The Third Era of Fantasy Sports
Looking back on the history of Fantasy Sports, one realizes that despite the fact the game always feels new, fresh and engaging, it already counts almost 70 years of life!
Wikipedia cites an Oakland businessman, Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach, as the fantasy pioneer, devising fantasy golf in the latter part of the 1950s. Fantasy Football (soccer) became popular across the Pond around the ‘70s in the UK and a massive hit in Italy around the ‘90s. That free-to-play, season-long fantasy format kept friends, families and co-workers engaged, while the big fantasy boom came in the early ‘00s with the official online versions of each League.
Shortly after and before the 2010s the U.S – ever the innovator – saw the huge opportunity fantasy sports offered to combine gaming innovation, great profit and a non-illegal form of “gambling”, back in the strict, pre-PASPA times.
That’s how the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) format came to be, marking the beginning of the Second Fantasy Sports Era; which features the commercialization of Fantasy Sports gaming through its breakdown in distinct products and offerings, its structured and targeted marketing and its wide B2C distribution via the World Wide Web.
American DFS “fathers” FanDuel (est. 2009) and DraftKings (est. 2012) became household names, turning a familiar concept to daily habit by using colossal budgets to fund massive advertising campaigns throughout traditional and digital media, as well as remarkable amounts of cash in Guaranteed Prizes.
Europe soon followed at their own pace, starting with the fantasy-mature UK and by 2017 fantasy football and fantasy sports had been “promoted” from “what’s that?” to “just another standard genre of the igaming/gambling industry”.
This turn of events brought on the dawning of the Third Era of Fantasy Sports, where B2B Fantasy Software Companies began to inhabit the iGaming industry environment. Now, as the 2010s fade, the fantasy business sector is being validated by the realization of its 360-degree marketing potential, amidst an over-regulation wave sweeping over Europe’s gambling and iGaming activity. This affirmation signals Fantasy Sports’ readiness to bridge the consequent communication gap between operators and their audiences – and becomes the key feature of the Third Fantasy Sports Era.
2019: (Over)Regulating the Advertising of Gambling
The following map is a visual copy of the interactive map seen at the official site of Gambling Compliance indicating advertising regulation throughout Europe (up to date as of July 16, 2019).
Gambling Compliance further informs us that:
“Consumer discontent with gambling advertising has reached breaking point in a range of jurisdictions around the world, with a wave of restrictions currently sweeping across Europe.
Gambling adverts have been totally outlawed by Italy’s new populist government, while in the UK new Gambling Commission powers all but guarantee tougher enforcement against operators who breach responsible marketing guidelines
In both Belgium and Spain there are impending changes to legislation that will restrict the ability to advertise gambling and in several other countries the subject remains high in the political agenda”.
The severity of the current Advertising Restriction Wave and its consequences to the entire gambling industry have become evident through the daily industry press – especially the specifics concerning Italy’s advertising ban:
“AGCOM’s guidance on the so-called Dignity Decree, which was approved by Italy’s Council of Ministers in July 2018, confirms that direct and indirect advertising, sponsorship or promotional communications will all be banned.
Alongside traditional forms of advertising, commercial communications such as product placement, the distribution of branded items (including competitions with branded products as prizes), advertorials and influencer marketing are all banned.
However, AGCOM has provided certain ways in which operators can communicate with customers. For example, informative communications are not considered to fall within the scope of the decree.
This means information such as sporting odds, jackpots, odds of winning a game, bonuses available and minimum bet sizes can all be communicated to the public via Italian media sites.
As expected, retail operators will be allowed to display their branding on signage and shop fronts, as well as products, on offer in-store, provided this does not include inducements to gamble.
There will be exceptions for B2B commercial communications, including those circulated in specialist trade magazines, as well as corporate social responsibility communications. This means operators can run campaigns around responsible gambling or providing information about legal gambling products, provided they do not include branding or logos.
Campaigns promoting social or charitable projects backed by an operator will also be allowed, again provided the logo does not appear.
However, efforts will be taken to limit how much operators appear on internet searches on gambling. Only when a player makes a search specifically relating to gambling should an operator’s site appear in the results, AGCOM says, with licensees not permitted to pay to boost their search rankings.
