Today we continue the recap of our recent iGB Affiliate article on the past, present and future of iGaming affiliate marketing. Part one of the piece, which was published here, reflected on the channel’s evolution to date, while in the second and final part, we look at where affiliate marketing could head next – and how affiliates can adapt to these changes.  

Finding Niches & Diversifying

The current wave of affiliate M&A begs a question: can smaller and mid-tier affiliates succeed today? The old saying of ‘adapt or perish’ are words affiliates should live by in 2017 and beyond.

Today’s forward-thinking affiliates will look at their sites less as a promotional space and more as a digital product. As with any product, affiliate businesses need a unique selling point (USP) fulfilling a particular market need that isn’t currently being met. As an example, the launch of Oddschecker in 1999 bridged a gap in the market by providing players with a tool to quickly compare bookmakers’ odds on multiple sporting events. It fulfilled a distinct need.

With a USP that’s genuinely unique, affiliates will gain a first-mover advantage over subsequent imitators. Savvy affiliates will analyse new verticals, products, technology and emerging markets to discover the next big thing. Extensive market research, joining relevant networks and discussion groups, and following forums closely can all help identify latest trends and new business opportunities.

eSports remains relatively unchartered territory for affiliates. Wagering on contests involving games like Dota 2 and League of Legends is projected to reach $11.5 billion by 2020, according to Eilers Research. eSports’ focus on events and an expanding portfolio of games supports the development of content-rich sites and allows affiliates to target wider gaming keywords and traffic.

DFS is another alternative vertical whose core focus on US sports enables affiliates to adopt broad traffic-driving strategies across multiple channels – from organic and paid search to social media and their sites themselves. As with eSports, the vertical is growing: in August 2016, FanDuel expanded into the UK market and, more broadly, DFS entry fees are expected to top $5.3 billion globally by 2020, according to Juniper Research.

Another vertical for affiliates to explore is promoting forex, binary options and other financial trading brands. The retail forex trading market alone averaged $15.5 billion in daily turnover globally in 2016, according to the Bank for International Settlements. Aside from the financial trading market’s strength, the vertical is also content rich for affiliates, with forex and binary options traders as hungry for analysis on central bank announcements and economic indicators as DFS players are for NFL game previews.

Ideally, affiliates will be exploring multiple alternative verticals – and a range of emerging markets as well. Following UIGEA, US iGaming has gradually re-emerged, with New Jersey regulating online poker and casino and Nevada permitting poker. The Garden State in particular offers affiliates an important foothold in the US amidst ongoing legislative efforts in Pennsylvania, California and New York. New Jersey’s iGaming market continues to expand, with the state regulator reporting record revenue of $21.7 million for March.

Affiliates can also explore the growing market for online sports-betting in sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya and Nigeria are currently leading this expansion and increasingly leveraging the affiliate channel. While an ecosystem of local football bloggers exists, the majority are hobbyists, providing an entry space for international marketing partners.

As well as exploring opportunities at a market level, affiliates will also diversify their marketing strategies. The fledgling industry’s fundamental focus on SEO remains important, though affiliates have since diversified to leverage paid search, social media, mobile, video and, more recently, programmatic media buying using demand-side platforms. A degree of fragmentation has occurred, so that there are today cohorts of affiliates without sites who monetise traffic solely through social media.

A diverse marketing strategy is a great asset. Affiliates should focus on using the full spectrum of digital channels in concert, with ads balanced by non-promotional, value-added content. For example, an affiliate promoting the growing niche of political betting could quickly draft an on-site analysis piece on a breaking news announcement. Published beside a banner for a political betting brand, the content would then be shared in organic Facebook and Twitter posts followed by Facebook ads, promoted Tweets and AdWords ads, all accompanied by the affiliate’s Facebook Live video commentary.

An integrated marketing strategy involving the coordination of multiple channels will place affiliates in the best position to meet iGaming’s diversified future. While the affiliate space remains competitive, emerging verticals and markets will provide savvy affiliates with their own business niche. These affiliates will stand the test of time – just like the industry itself.

Now that you’ve read our full iGB Affiliate article piece, please share your thoughts. Have we missed anything on affiliate marketing’s evolution in the gaming space? And do you agree with our advice for affiliates on maximising their opportunities in 2017 and beyond? Please let us know in the comments section below.