We’re just three weeks away from a European Championship with a difference, although seeing England as short as 5/1 with some bookies is at least a sign that some things never change.
As fans return to the stadiums, albeit on a reduced level, will we see a reversal of the near ‘wiped’ home advantage in fanless football? Hopefully not for Gareth’s boys.
How will the difference from a fan engagement perspective translate to the betting market? What should operators be doing to create more interactive betting value for homebound viewers? And how can acquired players be retained post-tournament?
We spoke to Pronet Gaming’s Sportsbook and Trading Director Thomas Molloy, Aspire Global’s Head of Sports Morten Hauge and Alex Kornilov, CEO at Betegy, to find out more.
SBC: Euro 2020 will be the first major international tournament since the start of the pandemic. How is it likely to differ from those that have gone before?
Thomas Molloy (TM): Euro 2020 is finally upon us, a year on from when it was originally due to take place. And yet there is still so much that is up in the air despite being only a few weeks out from the opening game between Turkey and Italy on 11 June.
Hosting the event in multiple countries across the continent was a novel idea before the pandemic but at this juncture, we don’t know what impact the continuing effects of Covid-19 will have on the tournament.
In fact, we still don’t know whether it will be moved entirely to one country, even at this late stage and while the success of the vaccine roll-out in the UK has made it a seemingly safer option, how many fans will ultimately be allowed into stadiums? The latest figures suggest we will see stadiums at least full to 25% of capacity, but this could differ from country to country.
Despite the many lingering questions, it is fair to say we can be confident in many of the top players in the world showing up and producing on the international stage. Another thing that never changes is the high expectations over England’s chances of success but with the price as short as 5/1, I’m not sure I will be rushing to place a bet.
Morten Hauge (MH): From a fan engagement perspective, it’s certainly going to be different in a lot of ways. We have always seen major tournaments being consumed by people in large gatherings within public areas and pubs. While there are some nations that will be fortunate enough to enjoy the same experience, it’s likely the majority of Europe will still be facing lockdown restrictions and social distancing.
That being said, it will still probably be the most watched European Championship in history because there isn’t a lot of fresh content being made available at the moment. Streaming platforms such as Netflix and HBO can only do so much under the circumstances, so major sporting events are more important than ever.
This is all hugely positive for the betting industry and operators understand the importance of offering such an entertaining experience to a wide audience. Scalable platform technology will be essential given the huge influx of new customers that is expected to sign up to sportsbooks.
This needs to be cloud-based and access to more processing power will be important. This won’t be an issue for us, as our gaming Player Account Management solution (PAM) AspireCore is proven to stand up to the biggest tests.
Alex Kornilov (AK): I think that any event that takes place after the last year is already an added bonus for the gambling industry. When we talk about the participation of sports venues or bars, it is unlikely to have as much relevance this year as for previous tournaments, with restrictions still in place across much of the world, with multi-channel likely to be far stronger than ever before.
However, as we’ve seen from the surge in betting as part of the entertainment experience over the last year, I’ve got a bullish outlook. At the end of the day, if people want to bet then they will – whether that’s in shops, online and or via mobile – and I hope that the production team behind Euro 2020 do a great job to generate excitement and get people entertained.
SBC: The absence of crowds is said to have had an effect on match outcomes and particular betting markets in domestic leagues over the last year. Is that likely to persist with reduced crowds, or will home advantage be telling again?
MH: The lack of crowds had an impact at the start, but most players have become accustomed to their new surroundings by now. There might be more substitutions and I expect plenty of goals will be scored. Otherwise, it won’t be anything other than a normal tournament. That being said, it’s true that having your fans behind you at a big tournament is a huge advantage and that won’t be the same with half empty, or even empty, stadiums.
TM: One clear trend right across Europe, but particularly apparent in the Premier League this season, is the wiping out of home advantage. With the average home point advantage dropping from just under 0.5 to 0.1 per game, it is fair to say that each fixture has had the feeling of being played at a neutral venue.
That said, even with stadiums a quarter full, crowds can still generate a lot of noise and it is exactly this sort of atmosphere which we have missed over the past 15 months. This effect can be key to home teams looking to gain that competitive advantage.
Another metric of note is the climate. Admittedly, this is more pronounced during World Cup tournaments, but with 11 cities from Seville to St Petersburg hosting games, gone is the old excuse that certain climates suited specific teams more.
AK: I think that it will be very interesting to watch how the production of Euro 2020 compares to previous years. However, it’s been pretty much the same for the last 10 years and this will be a wonderful test for the football production teams and UEFA on how they’re able to restructure their efforts to make it more entertaining.
Formula One, for example, is a great example of what’s possible during Covid and the transformation in their ‘interactive’ betting value in the style of a Bloomberg trading UX has had a serious impact, and I hope to see the same happen here for football.
We know that fans will be in stadiums too, but homebound viewers will be the key demographic, and engagement needs to include better cams, better insights, better player stories, and more stats to make it not only a sports event, but one more personal that can resonate with betting fans’ values and even more importantly, betting strategies.
SBC: Major international tournaments have always been a great way of attracting new customers. How are you enabling your partners to do that and how will you retain them post-tournament?
AK: We know the majority of people come into betting through word of mouth and for the enjoyment of a cheeky punt, rather than being lured in by the idea of making money. In this case, the new generation’s community is via online – Sky Sports, BT, DAZN, as well as via social and fan blogs – and places like this can curate content well to create incentives.
This is especially the case when odds are out due to advertising restrictions, and that’s why we need to help tell the story based on data, odds and analytics. Visual content is key to this storytelling that betting operators will tell on this curated media – and this will be the main channel to focus on.
After the tournament, the best way to engage customers in a perfect world is to know what people want to bet on. This is done by data and you can segment and work out who likes what, and promote those further offerings based on profiles and what they like.
To succeed, you’ll need to segment as much as you can, offering each the best possible content but make sure it’s a slow burn, you don’t want to use up all the headspace you have available.
MH: We have developed some effective tools that will allow our partners to market their brands in a more efficient and engaging way. In addition, we have made a nine-stage strategy using historical data to take care of the customer cycle during this time. This includes a strategy to capture the player’s attention for the next tournament as well.
On top of that, we are adding an industry first to the BtoBet API, a pocket sportsbook called AspireBattle, which is aimed at casino players that might be interested in the Euros. It’s a free-to-play game where players make match predictions. It’s similar to a sportsbook layout, with statistics and match previews and even the ability to “follow” other users in the game.
TM: We have a number of engagement features built solely for Euro 2020. These include a variety of widgets, stats, H2Hs and form guides, all of which will come via our Bet Assist tab. Our front-end UI/UX is completely modular, allowing our clients to push the content relevant to them.
Whether that is via our popular competition module or special event module, we can push all of the Euro 2020 events or simply offer a more focused view across fewer events, displaying a wider array of markets through our fully customisable homepage on both mobile and desktop.
Should our clients want to display specials by country, top goal scorer or Euro 2020 outright winner, they can do so at the touch of a button. All of our front-end modules are available to our clients all year round and with proprietary functionality such as Fast Bet, additional betting content like player markets and in excess of 30,000 in play events monthly, our clients’ players will have access to the best coverage.