A closer look at sports bonuses

Log on to some of the most popular sports betting affiliate sites, and you will instantly find yourself presented with dozens of welcome bonus offers. If you were a new player who wants to bet on his team beating their local rivals, this would be a daunting experience.

But it’s precisely this wealth of rewards that can give operators the ability to stand out. They can combine them in countless ways to create customised and targeted sports bonusing strategies that will set apart the sportsbooks capable of providing an optimised user experience.

To devise successful bonusing campaigns, it could be helpful for you to revisit the basics and check some of the most popular, best-performing sports bonuses, top tips for well-tailored strategies and essential bonusing tools that help you create high performing rewards for your brand.

Popular sportsbook bonuses

When it comes to iGaming bonus types, you should know the basics very well – and then feel free to deviate as much as possible from them. Bring a fresh approach, but always keep your eyes on time tested solutions as a sound bonusing foundation.

Essentially, the structure of an iGaming bonus includes something that is offered (i.e., what is the bonus) under certain conditions (i.e., how the bonus is obtained). Things are no different when it comes to sportsbook bonuses, so let’s check out some of the most attractive bonuses for bettors.

Free bets: These predefined, single-usage bets, with either a fixed value or defined as a percentage of the committed real-money (typically, but not necessarily a deposit), are versatile rewards. They can be used for any specific or selection of markets and events, with or without a wagering requirement.

Free bets are the sportsbook counterpart to casino free spins, and they can be viewed as “free money” provided for a completely risk-free bet. Players have several ways of acquiring them: as a complimentary bonus, as an incentive to make a deposit or as a reward for their betting activity.

BonusEngine enables operators to configure different variants of Free Bet bonuses with ease.

  • Set a wagering requirement as a prerequisite, such as conditioning the granting of a free bet on player placing x number of bets or betting x amount
  • Alternatively, apply the wagering requirement only to the potential winnings of the placed free bet
  • Create a string of free bets triggered by performing specific actions following registration and first deposit, which can be such low barrier actions as to log in or place any bet
  • Set up a free bet as a reward for a certain number of casino bets and offer it to pure casino players to cross-sell your sportsbook


Deposit-based free bets: This type of iGaming bonus gives players the chance to receive certain levels of additional funds to bet with, based on the amounts they deposit. Bonuses generally match the first deposit: €20 for €20, or €50 for an additional €50 in free bets.

Deposit-based cash bonus: This type of bet works like a deposit-based free bet, but instead of free bets punters receive bonus money. New players are encouraged to deposit a small sum and in return qualify for a matched amount in cash, up to a certain level. Releasing bets comes with a catch, namely playthrough conditions. For example, minimum odds, limits to certain markets or sports, a timeframe in which a playthrough must be completed.

“Risk-free” bet: The premise of this bet is to enable punters to make a single bet and be reimbursed for it if they lose. The overall goal is to give players a positive introduction to a sportsbook, encourage them to redeposit and eventually gain a longer-term affinity to a brand. This type of sports bet involves higher risks for the sportsbook if it pays losses 1:1 as cash, even if it is capped at a certain amount.

Complimentary gifts on losses: Good alternatives to risk-free bet are other types of comps after a loss, only limited by the operator’s creativity. Bet on a specific match, league, cup, sport, etc., and if you lose, you will receive a tournament ticket, a free bet, free spins or a challenge.

Cash back: Traditional Cash Back pays the player a certain share of their net losses on certain or all bets, and is typically paid at certain intervals, such as weekly or monthly.

In BonusEngine, the Cash Back Bonus is not restricted to the traditional compensation of a percentage of the player’s losses. It can be configured based on loss tiers, compensating differently based on how much a player lost, including entirely different types of rewards. It also includes recurrence: the Cash Back can be granted on recurring weekdays, days of the month, fixed dates, or immediately after a match.


Stake back bonus: Used for a multi-bet (combo, parlay, accumulator, whichever name you might use) the stake back bonus allows players to get a part of their stake returned in case they lose the multi-bet by just one or two selections. The value of the stake back can be adjusted based on the total selections included in the multi bet and several other criteria.

Odds boost: In this case, operators offer enhanced prices at certain matches or events. The price boosts can be tiered according to the number of selections included, in order to incentivise multiple bets with many selections. The price boosts are often capped to lower bet stake levels to minimise the operator’s risk.

Free to play (F2P): The F2P model has been highly successful in recent years, offering a sustainable and responsible approach to sports bonusing. Several operators and suppliers joined forces to innovate in this space with products such as no-deposit daily bonus wheels. These encourage players to engage with brands every day with the spin of a digital wheel for a chance to win free bets, bonus cash or scratch cards.

Elements of a successful strategy for sports bonuses

Matching bonuses to player segments

The “attract, retain, reactivate” mantra we touched on earlier in this series is vital when setting in place a well-performing strategy. In a nutshell, you should apply player segmentation and engage players according to the life cycle stage at which they find themselves.

