Published: 30 June, 2022

Gambling Heritage: Old meets new

Andrea Foley, Partnership Marketing Manager at The Pools, speaks to Trafficology about how the company has evolved in its near100-year history, going online and its plans for future growth

We’re approaching the 100-year anniversary of The Pools. How has The Pools evolved throughout the years? And what has changed now we’ve entered the digital age? 

The Football Pools, now The Pools, is certainly a recognised brand. Everybody you speak to says they’ve heard of it. The Pools is generational being nearly 100 years old, so people have heard of it through their parents, grandparents, etc. At the time, it was said that the Football Pools was the only way you could become a millionaire. It’s what people would dream of; they’d say ‘oh, when I win The Pools...’ And I still say it being a bit older. Now people refer to the lottery, but The Pools sparked the inception of the saying ‘when I win...’ 

The Pools jackpot games have operated since 1923, so we’re vastly closing in on 100 years and we’re all really excited about that. We still have some really big winners, including a £1m winner a few weeks ago on our Lucky Clover classic game. A lot of people do say, when you talk about The Pools, ‘I didn’t know it was still going.’ 100 years is a long time for a business –  any business – it’s a long time to still be operating as a business.  

But The Pools is still going. It’s a household brand, and the brand is a trusted name so we don’t want to lose that. It’s rare to still be going nearly 100 years, so our brand is precious and we’re going to hold onto that. However, in recent years we’ve become increasingly aware of the need to meet the demands of the new customer. We were keenly aware of the need to cater to both our old customers while appealing to the next generation. 

In 2018, we launched the digital arm of the business, which we call The Pools. The old brand was Football Pools, and we’re now The Pools; which is the website brand name. So, in addition to the core games which you can still get, the classic Pools and football prediction bets, there’s also an online sportsbook and casino. With these there are new unique games and features, with more being introduced throughout this year. So, now we’re in a state of constant evolution with our online offering, and we’re looking to continue that evolution as we hit 100 years in operation. 

Are there any new technologies, or emerging markets which can help The Pools get back to its mid C20th popularity following the emergence of the National Lottery in 1994? 

The portfolio of products at The Pools, going back to our old classic games, has been popular with a wide number of customers of all ages for many years. What’s been important for us is transitioning this into the digital space. And, so far, our offerings have been well received digitally, which bodes well for the future as we move into an online space. 

But we were also aware that customers want everything now, 24/7, and be able to play on the go. So, this is why it has been important for us to include everything on the website, including a sportsbook and casino. It has been important for us to include every sport, including virtual. We’re trying to blend past and present. It’s important to try and suit the lifestyles of all our players, no matter what they’re doing at any time of day. We’re always looking to develop the platform, so that’s it’s more interactive and engaging, and with it being four years old we’re still a work in progress with a lot of room for growth. That being said, we’ve come a long way since 2018. We can safely say now that we are digital, and there’s huge scope in terms of what we can do going forward. 

What types of affiliate behaviour gets The Pools the greatest amount of traffic? What could be done to increase traffic at The Pools, such as more or improved partnership deals with affiliates? How can you boost brand exposure? 

The majority of the affiliates that we have on board already are SEO specialists. They understand Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and the behaviours associated with marketing intent when searching online. Content is really important in terms of getting this right, as it drives traffic to the site. It also educates players on the benefits of using The Pools. Because, as I’ve said, people have forgotten The Pools, they don’t know what we’re about, they don’t understand the history. So great content is needed so people know what The Pools is straight away. If our name pops up on a search people won’t immediately recognise the brand, so what is important for us is getting The Pools back to being a household name.

When I talk about content, what I really mean is quality of content. If we have strong, quality content, this will help to make The Pools a recognised brand again. With our affiliates it’s all about coming up with the right offer, so we get greater exposure and the audience of affiliates is best catered to. It’s all about striking a balance when working with affiliates. Collaboration is really important so that both your own needs and the needs of the affiliate are met. At The Pools we always aim to keep in contact with our affiliates, there’s usually some engagement every day, which is important to make sure things are moving in the right direction; it’s a partnership that needs to always be working well.

How can you see market trends affecting affiliate partnerships in the future? Do the latest affiliate market trends affect The Pools? If so, how? 

At the moment it’s all about technology and innovation; this is what is driving the industry and what will continue to drive it. In particular, real-time reporting is the current goal. Neither side wants to wait to see the success of a campaign or an offer. No one wants to wait 24 hours. Real-time technology will mean people have access to instant results. We currently partner with Income Access in regards to our affiliate software stack, so that provides trust and reliability for our marketing partners when helping to promote the brand.

Some other important trends include a combination of automation of customer journeys and machine learning to improve conversions is a major area for growth and innovation within the affiliate sphere, which would help any partnership deal. There are a lot of things coming up in terms of emerging technologies and developments, and these new areas of industry will pose their own challenges.

There are other caveats to what can be done between affiliates and operators, certain headwinds such as the UK Gambling Act. Changes to regulations are expected to come with that; so, we’re in a bit of an unknown at the moment. The current economic turmoil the world is currently in is another factor that can’t be overlooked. This presents its own range of challenges, not just in the UK but worldwide.

What the industry needs to focus on now is putting the customer first, which can be done by working in partnership with affiliates to ensure that what is offered is best for the player and their lifestyle.  It’s been a journey for us at The Pools since 2018, one we’ve shared with our affiliates and one that will continue. It’s as though we’ve started all over really, with our online offering, so there’s a long way to go still, but this is something we’re looking forward to. This year and next will have a celebratory focus however, as we come up to 100 years. So, there’ll be a lot happening on the site, so it’s a case of watch this space for our customers and any other players interested in playing with The Pools.