Analysis: Is creative marketing null and void for bookies?

Speaking on a Genius Sports Media marketing panel last week, Sam Behar, Head of Global Marketing at Marathonbet, gave his opinion on betting companies thinking outside the box.

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He said: "Creativity and branding is almost null and void in our vertical; when everyone is predominantly selling the same thing, it’s very difficult to have a creative stance that cuts through."

Behar is certainly not alone in sharing this opinion. It’s one I have heard repeated at multiple industry events from executives at every level.

But if creative marketing is truly futile when the offerings are so similar - what is the key to getting the customer to bet with you?

Behar argued it is about focusing on what you do best. He explained how, after achieving best price on 34 out of 38 weeks last season in the English Premier League, Marathonbet now focuses its marketing strategy on offering the best odds on football.

Behar said: "That’s the message. I don’t want to create anything with a fluffy emotive response. I don’t want people to watch an ad of ours and feel something they’re going to take home for the rest of the day.

"I just want them to remember Marathonbet is best price on football. That’s the position we’ve taken to market."

In a saturated market like the UK, boasting best odds might certainly boost Marathonbet’s chances of acquisition, and it’s a logical marketing strategy for a company trying to grow its customer base in a market in which it’s not so well-known.

Also, as retention becomes increasingly vital, and as long as Marathonbet ensures it can back up its claims of best odds, there would be little reason for acquired customers to go elsewhere.

However, there are also those who believe a saturated market is one in which creativity is most essential. The best odds, after all, are still just odds, the same product offered by the rest of the market.

Paddy Power is one example of a company which prides itself on its creative and often controversial marketing strategy.

This year, through its "Save our Shirts" campaign, Flutter Entertainment-owned Paddy Power vowed to "unsponsor" any football club with which it had a shirt sponsorship deal.

The operator also released multiple TV advertisements featuring well-known figures, such as José Mourinho and Rhodri Giggs.

Behar was joined on the Genius Sports Media panel by Matt Wilson, founder and CEO of Ball Street Network.

Wilson argued Paddy Power’s creativity is exactly what sets it apart from other operators. He said: "What Paddy Power has been able to do is cultivate a brand whereby it’s not necessarily about price.

"Paddy Power entertains you. It’s a company you notice out of all of the bookies because you can have a laugh with it. You become a friend.

“Paddy Power might be the type of person you’d like to go on a stag do with or hang out with, so when it comes to the point where you are going to make a bet you decide to bet there."

Ironically, the Paddy Power representative didn't turn up yet the whole debate centred around its brand. Could that suggest its strategy is working?

As one of the most well-known operators in the UK, with probably the strongest brand presence in the market, Paddy Power’s creativity has clearly been beneficial.

However, Marathonbet believes when faced with a choice of better odds or the comical relatable advertisement of Paddy Power, potential customers will always choose the option easier on the wallet.

Behar explained how Marathonbet’s most recent advertising campaign confronted Paddy Power’s marketing strategy head on.

The advertisement displayed Paddy Power’s odds for an accumulator next to Marathonbet’s own better odds, accompanied by the tag-line: "How funny are they now?"

While this slogan might seem slightly confrontational, it makes a good point about brand allegiance.

If I was looking to place a bet on the weekend’s football and one operator was offering me £20 ($26.76) more in returns, an advertisement is easily forgotten, no matter how much it made me laugh.

It’s evident both marketing strategies have their merits. While the creative style of Paddy Power might be more suitable for an operator already boasting a large customer base, Marathonbet’s simple approach is an effective (and most likely cheaper) one for those trying to make a name for themselves.

That being said, I can’t help thinking if the premium pricing of Marathonbet was combined with the creative flare of Paddy Power, the UK market would be easy pickings.

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