Sponsorship, Soccer, Europe

From Conifa to Watford… Sportsbet.io’s sponsorship manifesto

Timothy John Heath, founder and chief executive of Coingaming Group, on Premier League partnerships, being outsiders and the long-term outlook for crypto brands.

by Tom Bassam
From Conifa to Watford… Sportsbet.io’s sponsorship manifesto

Sportsbet.io is not wasting any time in its attempt to break into the UK market. The cryptocurrency-based sports betting platform announced a partnership with top-flight English soccer club Watford before even launching its product.

The deal, reported to be worth UK£20 million (US$25 million) over its three-year course, marks a step up from Sportsbet.io’s only previous commercial contract in sports: serving as the title partner for the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (Conifa) 2019 European Football Cup.

Going from sponsoring a soccer tournament for non-Fifa affiliated associations hosted by a breakaway state in the Azerbaijani South Caucasus to a Premier League club that reached the FA Cup final last season shows ambition, to say the least.

SportsPro put some questions to Timothy John Heath (pictured right), founder and chief executive of Coingaming Group, the owners of Sportsbet.io, to find out more about its partnership strategy.

Where does Sportsbet.io fall within sports betting and cryptocurrency markets?

Sportsbet.io occupies a rather unique position within the market. Since 2016, we’ve been working to establish ourselves as the leading cryptocurrency sportsbook, but we have no intention of resting there.

It’s interesting, because as everyone looks to move towards or explore crypto, we’re broadening our perspective by welcoming traditional currency players, too. We’re always focused on gaming being accessible and we understand that being solely crypto still puts up a barrier for some and we don’t want there be any blockers when it comes to celebrating sport and using our leading platform.

Who is a Sportsbet.io user?

While our earlier users primarily came from the cryptocurrency community – and this still makes up the core of our customers – partnerships with the likes of Watford are changing the profile of our user base.

Now, we’re seeing a lot of recreational sports fans who simply want to place a bet on their favourite team without having to wait a lifetime for the page to load or having to exchange out of their local currency to their favourite site’s currency.

Was there a risk of announcing the deal with Watford before the platform is launched in the UK?

Keeping the news secret was the hardest thing for everyone not just at Sportsbet.io but for the whole of the Coingaming Group.

We didn’t consider this a major risk - the UK platform was launched a couple of days after the announcement. Actually with the excitement around the fixtures being released only the day before, it felt like the right moment, so we took the risk and we were rewarded with great engagement online and valuable feedback from fans on how we can make this partnership the best yet.

It’s also important to add that the scope and appeal of both Watford and the Premier League means this partnership has very much a global reach, rather than solely a UK specific activity.


How will Sportsbet.io be activating its Watford sponsorship?

To kick off our three years as Watford’s main club partner we launched our ‘Know No Borders’ campaign, which looks to share the message that no matter what your country, sport, team or currency, you will Know No Borders to the action at Sportsbet.io. Watford fans were also eager to see another glimpse of the kit which was leaked back in April but yet to be released and confirmed officially by Watford. Given that our motto is fun, fast and fair, you can expect a few nice surprises closer to the start of the season and throughout.

What kind of return on investment (ROI) is Coingaming expecting on the Watford partnership?

A front-of-shirt sponsorship such as this is always going to be hard to measure in ROI terms - it’s just not that simple as there’s so many moving parts that contribute value to the overall sponsorship. In many senses, it’s more of a branding exercise than one that can be directly measured in the way of, say, PPC marketing.

At Coingaming, we also incorporate measurements such as return on objectives (ROO) to derive the value of the investment. Sponsorships often carry with them a long-term, slow burning effect which helps build the brand voice, credibility and recognition, especially in traditionally hard to reach markets - we also see the tremendous value in this.

It is safe to say though, that we expect this partnership to have a transformative effect on the scale of Sportsbet.io simply due to the stage Watford plays on, and our willingness to roll our sleeves up and activate.

This is the first Premier League club to do a front-of-shirt sponsorship with a cryptocurrency brand. Will this be an increasing trend?

It’s hard to say whether cryptocurrency betting brands will follow in our path - it’s likely of course. What’s somewhat easier to predict is that we’ll surely be seeing more disruptive, unconventional brands entering into partnerships historically occupied by more traditional brands. Though of course there’s still some way to come with crypto education and adoption, institutional investment, product development and regulatory framework goes a long way to bringing in more into the mainstream. When you see the likes of Facebook announcing major cryptocurrency projects, it is clear this technology is here to stay.

What is Sportsbet.io’s approach to partnerships and marketing?

There needs to be a connection between us and the partner, and the deal has to make sense beyond the commercial aspect. To put it simply, we will never be a nameless, faceless sportsbook which plasters its logo across everything and anything it can. We want to be present and putting our customers at the centre of the action.

For instance, we were recently the headline sponsor of the 2019 Conifa European Football Cup. Their tournaments give players from unrepresented nations, territories and regions the opportunity to compete on the world stage.

It is an innovative, fun and disruptive approach to football that puts players and fans ahead of everything else. When we heard there was an opportunity to sponsor the event we had no doubt that it matched what we are trying to achieve at Sportsbet.io, and - after seeing our output - what we both achieved from the event, I would say our sponsorship method is a successful one.

What were some of the lessons for Sportsbet.io from the Conifa partnership?

The partnership experience itself was brilliant as everyone was passionate about the tournament being a success for all parties involved. This is probably one of the biggest lessons we took away; finding those passionate about your vision is key if you want to do more than just lend your name to a team or event.

From the agencies who helped us activate, to the core Conifa team and the football associations, everyone not only loved football but could see how the partnership complimented each other. Conifa and Sportsbet.io are both considered outsiders in our respective industries and we’re both trying to break down borders [to] make football, sports as a whole and entertainment, accessible for all. Once we were all singing off the same hymn sheet, which naturally took a concerted effort to get to know each other past a simple donor or client relationship, we were able to amplify the fascinating footballing stories, have fun and defy the odds together.