Affiliate advertising is popular across esports sectors due to the industry’s decentralised nature, with the majority of gaming fans getting news and information through independent content creators or small news outlets. Clearly there’s a window of opportunity for both betting operators and affiliates here.
By Kenneth Williams
The innovation-driven market affects the way bookies advertise their services. Betting operators often partner with creators and personalities to promote their sportsbooks, a technique known as affiliate marketing. While simple on its surface, various factors, including legality and transparency, can impact affiliate marketing on a case-by-case basis.
We asked Assaf Dor, CEO and founder of Cellxpert, to tell us more about affiliate marketing in esports. Cellxpert is the premier partner management firm in esports gambling and Assaf has led the company for 15 years, making him one of the world’s most experienced affiliate marketing experts. Here are his thoughts on affiliate tracking, industry best practices and the evolving legality of esports betting.
How can the affiliate experience improve through tracking and reporting?
Affiliates have become more and more professional over the years. They’re not just bedroom teenagers; they’re established media marketing companies. Basically, there are professionals in each field, such as content creators and specialist campaign managers that know how to optimise on performance for specific verticals such as esports. As more time passes, we’ll see more and more professional businesses operate as affiliates and work on a performance-based model. We’re seeing this across multiple industries. It’s a very clear process: there’s an externalisation of the marketing profession and many people that specialise in a certain area are becoming affiliates and selling performance to the rest of the market.
In order to facilitate working with professionals, you have to set up professional tools. A professional affiliate will not engage with an operation that allows sub-par reporting. That means they will require a deeper postback layer, all kinds of APIs to be able to integrate with their own tracking layers. Large affiliates are monitoring traffic from dozens, sometimes hundreds, of operators. This layer is crucial for them. At Cellxpert we facilitate that, both in terms of postback functionality which is an extremely handled model in our product, and in extensive APIs.
Another very important aspect is real-time data. We’re at the age where a lot of aspects about optimisation are made in real-time, especially if people are driving high-volume media campaigns. Having a long interval can have a severe impact on returns. We think that having real-time tracking and monitoring both media properties and the players’ activities in real-time is essentially a competitive advantage for the operator. Fundamentally, an esports operator starting these days should gear up with real-time, or they will find themselves with a problem in a couple of years when the market standardises to that. This is something that we advocate and support at Cellxpert as a best market practice.
How can the affiliate experience improve through compliance?
Many of the commercial areas of esports operators and gaming are still around esports betting. Not all; some esports operators work under affiliate models for in-game purchases, item purchases, coin purchases and others, but this is the minority in terms of affiliate marketing. Most of the operations these days revolve around esports betting. Sometimes it’s peer-to-peer betting and sometimes it’s betting on the outcome of professional players. These industries are heavily regulated and even in uncertain grey areas of jurisdictions. We expect those to be governed by the same restrictive regulatory layers that all sports betting is bound by. This is almost always a jurisdiction-based model, so if you operate a global website, you will have different policies that need to be applied to players from different countries. We facilitate that and allow you to create custom policies that apply to traffic from different geos (areas).
That means that you are able to meet these regulatory requirements, where if you don’t meet them, you are subject to liability, very heavy fines or even the cancellation of your licence. It’s for serious operators that are focusing on regulatory compliance. It’s a must to implement a layer that will make sure that affiliates that are advertising on their behalf are doing that in a way that meets the compliance layer. Some of the guards are content monitoring, for instance, not to address younger audiences or not to associate that with guaranteed profits. There are all kinds of layers that need to be governed.
In the United States, each state requires both the operator and the technology provider to acquire a licence. This is essentially another layer that needs to be enforced and it affects the way you can advertise and operate. If you have a player from one state transfer to another state, sometimes you need to restrict the app in order to make sure that they can’t place bets when they’re not in a regulated territory. The regulatory landscape in the United States is currently still in its formative stage. It’s extremely complicated right now, but to be able to navigate that professionally you have to put these restrictions in place in order to avoid liability or licensing issues that could be extremely costly.
How can the affiliate experience improve through transparency?
An affiliate essentially risks their resources, money or assets in order to advertise an operator. In order to facilitate a long-term strategy, the more transparent an operator is with their affiliate, the stronger the partnership will be. From our experience, the operators that choose to be the most transparent with their affiliates are the ones that grow the fastest and have the most effective relationships. The more data affiliates have, the more the commission models can work in a win-win way for both sides. The more they understand how the operators make their living and when they’re making profit and not making profit, the easier it is to negotiate in a way that both interests are aligned. We think this is another fundamental aspect, promoting trust through transparency. That’s another very important component of how our platform is structured, in terms of facilitating as much transparency as possible between the affiliates and operators.