Will Esports Be The Silent Winner of FIFA’s Qatar 2022 World Cup?

As we press boldly on into the second half of the year, the sports betting industry’s focus is now firmly set on the prized World Cup 2022 in Qatar, which kicks-off in November.

If operators are to take full advantage of one of the planet’s biggest betting events they will have to overcome major challenges, tussling against their competitors for a slice of a saturated market.

We spoke with Rohini Sardana, Business Development Director for Pinnacle Sports, to hear her thoughts on how operators can create a market-leading product – to get the best results during this exciting sporting period. We also explored a world beyond traditional sports betting, previewing what the esports market has to offer this year and investigating  the true opportunities for mass acquisition and future growth.

As the industry now starts to focus its attention on the latter half of the year’s most popular sporting events, is there still enough time for operators to be fully prepared to take maximum advantage of events like the Autumn World Cup? What needs to be done for operators to make the most of events like this?

“Global sportsbooks have been planning for Qatar as soon as the belated Euros finished last year. But that’s not to say that there isn’t time to be flexible with new supplier partnerships and in-house strategy pivots to fully realise its full potential. A successful World Cup can be the difference between underwhelming, break-even performance and double figure hold percentages – and that’s discounting the longer-term acquisition gains.

“The hype, though, means we’re looking at an incredibly saturated betting market, so it’s important to differentiate your brand wherever possible. Externally, that could be through bespoke pricing that appeals to those turned off by increasingly homogenous, middle-market odds. Internally, taking the chance to maximise revenue wherever possible is key. 

“Bluntly staking profitable players during an event like this–which arguably has the most information available to bettors–is inefficient; so working with suppliers who can manage risk better, and who can take a macro view of long-term hold efficiency on greater action, is the pathway to World Cup success. With the Pinnacle Solution iFrame product available to integrate in a matter of weeks, not months, there’s still time to reassess your tournament needs and guarantee the best performance come the final on December 18.”

As mentioned, the World Cup will be a very popular marketing opportunity for operators, resulting in a saturated acquisition market. Can offering unique odds be a good way to differentiate your brand? How else can brands leverage their betting product to stand out from the crowd?

“It’s not just the World Cup where we can expect major operators to run to the centre ground when it comes to pricing and trading strategies. With vast recreational customer bases, they can be confident that they’ll reap the rewards whatever prices they lay. We think we should be aiming much higher when it comes to trading standards. After all, we’re talking about potentially the biggest betting event in recent history. Bookmakers should be, and will be, striving to extract the full potential from it.

“Offering unique prices, managed by a specialist risk management supplier, is an efficient way to fully realise both hold and revenue potential. Showcasing odds that fit your risk requirements, and that appeal as different to the market, will drive revenue, brand trust, and provide the platform for a more successful World Cup.”

Most of the sportsbook industry’s attention seems firmly set on the Qatar World Cup. But with other popular events such as the DOTA 2 International taking place in October are many operators overlooking a much easier opportunity for player acquisition? How can they best position themselves to take advantage of the growing esports market?

“Qatar is hugely significant because football is one of the most popular and significant revenue drivers for sportsbooks. However, operators with a global footprint, looking to appeal to a broad age range and across multiple jurisdictions, shouldn’t be blinkered. The esports vertical won’t just roll over and cede market position to the traditional sporting sector. It operates under its own steam and its audience, bar sports-sim content, is yet to show sustained crossover with typical World Cup bettors.

“Events such as Dota 2’s The International are coming up. And with the latest prize pool pushing US$50 million, it’s clear there’s huge opportunities available to attract the next generation of bettors to sportsbook brands that are taking esports betting seriously.

“While finding value in the uber-competitive World Cup space may be expensive, esports can be the lower hanging fruit in the time-frame to build a sustainable customer base for the future. Of course, having the right esports product is key to this. So it’s worth assessing whether this can be done in-house, with the more expensive hiring of esports modelling experts and marketing gurus, or whether working with well-established specialist suppliers–such as Pinnacle Solution–in the space is a more effective way to go.

“Many operators make the mistake of targeting esports bettors in a traditional betting context. World Cup hype will only make this mis-marketing more acute, so now’s the time to segment your esports base with relevant marketing campaigns, custom content offerings, and products that resonate with the broader esports community.”

Many operators have struggled to gain traction in the esports sector because they’re not seen as an authentic part of the community. What advice would you give to operators to try and improve this going forward?

“Having an authentic brand that’s trusted by the average esports fan is key. This is hard to acquire, and any missteps can be punished quickly with the high standards and “community” nature of this unique consumer. Authenticity has to run top-to-bottom within any esports betting offering, as seen recently by the exit of EBET from this challenging space.

“From the content point of view, title-specific markets should be offered. Offering only core markets won’t be sustainable. And these should be backed up by sharper pricing, with limits and uptime that give esports bettors a fair go at monetising their passion. In marketing terms, brand voice and communications have to showcase that you’re a part of the esports scene. Generic content and clunky promotions will be rumbled immediately, with potential bettors heading elsewhere to those sportsbooks and esportsbooks that resonate with them.

“Getting the talent in-house across marketing and trading functions is hard and expensive, at least for now, and that’s why we like to provide operators with an out-the-box iFrame solution that delivers these esports credentials, particularly from a content point of view, with the associated trading service that generates new revenue streams and better profits across this booming audience segment.”

Latin America appears to be making great headway in elevating its esports offering and wagering sector in general. What do you think is needed to bring this region to the next level, to compete with more established esports betting markets, such as Europe and East Asia?

“It’s important to treat each Latin American country as an individual market when it comes to esports. Across the continent, soccer may be the one beating heart, but in individual nations esports has its own singular nuances, even within national regions. For example, our Peru action focuses heavily on Dota 2; while Colombia has a lean to CS:GO. So having the content variety to appeal to each market, and knowing how to communicate across each title, is key to pushing the region forward.

“From there, we can do more as esports advocates and betting suppliers to educate local sportsbooks on its commercial value. Many of the region’s brands are still coming to terms with the jump from land-based to digital operations, but they are already seeing the huge value in online sports betting. We can show them similar results across esports, and hopefully persuade them to leverage the fervent esports communities which are already thriving in their markets.”

Editor’s Note:

Operators will be pleased to learn from Rohini that–although they most likely will have been planning well ahead for this event–it’s still not too late to be flexible and adapt elements of their product to better allow them to take full advantage of the soon approaching Qatar World Cup. 

Whether it’s with new supplier partnerships to aggregate the most unique odds markets or in-house strategy pivots, the opportunities for optimisation are still plentiful. Especially when working with a company like Pinnacle Sports.

Rohini also thinks it’s important to remember that some of the biggest opportunities for customer acquisition this year are beyond the World Cup alone. Events such as Dota 2’s The International are coming up, and with the latest prize pool pushing US$50 million it’s clear there are huge opportunities available to attract the next generation of bettors for sportsbook brands who are taking esports betting seriously.

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