Harry von Behr, Managing Director at Spotlight Sports Group, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Having taken off in 2010, Spotlight Sports Group's affiliate business was a perfect fit for Harry von Behr to enter the mix - follow his story below.
How did your affiliate business take off? And, is iGaming your only vertical?
Spotlight Sports Group has been operating in the sports betting space for close to 35 years. The affiliate arm of our business took off around 2010 when the Racing Post app was launched. Today the business operates a number of significant websites and apps, including RacingPost.com, FreeSuperTips.com, Pickswise.com and myracing.com. Sports betting is our only vertical from an affiliate perspective. However, we have a strong in-house digital marketing and translations agency business - ICS-digital and ICS-translate - that works with customers across many verticals, including iGaming, financial services, ecommerce and travel.
How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the Gaming space?
Personally, I got into the affiliate space when I joined Spotlight Sports Group (Racing Post as it was known then) at the start of 2018. Prior to that I worked as an M&A consultant for private equity clients. I’d always been interested in the sports and betting space, so being able to work in the industry was exciting.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
Affiliates need to understand their niche and focus hard on it. It’s very tough trying to be too many things for too many people. The best affiliates are those that understand what their customers want, and keep providing it.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
We focus on high-quality content, utilising data and statistics where possible. We’ve proven time and again that our content drives both sign-ups and turnover, which makes us an attractive partner for operators. That’s why we’ve also been able to build a significant B2B business using the same content expertise.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or, with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
We are currently owned by a UK Private Equity firm (Exponent Private Equity). They’ve been very supportive owners, and have encouraged us to carry out our own M&A.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
Technology is critical to everything we do as a business. From an affiliate perspective, we use it to grow our audience, build great products to keep customers engaged and automate the content that we create. I don’t think you can operate a successful business in the affiliate space without technology playing a key role.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority in 2020, and why?
The US market remains a priority for us as a business, both on the affiliate and B2B side. We’re also exploring opportunities in Latin America. We only operate in regulated markets, therefore we keep a very close eye on regulatory movements - these, combined with the size of the market opportunity, inform our prioritisation.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
You can’t do everything yourself. The most important thing you can do to build a business is get great people involved.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
Jose Mourinho being appointed as the Spurs manager.
What are your predictions for the future of the sector?
It may go without saying, but increasing regulation for the sector seems inevitable. Therefore, it's important that affiliates have a seat at the table and a voice, otherwise there is a risk that those who do not fully understand the sector make the decisions. Also, a lot of businesses are going to pour money into the US sports betting market - some will do well, but others will lose a lot.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
They are great for both securing new business and maintaining existing relationships. As someone who is relatively new to the industry, I’ve found them immensely helpful to understand who does what, and to make new connections. They’ve obviously changed a lot over the last few months, but even the virtual conferences have proved useful to meet new people and generate new ideas.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
I haven’t yet, unfortunately. However, our business is always represented strongly at SiGMA Malta, on both the Spotlight Sports Group side as well as ICS-digital and ICS-translate.
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies!
Having lived across Asia for much of my early life - Malaysia, Singapore, India and the Philippines - I’m now settled in North London where I live with my wife. I’m a long-suffering Spurs fan, but live a stone’s throw away from Arsenal’s stadium.
What’s on your must-read list right now?
I’ve just started reading The Everything Store by Brad Stone, about Amazon and Jeff Bezos. It’s incredible what he’s built from the ground up.