've mentioned ICE. And we’re approaching Q2 for 2022. How do you look back on the start of this year and 2021 as a whole? For the company and the industry?

AS: 2021 was a very important year for us. We took some big decisions, growing from a team of four people to a team of nine. Some other decisions include exploring new opportunities in other markets, with the addition of sports. We also launched our second brand in 2021. With more staff, we’ve been able to delegate responsibilities to our colleagues, which means we’ve been able to focus on other things that will help us grow further in 2022. 

There’s been a lot of growth in iGaming over the last couple of years. Would you say growth is slightly slower now than in 2020, or do you think growth rate is still Rising consistently?

MG: Well, for a company like us, who have just got over the start-up phase, each year we experience big growth compared with the last. In general, if we’re talking about the industry as a whole, 2021 definitely had a lot challenges from a licensing perspective. A lot of things changed, particularly in Germany, Netherlands, etc. We had to reinvent our geostrategy due to all these licensing changes. So, we’ve had to invest a lot more in other aspects of our offering, including player protection. This is something which, not to sound cliché, is very close to us because we see ourselves as an entertainment company first of all. We want to offer a product that is safe for our customers and we strive to keep improving these elements of our website on a daily basis. In 2021, there were other challenges particularly in terms of acquisitions and the processes of diversifying acquisition channels. We don’t plan to be completely dependent on affiliation, but to get business more directly from our organic issue, our programmatic strategy and other collaborations. Challenges are always there, but with challenges comes opportunities. We had to discover new GEO’s, so nowadays we are getting good numbers from specific countries that we weren’t particularly strong in in the past. So, 2020 on the whole was a little better than 2021, but 2021 brought with it challenges that today, in 2022, are coming to fruition – we are seeing results.  

Currently, in terms of markets, what are the biggest markets for you guys? 

MG: At the moment, we’re seeing exponential growth in the Canadian market, together with the New Zealand market where we are doing pretty well. We are in the process of expanding our operations in Latin America, as aforementioned, so there is a very clear strategy there. Currently, we are collating and getting what we need to make a proper market entry. Those would be our main markets and main objectives for 2022/23.

AS: I mean, the industry is going there (Canada). So, we have to explore all the licenced markets and go and get the best out of them. We need to start accessing these markets in the most profitable way. Of course, there are certain areas where the market will be less profitable than others. 

I couldn’t help thinking about Canada when you mentioned it. There’s a huge rush towards Canada, particularly Ontario which is opening iGaming. What are your expectations from that market in particular? 

MG: I believe Canada has enormous opportunity. We’ve heard of Canada’s potential for many years, but few have managed to breach the Canadian market. Luckily, we are investing in a diversified acquisition strategy which is bringing us results. Canada is not your typical GEO to tap into; if you look at Germany back in the day it was quite straightforward. They had specific affiliates, you partner with them and you’re up and running. Canada is no that straightforward, but with patience and the right acquisition, it is a great GEO for everyone looking to move into that market. 

I’ve got one final question for the both of you, if you had one wish for the company, what would it be?

MG: It may sound cheesy but we don’t actually have wishes. We plan things and we actually try to recoup on what we plan. The wish I suppose, or more the way forward for the next months and years, is definitely going to be the proprietary platform that we’re developing. We aim to have not just a good, competitive platform, but, if possible, the best platform out there with the best functionalities available to operators. We operate ourselves; we know what platforms need to be good, because we’ve seen the shortcomings in the various platforms we’ve worked with. We aim to tap into and fix that market gap in the gaming industry, by offering something that is truly foolproof.  

AS: As Mark said, the actions we take are bigger than our actual wishes. Of course, we have big ambitions, but if you sleep on them and you don’t act, then these wishes are pretty much useless. So, having said that, my one and only wish at this stage would be that the investments we’re currently doing - there would be ROI there straight away without any hiccups. So, you know, the perfect flowers and rainbows scenario! I know it’s not going to truly be like that. There will be ups and downs and that’s why together we take on the things that the industry throws at us. I’d like to give a big shoutout to our team, as without them we wouldn’t be in the position that we are today.

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