Today, HPL Digital Sport (HPLDS), a specialty group within Hot Paper Lantern, that helps sports betting, fantasy sports and sports technology companies create greater brand relevance, released its new study “2021 State of the Sports Betting Industry – Executive Perceptions vs. User Realities.” Two separate surveys were conducted to create the study: the first, developed in partnership with SBC Americas, is a first-of-its-kind report measuring the perceptions and attitudes of nearly 200 sports betting executives; a second survey, facilitated by YouGov, on behalf of HPLDS, questioned more than 800 American sports bettors, asking their opinions on how to best engage with them and retain their business, future betting capabilities needs and their betting habits and preferences.
The data found that sports betting executives and sports bettors were not aligned on what is most important in acquiring and retaining users. Executives resoundingly said that having a superior product (55%) was the key to gaining users more than other elements like having strong customer service (13%), content (12%) or brand (11%). Bettors countered that sentiment, indicating that brand reputation and trust (47%) among betting sites/platforms was the most important factor in engaging them and retaining their attention.
“The sports betting market in the US is extremely competitive. Our data found that the average sports bettor limits their use to only two to three sports betting platforms. So, it’s clearly important for these platforms to better be in tune with their audiences to create greater appeal to both acquire and retain their business,” said Ed Moed, CEO of HPLDS. “Having a compelling, user-friendly product will always be important to build a larger share of this growing sports betting audience. But, it feels like this could be happening at the expense of investing in their brands. The data doesn’t lie. This is a real problem with any strategy that doesn’t include figuring out ways to create greater brand relevance within this hotly competitive space.”
Apart from the divide on the topic of product vs. brand, the study uncovered compelling insights on the future capabilities in sports betting, how different demographics view the importance of certain sports betting elements, how women bettors as an audience are growing and are being overlooked and the constant presence of the illegal sports betting markets.
Future capabilities of sports betting
Three-fourths (75%) of executives stated that they are planning to launch new products, innovations, technology or gameplay in 2021. Technology providers, content producers and data providers are all signaling a major push towards in-play betting and in-stadium/arena lounges.
Bettors indicated that while they are excited about elevated betting experiences like in-play betting, when asked about future sports betting capabilities, having more social betting experiences rose to the forefront. Social betting (31%) and retail betting (31%) outpaced more popular media talking points like in-play betting (26%), loyalty programs (25%) and in-stadium/arena betting (24%).
Creating differentiation by targeting specific demographic preferences
When asking bettors about their overall experience and ranking the importance of certain sports betting elements leading them to frequently using a betting site or app, users provided a roadmap for how companies should think about targeting them.
General Public Retention Roadmap
- Brand reputation/trust – 47%
- High level product/experience – 45%
- Ease of financial transactions – 43%
- Better odds and promotions – 38%
- Expert content – 35%
- Referred by friends or family – 34%
- Social media content that drives me to engage with the brand – 33%
- I like their advertisements/celebrity endorsements – 30%
Breaking down that road map by age and gender it becomes clear that not all bettors find the same elements important.
Gen Z, for instance, doesn’t view brand as important as other groups. While every other demographic listed brand reputation/trust (Millennials – 46%; Gen X – 53%; Boomers – 56%) as its most important retention factor. Conversely, Gen Z views referrals by family or friends (42%) as more important than brand (39%).
The social experience of sports betting for Gen Z and Millennials is heightened even more when looking at how they view social media content compared to the Gen X and Boomer markets. Both Gen Z and Millennials (38%) noted social media that drives them to engage with the brand as a leading retention factor. Gen X (22%) and Boomers (14%) however don’t see the value in social media and listed it at the bottom of their priorities.
Boomers and Gen X audiences follow traditional thinking surrounding sports betting, which is more functional and practical than the social experience prioritized by Gen Z and Millennials. Both Boomers (50%) and Gen X (47%) feel that odds and promotions are an important part of their experience, while odds seem to be deprioritized by Millennials (38%) and Gen Z (28%).
“The potential for in-play betting in the American market is incredible,” said Moed. “While bettors are excited about in-play betting, the data shows that bettors are looking for an immersive social betting experience including retail betting and betting with friends and family. The importance of social interaction, content and sharing capabilities and social betting, should not be downplayed or overlooked.”
Women bettors – An underserved market
While most sports betting messaging is general or leaning male, women bettors are gaining ground as a significant segment of the market. The study found that one-in-three (33%) bettors are women. That is an increase of 5-points from HPLDS’ State of the New Sports Bettor study released in May 2020. When it comes to the most active bettors, ones that make daily bets, women (17%) are evenly split with men (18%).
The data also shows that women bettors show many similarities with male bettors compared to the importance of brand, product, and ease of financial transactions. But women deviate their priorities from men when it comes to the importance of social components in sports betting. Women bettors prioritize friends and family referrals (41% women vs. 31% men) and the use of engaging social media content (38% women vs. 30% men) to keep them interested in frequenting a particular betting site or app.
“The industry can’t continue to afford overlooking the growing number of women bettors in the market,” said Moed. “The audience is clearly telling us that they need to be able to trust the platforms they use. And, that trust often comes from referrals and those who are credible through social media. I don’t know if the typical promo advertising that is prevalent will work with this pickier audience. Instead, they will believe brands that are deemed as credible and recommended by many who matter.”
The Continued Prominence of the Black and Gray Market
Bettors stated that betting through illegal markets is still a prominent channel in 2021. More than a third of bettors are using illegal channels to place a bet (20% of bettors use offshore sportsbooks and 17% use a bookie).
“We have a long way to go when more than one-third of our sample is using illegal or off-shore resources to bet,” said Moed. “I think some of this is quite normal and as the industry continues to build momentum and experience enormous growth, bettors will quite naturally turn to platforms that are legal here in the U.S. But, even if this percentage is cut in half, it means that there is still a large part of the betting population who needs to be communicated to, educated and turned towards this marketplace.”
About HPL Digital Sport
Hot Paper Lantern Digital Sport is a specialty group within Hot Paper Lantern (HPL) that works with sports betting, fantasy and sports technology brands to build greater brand relevance and acquire new audiences. The group’s unique value proposition is how it leverages years of deep expertise in this category with the way it integrates specific services such as: strategic branding, customer research/analytics, performance marketing, public relations and social media strategy, experiential and high level creative design to generate results.