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Connecting fans & media with social sports, gaming mechanics

Rasmus Sojmark, founder and CEO at Oddslife, explains how his firm has found a niche approach to A burgeoning social gaming sector through providing entertainment to sports fans in partnership with local media outlets.

While the social gaming market is predicted to be worth around US$2.5bn in 2015, the vast majority of this market is based on adaptations of casino games. Social poker and variations on casino slots and bingo games have proved to be hugely successful, especially in the States where online gambling has, until recently, been overtly prohibited.

But there is one element of the gambling industry which has not translated at all well into the social sphere – betting. The functional aspect of actually placing a bet has very little entertainment value, while making a prediction alone is clearly not as entertaining as risking money on your judgement. Several social betting models – free-to-play and real money gaming – have sprung up and soon retreated back into their shells as users failed to be entertained enough to stick around.

The eternal question of investing in a real money approach, with all the regulatory costs and pitfalls that brings, or finding a viable revenue stream from free play endeavours also meant that companies didn’t enjoy the luxury of spending time finding a winning formula.

In my opinion, there is a space for social betting, but it needs to be recognised that as betting is so deeply entwined with sports coverage these days, so must social betting. Oddslife has worked hard to bring social betting into a wider eco-system of sports consumption and fan engagement and embedding it into the narrative.

We have looked at providing social gaming into a framework to deliver what we hope is the ultimate social sports experience by pulling together all the fragmented pieces of sports consumption and package them up together in a symbiotic way. The Oddslife network packages up the many different ways that sports fans consume sport and allow them to interact and influence each other and provide greater rewards and entertainment for the fans the more involved they become.

This includes activities such as sports predictions, fanzones where you follow your favourite teams, live match opinions and commentary, fan feeds, statistics, writing and competition, both on a local and global scale. On the flip side of the coin we have seen a rapid growth in niche social sports networks in the past couple of years, many of whom have raised millions in investment capital. Many of these networks have a rush to recruit fans, with millions spent in marketing and endorsements from the latest sports stars, only for them to rush back to the drawing board with ideas for further engagement and sticky content that usually leads them to provide some sort of bolted on gaming experience.

This in our view is a totally sub-optimal way of proceeding. We want to provide an entertaining experience for the fans from the start by embedding it into the core of the network and linking it indelibly to daily activity, rather than provide it as an afterthought. For example, a social sports network like Sportlobster is running a much more established service, with around 1.5 million registered users from all around the world. However, these fans combined to place just 600 predictions on Barcelona’s opening Champions league match this season (17/09 vs APOEL Nicosia).

This equates to just 0.05% engagement on a high profile match. Conversely, our test run in Spain during February 2014 brought in 5,000 fans in just 3 weeks, with 280,000 predictions placed. This averages out at 56 predictions per registered user. Following this, during the World Cup we saw 200,000 predictions across the 5 countries we focused on. An average of 3,125 predictions over the course of the 64 tournament matches.

This demonstrates the advantage of embedding the game engine and mechanics into the system from the beginning; the engagement levels are far higher and the product much more valuable from a customer interaction perspective. Oddslife has also taken a different approach from these sports-based social networks in that we identified where the major cost is of the business – marketing for new fans – and looked to circumvent this with a new model. We realised that sports media outlets are under growing pressure from technology and social media.

They continue to deliver the local news, but they do not have the resources and know-how to engage the fans, ‘own the conversation’ and grow revenues. This is precisely where Oddslife can help, which is why some of Europe’s biggest sports media outlets have already partnered with us. We’ve spent time developing the Oddslife platform to align with our strategy of teaming up with local media partners. This has the dual benefits to both sides.

The media partners provide existing sports fans and marketing while we provide a more engaging and interactive experience for their audiences. We have local media partners in Spain, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Denmark, with many more markets in the pipeline. We take a local approach, with country managers helping to make the product feel relevant to the local fans while simultaneously being part of a global network. The deals with sports media outlets are our key to success; it’s their involvement which provides a lower CPA than for almost any other social network. They commit their own marketing space and we provide the entertainment and interaction. It also has the added benefit of instantly aligning the product with a local, trusted brand, reducing any wariness that fans might have in interacting with such a new network. Working with local sports media outlets we not only gain access to local fans, but we are also able to use exclusive media content, branch out to local clubs and players, as well as access local sponsors, advertisers and revenue streams.

It’s a relationship which is working in many different markets and gives Oddslife a huge advantage over the competition when moving into new territories, which is something we will be doing on a regular basis as part of our expansion plans


About Rasmus Sojmark

CEO / Founder at Oddslife Rasmus has been using the contacts he has built up over 9 years in the online gaming industry to secure high-profile investment and partners for Oddslife. From 2005 he was Commercial Director at sports betting comparison site BetBrain, before moving to take on the same role at EveryMatrix Ltd in 2009. He picked up Best Sportsbook Innovation 2010, Sports Betting Rising Star 2011 and special commendation for White Label Partner of the Year 2011, all coveted EGR awards. He is also Chairman & Founder of Sports Betting Community, a news, events and consultancy business he started in 2009.

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