Rivalry to bring eccentric ads, unignorable creative to Ontario launch
Sharpr is a weekly newsletter covering the intersection of esports and betting
Hi everyone, Cody here.
In this week’s issue, I get an opportunity to hear from the Rivalry CEO Steven Salz on the Canadian bookmaker’s plans for Ontario’s online sports betting launch next week, and with it, some of the most bizarre promo materials I’ve ever seen. I can only describe it as watching the movie Sausage Party on acid.
Anyway, let’s get into the action.
In this week’s edition of Sharpr…
Rivalry hits the streets ahead of Ontario sports betting launch
Parimatch withdraws from Russia, severs esports partnership
West Virginia’s lawmakers pass esports betting legislation
If this newsletter was forwarded to you, please consider subscribing.
Rivalry to bring eccentric ads, unignorable creative to Ontario sports betting launch
Ontario is gearing up for its online sports betting launch on April 4, and Canadian sports betting and media company Rivalry is ready to hit the ground running–figuratively and literally.
“It's been extremely bizarre and very odd that we've never been able to legally take a bet in the place where we built the entire business and where we’re all from,” Rivalry CEO Steven Salz said in an interview with Covers.
Rivalry launched its betting platform in 2018 with an Isle of Man license and a reimagined take on esports wagering.
The bookmaker courted $66.1M in betting handle in the first 10 months of 2021, according to its most recent financial update.
As to be expected with any sports betting launch, Salz says Ontario is already “inundated” with gambling advertisements. “Ontario feels like New Jersey or New York in the last week or two,” he said.
Soon Rivalry will throw its hat in the ring with a mix of physical and digital advertisements–from eye-drawing car and bus wraps to “thoughtfully bizarre” pre-rolls. Have a look at a screengrab from one of the promotional videos below, and trust me that the rest of the 15-second ad is equally as peculiar.
This will mark Rivalry’s initial foray into more ‘traditional’ forms of advertising, whereas the company has generally been found collaborating directly with video game creators in key markets.
A key piece of Rivalry’s market differentiation has been rooted in its eccentric brand, a purposeful strategy that Salz says bodes well for the company, adding that a third of the bookmaker’s team is creative-based, with more hires–such as integrated producers–on the horizon.
According to Salz, brand equity and engagement is the new formula to success in bookmaking, adding that “bonusing is not a way to salvation in this industry.”
“If you can’t build a brand that people love organically and they only come to you for the latest promotion, your only competitive advantage is your balance sheet, how much promotion you can give people.”
Instead, Salz says the company “obsesses” over creative as a means to drive the entertainment experience and deepen its value proposition to ambassadors and partners.
Also of note with Ontario on the cusp of its sports betting launch is that Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena will host the 2022 League of Legends World Championship semifinals–one of the esports industry’s most esteemed events.
Positive exposure to the sector will be one benefit of the event, Salz says, and that the combination of legalized betting and one of the largest esports events globally will likely drive wagers and overall enthusiasm. The company says it plans to activate around the World Championship semifinals, though the date of the event has not been officially announced.
🦈 Sharpr take: Ontario’s online sports betting launch is a big moment for the industry. The region has a population of more than 14 million people and a number of licensed operators–from FanDuel, theScore, BetMGM, PointsBet, Unibet, and many more–looking to cash in on the region’s profuse sports culture.
Rivalry is among this list, but as we’re seeing with a snapshot of its promotional materials, will aim to bring something unique to the market. It’s a refreshing concept, both from a consumer perspective and for Rivalry itself, which will be participating in more traditional forms of advertising for the first time.
The idea of dedicating a third of a bookmaker’s resources towards creative is an interesting concept. It’s one that has clearly performed well for Rivalry, but more so that the caliber of the art direction has been so successful in courting millennials and Gen Z consumers that fall in the “internet culture” discipline, as Salz puts it.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Ontario sports bettors indeed flock towards high value bonuses or get lured in by Rivalry’s mesmeric promo material. I don’t think anyone reading can doubt the power of internet and meme culture, but perhaps more apparent is the dire trend of extensive bonus offers and lavish marketing spend sapping operators’ balance sheets in a manner clearly unsustainable for most. Things are likely due to change in this industry at some point, and Rivalry might just be stumbling into one way of avoiding this violent cycle.
Parimatch withdraws from Russia, severs esports partnership
Team Spirit is the latest esports organization to feel the effects of the Russian military conflict after Ukrainian bookmaker Parimatch terminated its partnership with the team as part of a broader franchise exit from the country.
As of March 26, Parimatch Tech software is inoperable in Russia, and the franchise will exit the country on a permanent basis.
Russian ambassadors are prohibited from using Parimatch advertising materials, such as logos, official colorways, etc.
The bookmaker has additionally ended an agreement with Betring, which operated Parimatch in the region through a franchise deal.
Parimatch’s departure from the Russian market ends a successful commercial relationship with Team Spirit originating in 2019. The pair has renewed its partnership on several occasions–most recently in January.
Parimatch Tech Co-CEO Maksym Liashko commented on the matter: “The board’s decision to leave the Russian market is unanimous, definitive, and implemented on all levels. From here on out, any presence of the Parimatch brand in Russia will be considered as a violation of the intellectual property.
"This is not a rebranding or restyling. This is a complete shutdown from the franchise.”
🗞 In the news
West Virginia lawmakers have passed House Bill 4826, an amendment to the state’s legal sports betting industry which allows operators to accept wagers on esports events.
BETEGY Founder Alex Kornilov discusses how esports betting companies can leverage content to acquire new customers and more in a Business of Esports podcast.
📈 By the numbers
Half of UK’s gamblers will spend less on gambling (32%) or stop gambling entirely (18%) as the cost-of-living increases in the country, according to a survey from YouGov.
Fortnite’s new game mode is said to have generated 10 million hours watched in its first day, compared to 2 million hours on average each day across the last six months.