theScore skyline seats, Canadian Open (theScore)
theScore’s sponsorship of the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open earlier this month included a crane that lifted spectators 100 feet above the first and 18th holes. theScore’s skyline seats received coverage from sports and mainstream news outlets.
“It wasn’t just golf media,” theScore Senior Vice President of Marketing and Content Aubrey Levy said. “It was not just industry media or Canadian media. This got picked up by ESPN, by CNN. I mean, this was all over the place.”
— theScore (@theScore) June 8, 2022
Sportsbooks have struggled to create meaningful advertisements without using bonuses as a crutch. According to a PayNearMe survey, 48% of American bettors were initially attracted to a sportsbook because of its welcome bonus. It’s no wonder that Ontario, which prohibits sportsbooks from advertising welcome bonuses, poses a challenge to American sportsbooks.
There’s a ray of hope for new Ontario gambling apps, though. In the same survey, 31% of American bettors signed up for an app because it was the first one they found. That figure is likely higher in Ontario since sportsbooks can’t advertise welcome bonuses. That makes theScore’s media attention an important early victory in Ontario.
How theScore Skyline Seats Succeeded
theScore’s skyline seats got three marketing principles right: creativity, value-add, and ethics. This trifecta of marketing elements forms a blueprint for sportsbooks struggling to adjust to Ontario’s marketing rules.
Creativity doesn’t require sportsbooks to think of ideas from scratch. “Creative” for Ontario marketing can be as simple as applying a different industry’s idea to sports.
“Look, dinner in the sky exists, and they’ve done this in dining,” Levy said. “But they haven’t done this at sporting events as far as I know.”
theScore’s skyline seats also show how creativity can be a concrete measurement. Looking to other industries for something that hasn’t been applied to sports events is one way to generate ideas. A creative offshoot of the sky seats could be glass floor seating above a UFC event. It’d be derivative, but pulling off such a feat could generate the kind of media that theScore’s skyline seats did.
However, a creative idea can still fail to generate lasting media coverage and brand recognition. An additional ingredient a creative idea needs is a customer value-add.
One of the hardest things about watching golf live is finding a good place to stand. The crowds are tight, and there’s probably already someone standing in the best spot. The sky seats didn’t just show off a crane at the golf course. It solved a persistent problem for golf spectators.
“If it was just a stunt, then after the first few people went up, they would’ve been like, ‘Yeah, that’s fine. Got it. Cool,” Levy said. “But universally what we kept hearing was, ‘That was amazing. What a great vantage point of the city, of the course.’ So I think that did tap into something that went beyond the stunt and hit users in a way that they appreciated…and how it added value to the experience of the tournament.”
The difference between a stunt and a successful marketing event is value-add. The sky seats solved the problem of spectators jostling each other for a view of the putting green. Ontario sportsbooks should look for common problems or inconveniences they can solve at other major events and use that to create a creative, value-additive marketing idea.
An ethical marketing campaign naturally follows creative solutions to customer pain points. When planned in good faith, these marketing tactics are extensions of a company’s best features.
“We do this with our product through the syncing between our media and our betting products that allow you to…stay engaged with the game as betting options are made available to you,” Levy said. “So this [the sky seating] is really just the experiential version of that.”
Solving a customer problem without gimmicks isn’t just a product strategy. It can transform a marketing stunt into a marketing event. Further, it can elevate an ordinary marketing message to an ethical claim about what a brand can do for sports fans.
theScore Skyline Seats and Ontario Marketing
While Ontario regulations restrict sportsbooks from advertising welcome bonuses, sports betting operators are allowed to offer them, and customers expect them. But they don’t form the brand identity of Ontario sportsbooks.
“I think [welcome bonuses are] a single component of an overall value proposition that you have to prove,” Levy said. “If all you have is your sign-up offer, it’s only as good as the next sign-up offer that comes around. So you have to stand for something more.”
Ontario’s sports betting regulations are an attempt to limit the “spray and pray” bonus marketing that characterizes American sportsbook marketing. Ontario sportsbooks have been forced to differentiate based on brand first rather than an initial bonus.
Transactional Ease as a Marketing Tactic
One marketing niche that remains unclaimed is deposit and withdrawal ease. PayNearMe’s survey found that one in six bettors whose attempt to make a deposit fails end up leaving and never returning. That is likely a conservative estimate. The bettors who tried making a deposit later or tried the same deposit method again could have left after failing a second or third time, too.
Further, the withdrawal process was rated 10% less positively than deposits. Forty percent of bettors had to wait over a day to withdraw their winnings. There are solutions to these problems, like automated withdrawals for qualified customers. A sportsbook that could legitimately claim options that it had instant payouts or more reliable deposits could differentiate itself in Ontario’s market.
However Ontario’s sportsbooks position themselves, theScore has already forged a clear identity as a brand focused on its bettors, not only on its bettors’ money.