While the advertising ban came into effect from January 1, 2019, the prohibition on sports sponsorship, which includes operator branding appearing on strips and advertising hoarding, does not come into force until July 14. This has been designed to allow deals already agreed to come to a conclusion”.
But also, through the compliance news reports for Europe:
“[…] The ASA and CAP also list types of content now deemed unacceptable in these ads, including animated characters, licensed characters from movies or TV and sportspeople and celebrities that are likely to be of particular appeal to children. References to youth culture are also prohibited.
Operators will also no longer be able to feature sportspeople, celebrities or other characters who are or appear to be under the age of 25 in their ads. […]
The standards also require operators to take care when identifying influencers to promote products or brands and that under-18s are not likely to comprise more than 25% of the individual’s audience.
The new advertising rules will come into effect in the UK from April 1 2019”.
The Need for a Marketing Outlet Becomes Real
Marketing has always been a necessity and integral part of a healthy business strategy. The lack of regulated, yet viable advertising opportunities causes a growth gap and a compelling need for commercial communication between the European gambling industry and its audience.
Not only does this stunt industry growth – with significant social and financial consequences going well beyond mere profit – but leaves consumers vulnerable to illicit gaming and makes everyone lose sight of the desired goal; to make sure consumers are protected and presented with fully regulated gaming options.
The Fantasy Solution: Safe Gaming, User Engagement, Meaningful Marketing
People tend to confuse Marketing with Sales, but despite their connection and the occasional synonymy presented by Thesaurus, they are two completely different stages of business.
Marketing aims to sell, but furthermore, it is the actual introduction, the presentation of a product/service to the world, the way to communicate its existence to consumers and make it accessible to them.
As strict advertising regulation stifles communication between operators and their audience, it also minimizes the options for a complete product presentation, leaving the industry barely with a “hidden passage” alternative, emphasizing the need for accessibility and hands-on engagement.
With Gamification succeeding immediate communication and mass media to the throne of Customer Attraction, User Engagement becomes the active way for the audience’s familiarization with the product, while Content, Data and Information become the “promotion vehicle”.
Fantasy Sports are the ideal platform to apply a fully compliant, but meaningful Marketing Strategy. With fantasy sports “naturally” being the first line of Fan Engagement and inherently gamified, operators using them become able to:
Refine their targeting and reach specific sports fans
Exploit key points within the customer journey for product promotion and access (cross-selling via CTAs, banners, rewards etc.)
Use Statistics to produce 360-degree content (blogs, videos, podcasts, newsletters) for Content Marketing
Enrich their brand profile
The power always lies with the people and they are the ones to choose whether to buy or not. But in order for them to make the right – and safe – choice, they must be informed and guided, instead of patronized and led.
Collective well-being and the protection of vulnerable groups must be a priority for all, but life is incredibly diverse, and everyone is entitled to have the choice to enjoy responsibly.
Coda: Regulation vs. Over-regulation – Value & Consequences
As the gambling industry matured throughout the years, and after facing the additional safety risks of online gaming, Regulatory Authorities became wiser and more effective. Operators responded with a proactive stance towards regulation and social responsibility, working to eliminate the possibilities of problem gambling by offering active ways to opt-out and/or seek immediate help.
Presently, the response of the major companies to responsible gaming and social needs is most hopeful, according to the news:
However, despite the undoubtfully good and ethical intentions, drastic measures and over-regulation can – and will – have a negative social impact as well:
“GVC Holdings has responded to the news of William Hill’s shop closures by outlining that 900 of its own Ladbrokes and Coral shops could face closure, which is ten per cent lower than its previous estimates made in April.
Similar to William Hill, GVC has attributed the potential closures to the FOBT stake cut brought in on 1 April of this year.
In a statement from GVC, it explained: “We now expect up to 900 shops to be at risk of closure, affecting up to 5,000 roles, over the next two years as a result of the reduction in maximum stakes on FOBTs to £2 that came into force on 1st April, and there are a number of shops that have been identified for closure as part of this process”.
Contact us to discuss Marketing Strategy and find the right Fantasy Sports Solution for you: