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"The next generation of affiliates needs to look beyond gaming" - Joonas Karhu

Joonas Karhu, Chief Business Officer of Bojoko, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam

Joonas Karhu and the rest of the team at Bojoko have created their own dedicated listing on Bojoko on which their members rate and review the experience they receive. They have recently developed a series of “training” apps that can be downloaded from the Apple and Google Play stores. They are strong on digital marketing, PRs, social media, and they invested on a big budget video campaign which has more than 9 million views — follow his story below.

How did your affiliate business take off? And, is iGaming your only vertical?

Bojoko made its debut in the UK market in 2017 and since then we have ridden a tremendous wave of growth. The first year was slow in terms of site traffic and members, but over the last four years both have taken off with more than 34,000 people visiting Bojoko each month and more than 30,000 registered members.

We have recently expanded into new markets including Finland, Canada, New Zealand, and the USA in New Jersey, and have also launched our first sportsbook affiliate pages in Finland.

We have been able to drive this growth by building out the best team in the business and focusing on key areas such as technology, development, design, UX, and content. We have also prioritised safe gaming and responsible gambling, which has been key to sustaining the growth we have achieved.

Tell us a bit more about your business model, concept, and culture. Tell us also a bit more about your mission.

With Bojoko we wanted to create the first globally recognised online gambling affiliate brand. We developed a unique concept based on Airbnb and Trip Advisor where online casinos and game developers are allowed to create their own dedicated listing on Bojoko and our members then rate and review the experience they receive.

This provides our members with community-generated feedback on casinos; we also have a team of independent testers who play at all the brands on our site and provide their expert feedback, creating a “double layer” of accountability.

Ultimately, our goal is to help players browse and choose online casinos based on their preferences, and to do that we have developed a series of powerful tools that players can use to filter the 300+ casino brands listed on Bojoko to create a list that matches their preferences. We believe this will help bring online gambling into the mainstream.

What sets you apart from other affiliates, what makes you unique, and what incremental value will you provide?

Our entire approach is what sets us aside. Not only in terms of our innovative concept but in how we are building Bojoko into a globally recognised brand. This has seen us undertake broad scale marketing activity instead of just relying on SEO traffic to engage players. This includes digital marketing, PR, and social media, but last year we took this to the next level with a big budget video campaign.

Four separate agencies worked on the video ad – The National Anthem – which today has had more than 9 million views in total. The ad has had a huge positive impact on brand awareness and site traffic, too.

No other online gambling affiliate is brand building in the same way that we are, and it is having a positive impact on Bojoko but also on the wider industry.

Bojoko-screenshot

 

What importance do you give to responsible gaming?

It is hugely important to us and we believe we set the standard for others to follow when it comes to safe gaming. This is because we go beyond the standard disclaimers and links to gambling addiction charities and actually do things that make a difference. This includes partnering with gambling block software provider, Gamban, to give our members free access to the service.

We also work with a gambling law expert who carries out an annual audit of Bojoko and the marketing activity we have undertaken to ensure we are being responsible and are protecting players as much as possible. Gambling is a form of entertainment, and we want our site visitors, members, and players to be happy and healthy when playing at the brands listed on Bojoko.

Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority and why? Do you see any potential in the emerging markets?

Since we are building Bojoko into a global brand, all markets are significant to us. The challenge, of course, is finding the right talent to run the business in each market and that takes time. That is why we take a considered approach to each market and only enter when we have the team in place to ensure that we do so successfully.

That being said, we do believe the US will become the largest legal online gambling market in the world and to that end we are dedicating significant resources to establishing ourselves there.

Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?

Gambling affiliation is one of the most competitive industries to work in so to succeed you need to build a team of the brightest minds and creative talents in the sector. They also need to have a broad skill-set, from design to development as well as management, finance, content, SEO, and more. The entire team also needs to be on top of its game, which requires continuous learning and development.

How does technology play a part in your day-to-day? Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2021 and beyond?

We have prioritised technology from day one; our website is bespoke and has been built from the ground-up which has enabled us to deliver a superior user experience. This is because we have absolute control over the platform which has allowed us to develop our own tools, features, carry out A/B testing, and much more.

Recently we have taken our approach to technology to the next level by designing and developing a series of “training” applications that can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play store. So far, we have built apps for blackjack and roulette, with more planned.

The idea behind the apps is to generate additional brand awareness and to also give players the chance to practice table games before they sign up and play at one of our recommended casinos. They have proved to be incredibly popular, with more than 1200 downloads in total to date.

How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?

The next generation of affiliates need to look beyond gaming and at a wide range of businesses, sectors, and markets to help steer the experience they offer visitors to their site. Those that do will be able to bring new concepts and ideas to the gambling affiliate space and continue to drive the progress being made by those at the cutting-edge of the industry.

What does it take for an affiliate business to thrive?

You need to start with a clear vision and a concept that brings something new to the market. Then you need to have a clear strategy in place for taking the business from concept to launch and then from launch to continued growth. Of course, this requires an incredible team lead by experienced and ambitious management that can motivate and inspire.

A company culture that ensures all staff feel valued, supported, and are given room to grow is also key – we have only lost two employees over the past four years and none to a rival.

How do you manage relationships with multiple operators?

With more than 300 online casino brands listed on Bojoko, this is quite a challenge. But because we see the relationship as a true partnership between Bojoko and each casino, we dedicated as much time as possible to each operator – this is done between myself and my colleague, Linda Leskinen. With two people working on this full time, we can manage the brands we work with and onboard more.

Have you ever been to SiGMA, SiGMA Europe, Africa, Asia, or Americas – which of these four expo shows would you likely book on your diary for 2021, COVID-19 permitting?

I have attended SiGMA in the past and look forward to attending events once again as soon as the various restrictions have been lifted. Such events are a great way of connecting with existing and new partners, as well as hearing from a wide range of industry insiders and experts. While we have enjoyed virtual events over the past 12 months, nothing beats the real thing.

Tell us a bit about yourself – after all, business is done with people, not just companies! Your hobbies, favourite book, favourite quote, whether you are into gaming yourself, etc.

My main hobbies are playing golf and working out in the gym. Before getting into the industry in a professional capacity I used to play poker. I then joined the gambling monopoly in Finland when I was studying and haven’t looked back since. I do gamble occasionally and mostly on the big PGA golf tournaments.

My favourite books are the Harry Potter series, and my favourite quote is “Sometimes it rains at Disneyland” from Morgan Housel.

Read more about SiGMA Affiliate Grand Slam here.

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iGathering London:

SiGMA Group will hold the next iGathering in London on the 21st of July. The networking event for top-tier execs will take place at Tziganos, a restaurant offering Mediterranean dishes in the heart of Blackheath village. This event presents an ideal opportunity to network and strike connections in a cordial environment where attendees can relax and forge synergies. The guest list is strictly limited to 200 prestigious c-levels, ensuring intimacy and exclusivity, with attendance only secured through invitation. Are you interested in hosting the next iGathering? Get to know more.

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