We met Jakob Højer Bjørning, Chief Commercial Officer at Rebel Penguin, for an interview about the company and thoughts about the industry.
Hello Jacob, how are you? Are you ready for SiGMA17? How did you find Affiliate Grand Slam?
Yes, I am so ready! I am really looking forward to SiGMA – it is always a great opportunity to meet with our biggest and trusted partners. The Affiliate Grand Slam was a great opportunity to mingle, catch up and get inspired by my fellow affiliate friends. And of course to get the latest industry updates from the speakers.
How did you come to enter the online gaming space and how you started your career?
I started 9 years ago with an email list and a lousy CPA deal with BWIN. (I think it was 40 DKK/€5 haha). Since then I have worked as head of affiliates for Hall of Gaming and is now Chief Commercial Officer for Rebel Penguin, one of the biggest Sports book affiliates in Europe.
Can you tell us a little about how Rebel Penguin is structured?
Rebel Penguin has 5 major traffic channels; SEO, SEM, Permission Marketing (email and SMS), Display and Social Media. We also function as an agency for selected partners. We have build the entire organization up around these channels so everyone is focused on growing their own business area. The sum of all these smaller rivers eventually form the Rio Grande:)
With the recent wave of consolidation, mergers and acquisitions of affiliate sites, are you surprised at all of the changes happening in the industry?
Yes, I was very surprised to see affiliate companies do IPOs. I think it happened very quickly. But it makes sense for two obvious reasons; 1 to have leverage in negotiations towards operators. 2. To combine SEO and technology effects.
A number of your competitors have gone down the real money operator route, and tried their hand at white labels. Have you also done this?
At Hall of Gaming I build a casino on the Every Matrix platform, but we never launched it. At Rebel Penguin we have discussed it many times, but the timing is not right. We simply have too many other exciting opportunities to move on.
Developing unique content is a key pillar of your strategy. What will be your primary focus on this front over the next 6 months?
We have a whole content department with a team of journalists writing content for our SEO sites. Sports book is event driven, so new content is produced every day. The latest niche we have adapted is betting tips and guides.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets ?
Our traffic is worldwide. Our core markets are the Nordics and the UK. We try to focus on regulated and high value markets. It provides the most tangible value for the company and is a guideline from our board of directors.
How do you find Scandic market and competition?
I love it! High internet penetration, high disposable income and first movers on most platforms
How have Google’s algorithm updates affected the way you go about traffic generation, SEO and content at your company?
It affects us every time, but luckily, we rank according to Google’s guidelines, so for us it is actually a benefit, as it eliminates the grey/black hat competition.
Are there any exciting plans in the works that you can tell us about?
My 2017 goals are very widely spread, we are adding non-gambling products to some of our key business areas. We are re-launching most of our SEO sites on a new platform, I am testing a new CRM system for permission marketing. As more and more markets gets regulated, we are also looking to change some deals in order reduce risk in unregulated markets. Expanding our agency role is also a focus.
What is the main thing that you’d like Sigma readers to know about your traffic sources?
I think one of Rebel Penguin’s biggest strengths is that we have many channels, it makes us less vulnerable to changes in Google, regulations and hostile competitors.
What challenges and opportunities has the move to mobile presented you with?
There are pros and cons. One of our biggest challenges has been the “download app” overlay on iOS, because it has no affiliate tracking ID. But generally, we embrace mobility, it goes hand in hand with betting on sports.
What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for your business and the wider affiliate sector in 2017?
Regulations. 2. Tax on bonus in the UK. 3. Lack of events (no Euro or world cup this year) TBH 2017 looks good so far. We have no major challenges or obstacles pending.
What two pieces of advice would you give to any new affiliate starting today?
Diversify your traffic sources, don’t rely on just one market or a few operators. Spread your risk. But focus on one vertical within gambling only, don’t do bingo, casino, poker and sports book at the same time, the segments are very different.
Do you play slots and what would you do with 1 million Euro from jackpot winnings?
I would invest in an iGaming company maybe also buy a nicer car.
Have you attended SiGMA last year? Relive the highlights from our last show and stay tuned for this year’s SiGMA. Watch out for what we’re branding as the ‘iGaming Village’ this year.