After a year, with all the talk about big ticket advertising in the iGaming sphere – TV ad spends, big billboards, team sponsorships – Ontario online casino operators are realizing real success is more a long-term play.
On the marketing side, the differentiator in a hyper-competitive marketplace will be by digging down into the deep grass, with experiential, authentic marketing that engages sports fans where they are.
This weekend, there’s a case study in that.
A Canadian operator, theScore Bet Ontario Sportsbook, is hosting a four-day jersey swap at Stackt Market, a short walk to Rogers Centre off Bathurst Street.
Through Sunday, fans going to the market can exchange any professional sports jersey for a brand new 2023 Blue Jays jersey. The event benefits Jays Care Foundation with participants asked to make a minimum $15 donation to receive a new jersey.
Popular Jersey Exchange Program
Jumping on the popularity of the Blue Jays in this market, both among fans in general and at Ontario sports betting companies, there was a long line out the door for the exchange program on Thursday.
And with great weather in the forecast for the weekend, theScore senior vice president of content and marketing Aubrey Levy is expecting even better days. It’s part of a series of pop-up activations the company has been doing – 10X Tailgate Tour from football season, branded food trucks for the Jays playoffs last year were other examples. The company has more in the pipeline, Levy adds.
Levy spoke to Ontario Bets about the event at Stackt Market this weekend and his company’s marketing strategy overall. Answers were lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Last year, right after Ontario sports wagering and iGaming launched in the province, theScore Bet reached a 10-year deal with the Jays to be an official gaming partner.
Program Exceeding Expectations
Q: What can you tell us about the jersey swap activation?
A: It exceeded expectations for me yesterday. I remember talking with our activations team and asking “Okay, so when do we think we’ll sell out of jerseys? What do we think the line will look like?” and we pushed this exclusively through our own channels, just through our channels and our marketing.
We knew it was a compelling activation. We’re providing really good value, there’s a really good charitable component to it, but you never know, we’ve never done this before. So okay, when are we going to sell out? What do you think? We all felt pretty good about it, but when the guys sent me a video of the line two hours in, before I had a chance to leave the office to check it out, and I saw how deep it was, my first question was, ‘Do we have enough popcorn and water to give everyone in line?’ (and the answer was) ‘Yeah, we were good, but we’re going to have to cut it off.’
I was thrilled with how it went. It also helped that it was a beautiful day out, so people didn't mind standing outside a little longer, but it was awesome.
It was kind of a perfect confluence, I think, of activation and luck with weather, and the right location with Stackt that brought it together and surpassed my expectations. So I was thrilled with how it went Day 1, and I'm excited to see Day 2 when I get out there this afternoon.
And then how it fits in, not to overuse a buzzword, but this ties into our authentic connection, authentic activations to your point. The lens through which we think about things, from a marketing perspective, is how do we do the job to better service our fans, right? Our overarching marketing campaign that we were running all through last year was to help users get into Bet Mode, at the core of that is, ‘What are we doing to make your life as a sports fan better, closer to the action, more engaging, more fun?’
When we were brainstorming things that we could do to celebrate the Jays’ start of the season with the home opener, given our (Ontario sportsbook apps) partnership with the Jays.
When this idea kind of surfaced, it seemed like it really scratched the itch of helping celebrate that moment, leveraging our strengths, our connection to the city, our connection to the Jays, leveraging our talent we had. Brad Parker, who is one of our personalities on the ground, engaging with the crowd and supporting the fandom and a charitable contribution, there's countless boxes that this checked off for us.
It felt like it was a unique way to help bring our fans closer into the action and into our partnership in a way that creates a lot of value for them. So, it's interesting because each one of our experiences is a bit unique in their own right.
But if you kind of look at the lens through which they come to life for the partnership or the opportunity, they all kind of satisfy that objective of what are we doing to make you as a fan have a better experience, get closer into the game, amplify your fandom, rather than just how am I getting more betting behavior out of you?
Important To Excite New Customers
Q: How does this play into your short-term and long-term strategy?
A: How I view it is, if any one of these is a user’s first touch with us and the first time they're experiencing our brand, are we doing the job to wow them and excite them and to create the right brand impression?
Which also then satisfies the objective for users who know our brand and love our brand, are we continually reinforcing that at every turn. … It's not who's the biggest athlete or the biggest name or buying the most media. It's how do we authentically convey a message that ties back to the core brand?
So it's just a differentiation of channel, is the way we look at it. But for these activations and experiences, I think what it speaks to is, obviously, commitment to being here and investing here over a long period of time. But it's also kind of a view of, if you're going to do this well, and hopefully get the response you're looking for, you have to be a little more thoughtful about how you approach it.
And that means understanding the market – understanding, in this case, our hometown and understanding how to get the best out of our partnerships.
A Jays partnership, it's not an original thing to do. Countless sportsbooks are partnered with sports teams. The same with our partnership with Golf Canada and the Canadian Open. There's a lot of golf partnerships. How you bring it to life and try to find that right balance of what your brand is, what the partnership team can bring to you, or help you do, and then the confluence of the city, and what the activation actually is. It is an investment in a commitment to a long-term play, without question.
But each experience, in my mind, still needs to satisfy a very short-term objective, which is, if you're touching us for the first time here, did we deliver you an amazing brand experience that will build affinity, build loyalty and get you to want to come into our brand universe?
Continuing Relationship With Blue Jays
Q: What about the excitement in working with the Jays?
A: We're very excited and yes, we're going to continue to lean in and do this. The Jays, part of what made the deal appealing with them, it's a lot of things. But the Jays are a national team, they're the only MLB team that has that footprint. So they really do claim (the right to be) Canada's team.
It's also from a volume of game perspective, a season perspective, (that) provides a lot of opportunity to engage. And lastly, we did our deal exclusively with them, which was important for us, which means we get full mind share, full share of voice within our category. So I don't have to worry about carving up assets.
We get to sit there with the Jays and have really meaningful conversations about how we bring this to life and not worry about what are they carving up and not giving to us.
We did a food truck with the Jays going into the playoffs last season. You will see other stuff coming out from us with the Jays over the course of the season, and not just the Jays. We have the Canadian Open in a month and a half, coming up quick. I was thrilled with our Skyline Seats activation and how popular it was. It just set the bar for what we're going to do this year with the Canadian Open.
But it is an objective. If we're going to do a partnership, then we're going to go deep with that partnership and bring it to life and not just slap our logo on a back wall.
Experience, media, partnerships – none of these are new initiatives. The question is, how are you approaching it and trying to bring it to life in a way that actually is meaningful for your brand and creates something unique? We can create something unique. We could have stood out there and just got a bunch of street teams, handed out flyers, given away T-shirts, it's not impactful.
I think there's been such a rush in the (Ontario casino apps) industry just to ‘spend, spend, spend, market, market, market,’ that some of the thoughtfulness has been lost. Not that we're geniuses, but when we pick our spots and try to go meaningfully deep, it gives us the opportunity to take a step back and say: If we're going to do it, how do we do it in a way that actually makes an impact?
With the Jays, we have to make an impact and do it thoughtfully. So, that's what we're trying to do.