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Coronavirus & iGaming Affiliates: 5 Issues With 5 Solutions

Bookmakers are being impacted by the cancellation of sporting events and the general lack of certainty and consumer confidence in a crisis. iGaming affiliates, in turn, have worries surrounding the stability of the bookmakers and the wider sporting world. 

Digital Fuel take a look over five issues iGaming affiliates will likely be facing with five possible solutions:

Issue 1: Operators Pausing Affiliate Accounts

So far, this has only happened with William Hill US Affiliates, who announced:

“During the time that there are limited wagering opportunities, we are going to pause our affiliate program. Effective immediately, no new CPA’s or registrations from affiliates will be recognized.” – William Hill US Affiliates, 19th March 2020

The reason is simply that with the cancellation of so many sporting events, the next few months will be life or death for some of the operators. We envisage some operators may pause accounts, some may withhold affiliate payments and others may downgrade affiliate CPA and rev share models. 

Although this will upset a lot of affiliates, there isn’t a great deal they can do as the action is covered in standard terms & conditions which usually state that the operator has the right to terminate or change the agreement as they please.

Solution: This is a good reminder as to why it’s important as affiliates to diversify the range of bookmakers that you promote. Ideally your revenue should be spread out across multiple bookmakers – that way, if one or two fail it isn’t catastrophic to your affiliate business. 

Issue 2: Don’t Mention Coronavirus In Marketing Activities

Certain bookmakers, including Bet365, Paddy Power, Betfair and Kindred (Unibet, 32Red, etc) have explicitly stated that affiliates must not reference coronavirus or Covid-19 in their marketing. 

An email sent from Kindred to all of their affiliates stated the following:

“Kindred Affiliates strictly prohibits the referencing of Coronavirus in any way in any Affiliate Marketing activities. If you are found to be exploiting this situation, your account will be immediately closed.”  – Kindred Affiliates, 19th March 2020

A similar email from Bet365:

“…you must not promote bet365 or any of its services and products alongside inappropriate or insensitive content relating to Coronavirus. You must also not use Coronavirus as a ‘tool’ to target your marketing of bet365 at anyone suffering from ‘boredom’ from self-isolation due to Coronavirus.” – Bet365 Affiliates, 18th March 2020

The reason bookmakers are doing this is they don’t want to be seen to be capitalising on the unfortunate situation the world has found itself in. This is entirely understandable.

Solution: We would recommend simply not using the words ‘Coronavirus’, ‘Covid-19’ or words to that effect in any marketing efforts. Even if the bookmakers you promote haven’t explicitly prohibited using these words they might in the future. It would be an unnecessary risk for an iGaming Affiliate and could easily be construed as irresponsible.

Free resource: Download our list of words associated with Coronavirus here. These can be used as negative keywords within your Google Ads campaigns.

Issue 3: Sporting Events Are Being Cancelled

Pretty much every major sporting event has been cancelled for the next few months. This raises two main questions for affiliates. Firstly, will the bookmakers I promote stay afloat? Secondly, as a sports affiliate, what should I do?

Issue 3.1: Will The Bookmakers Stay Afloat?

The harsh reality is that some bookmakers will most likely go bankrupt. Those most at risk will be the bookmakers that aren’t so well established, are heavily reliant on sports and have the overheads of (now closed) high street shops. 

Solution: Again, a diversified range of revenue streams will help you here. You want to have revenues spread across multiple bookmakers rather than just one or two. Also, large, established brands (Ladbrokes, William Hill, Bet365) are much less likely to go bankrupt than lower-tier or new bookmakers, even if they are online only.

Issue: 3.2: What Should Sports Affiliates Be Doing?

As a sports affiliate you will likely see a drop in traffic over the coming months. You will also likely see a drop in revenue, although hopefully your players will cross-sell onto other verticals not impacted by the sports shutdown, such as casino, bingo, poker and esports. 

Solution: 

  • Diversify into virtual sports, esports and casino. Virtual sports are surprisingly popular with bookmakers, which comes from the betting shops where virtual sports would take place between live horse races. Most major bookmakers offer virtual products ranging from horse racing to football to speedway. 
  • Build out your site. Website development often gets put to the back of the queue whilst the focus is on the latest marketing promotion or major sporting event. Why not use this quiet period for sporting action to improve your user experience? 
  • Get a head start on future sporting events, start building content around events that should be occurring in the future such as the postponed Euro 2020 now set to take place in 2021.

Issue 4: Compliance

Compliance in the affiliate/operator relationship has been a hot topic for the past year. Just because it’s a tough time it doesn’t mean the operators will be any less stringent. Operators are already feeling the squeeze and they will be doing everything they can to avoid a fine from the UKGC for affiliate behaviour. 

Solution: Be militant with your compliance. If you are planning to move into a new vertical, such as virtual sports or casino, make sure you brush up on the regulations in terms of what is and is not acceptable in your content promoting these products. We would recommend getting all new content approved by your affiliate manager before publishing. 

Issue 5: Offline Customers Moving Online

Bricks and mortar bookmakers and casinos have loyal customers, often older generations that have been to the same bookmaker for years. We expect many of these customers will be moving online over the coming weeks. 

Solution: The opportunity here is to make sure you are prepared for a different demographic to be using your affiliate site. For example, if your football blog is normally getting traffic from the 18 – 30 age bracket, is it capable of catering to the 40 – 60 bracket? Things to keep in mind include UX/usability, accessibility (see WCAG guidelines) and language. 

Whilst these volatile and unpredictable times present concerns for all businesses everywhere, you can still do your bit to be in the best possible shape to weather the storm. Nobody should be exploiting the situation but that doesn’t mean you can’t readjust your approach to better serve the needs of your users. iGaming affiliate marketing is our bread and butter so if you have any concerns about the best approach for your affiliate properties please get in touch with Digital Fuel Marketing and our team can help you to ride this out.

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