A particular bonus mix will be better suited for attracting new players, while another can work wonders for building player loyalty. F2P bonuses or games, for instance, are excellent tools with which to rapidly build up a loyal player base as well as both retain and reactivate punters with gamified mechanics.

For VIPs, a more targeted approach is important, focusing on precise behaviours, specific markets and bet types and rewarding them with individually tailored packages of bets, cash bonuses or even exclusive or luxury items that can be exchanged for loyalty points.

BonusEngine provides operators with the tools to configure personalised, data-driven rewards that have been proven to generate high levels of engagement:

  • Work with a wide range of parameters such as a punter’s Net Gaming Revenue (NGR), Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR), deposit amount
  • Give bettors agency and create for them choice-driven paths using bonus interdependencies
  • Create a bonus that sends them on a tailor-made journey using eligibility filters such as registration date


Selling across verticals

Combining sports and casino bonusing is a sought-after strategy, and tournaments, in particular, are a great way of selling across your iGaming verticals. Bringing together rewards and gamification works very well for building and extending player engagement.

If you run both an online casino and an online sportsbook, it might make sense to create tournaments that include a certain selection of sports events and casino games. Set a minimal checklist for designing such an event, including:

  • defining win criteria, duration, and player eligibility;
  • setting restrictions, contribution rates and rules on everything within the sportsbook front-end;
  • maintain a real-time view of which bets are covered, their contribution, while also stringently and swiftly managing and reporting on your costs.
BonusEngine is fully integrated with our OddsMatrix sportsbook, allowing customers to select any bonus program to be configured for any bet types, with conditioning on bet amounts from RNG casino games, live casino games to any sport, league, tournament, or on specific events and markets. Cross-vertical events can also be created on a company level for brands with multiple domains or that cross markets.

Incentivising multiple-bet selections

This is a more specific element for your sports bonusing strategy, but also a very effective one. Players love multi-bets due to the higher engagement they bring, paired with the possibility of bigger payouts. The main idea is that they can multiply their entertainment and excitement while waiting for all the events to unfold.

An Odds Boost bonus can work as an excellent tool to encourage your punters further to bet on multiple selections. For instance, you can create tiered boosts per number of selections, integrated within the bet slip.

This means bettors will see how many more selections they need to achieve to move to the next boost tier.

Example of a tiered Odds Boost bonus

Mobile view of the bet slip

For a balanced and entertaining experience for your punters, you can easily combine the Odd Boost with the Cash Back bonus. In this way, they will be more at ease to choose the thrill of a multi-bet, knowing that their risk is reduced by the partial return of their stake when they miss just one of two selections.

A multi-bet is also a great tool to help players discover a rare betting type or a particular event or competition and thus diversify their experiences.

The BonusEngine Odds Boost allows sportsbook operators to go into details and:

  • Define minimum odds, specific competitions and more
  • Offer extra winnings as a bonus or real money
  • Create bonuses for players to use once or any number of times


BonusEngine in use: four scenarios with Wagering and Cash Back bonuses

Going beyond free bets and deposit-based sports bonuses, the Wagering and Cash Back bonuses give operators a vast range of player engagement options. The four scenarios we propose below have the potential to establish your brand as one that rewards player loyalty, while also limiting their losses.

  1. Wager €100 this week and receive a free €5 bet. If you wager €500, you receive another free €50 bet!
    Using the BonusEngine, you can define which odds you want to accept versus amount wagered, the maximum amount counted for each bet, or limit players to a specific sport or tournament.
  2. Bet on event A, and you will get a free bet on event B (Wagering Bonus)
    For example, during the Champions League, players who bet on the big match on Tuesday receive a free bet for the big game the following night. Perfect for those players who favour a big event such as this.
  3. If you lose money on the Premier League this weekend, we will give you a free bet.
    Define the league or a specific match, define the loss amount, and offer a free bet, a bonus or free spins on a casino game. This is ideal if your strategy involves cross-selling.
  4. Define a monthly or weekly cashback
    For those on a losing streak, you can define rewards according to loss levels. Offset a €500 loss with a free bet or one-time wager of €20 to €50 or a larger loss with a set level of returned cash.

To summarise

We’ve packed in this article information on the essential bonuses for your sportsbook, elements of a winning reward strategy and four scenarios that build player loyalty.

Next, it’s your move. You can throw in the bonus mix a virtually unlimited number of sports disciplines, events and betting markets, and even cross the line of the sports betting vertical by mixing it with casino bets. Choose whatever makes the most sense for your business and what can make you stand out from the crowd in front of your players.

Our final advice is to make sure you also have in place an advanced bonus system, that simplifies your operational tasks and lets you concentrate on enriching the player experience. It’s a simple matter of using the right tools to get the edge you need to stand out in today’s increasingly competitive sports betting landscape.

Read all the articles in our series on iGaming bonuses here.

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