Last Friday, our VP of Strategy Sarafina Wolde Gabriel chaired the iGB Affiliate panel discussion ‘The African Market – what you need to know about the opportunities’ at the 2018 London Affiliate Conference (LAC). The other panel members were:
- Akin Alabi – CEO, NairaBet
- Mark McGuinness – CMO, BetOlimp South Africa
- Mathew Symmonds – Director, Web Analysis Solutions, a leading Africa-facing affiliate
The session, which was held in London’s ExCeL Exhibition Centre, aimed to showcase the opportunities available for African sportsbooks and affiliates – plus the challenges and how these could be overcome. Here we recap the big talking points.
African Sportsbooks Embracing the Affiliate Channel
The African affiliate channel is growing in importance, affiliate Mathew Symmonds emphasised during the session.
“We’ve been in Africa for three or four years now, but this year the market seems to be booming” said Symmonds. “A lot of companies are coming online, teaming up with Income Access, and building affiliate programmes.”
Established sportsbooks, such as Nigeria’s NairaBet, have also been adding affiliate programmes to their digital marketing mixes over the last couple of years, stimulating the channel’s growth.
Mobile and smart phone penetration is also increasing in Africa, opening traffic opportunities for both brands and the affiliates promoting them. NairaBet exhibited at last year’s Berlin Affiliate Conference as well as this year’s.
During his time in London, NairaBet CEO Akin Alabi noticed a heightening interest in the channel from African brands.
“A lot of African companies who visited our stand at ICE, as well as here [at LAC], said that they want to be here next year and meet affiliates.” said Alabi. “The channel can only grow – my plan is to have a few quality affiliates, and work together. We’re at this conference because we believe in the future of affiliate marketing.”
Because African players don’t have to go through as many verification stages as their European counterparts, retention rates can be a challenge. Symmonds explained how these can be inconsistent, while other contributing factors will be important in improving brand stickiness.
“Although retention rates are getting better, we might only see the lifetime of players last around a month,” Symmonds told the audience. “With some operators, however, we see much better rates.” Symmonds added, “CRM is non-existent with some companies, but developing in others. When brands improve this aspect of their strategy, they’ll see their player lifetime values go up.”
According to the panel, another obstacle is that players prefer to deposit through offline methods. As Alabi pointed out, “Nigerians love to see something physical, and to feel like they’re coming somewhere to get you.”
Alabi added, “Our players can go and fund their online accounts in shops across the country. They don’t want international brands, where they have to verify their home address and other details. To maximise the market, you really need to be a local company.”
How African Sportsbooks are Reaching More Players
Because the African sports-betting industry is currently less developed than it is in Europe, simpler marketing methods are often still quite effective for attracting and retaining players. Banner advertising, PPC and SEO as well as email marketing are widely used, while BetOlimp South Africa’s Mark McGuinness explained how text messaging plays a key role in the brand’s retention strategy.
“A lot of our players don’t have email addresses, but do have a mobile phone,” said McGuinness. “We find SMS to be a huge trigger for increasing betting activity. It’s very good for pre-match and live-betting promotions, as well as cross-selling.”
Symmonds, meanwhile, said that it’s not uncommon for players to bet on big accumulators in an attempt to win life-changing sums of money.
Alabi mentioned that many players in Nigeria share betting slip codes with one another, and NairaBET has further enabled this by adding automatically-populated betting slips their portfolio.
Alabi said, “We now have a feature where you can generate a code, and share your bet with others. Whenever affiliates email me, saying that players keep asking for codes, I tell them to give the players codes – for me, it’s a no-brainer.”
As African economies develop and consumers’ disposable income rises further, the continent’s sports-betting market will continue to expand. Against this backdrop and amidst growing internet and mobile penetration, the affiliate channel will become an increasingly important acquisition channel for local operators.
Sportsbooks such as NairaBet already have effective affiliate programmes in place. Meanwhile, an increasing contingent of African brands at LAC 2018 and BAC last autumn suggests that more are already following suit.
Player lifetime values also likely to get better as companies improve their CRM strategies, and brands will also benefit from higher player volumes to target. As a result, new African brands will continue to emerge, while the value of the affiliate channel will grow as international affiliate interest in the market grows and as local bloggers transform into affiliates to monetise their traffic.