How to engage the next generation of sports bettors

Malte Hegeler, Head of Product Development for our sportsbook platform, explores our industry’s needs to engage the next-generation players in his latest think piece written for EGR Technology.

With the Euros kicking off a feast of sport this summer, and Wimbledon and the Olympics to follow, have you ever stopped to consider just how much of your audience is made up of Gen Y or betting-age Gen Z customers?

Gen Y players, better known as Millennials, may have been affected by making large financial purchases or the recession a decade ago, but their spending is not to be sniffed at, nor is their volume. At approximately 90 million people, their collective annual income worldwide is expected to exceed $4 trillion by 2030 – the biggest spending segment.

Despite a proportion still completing purchases on computers it is important to remember they are the first digitally native audience and are rapidly increasing their use of mobile devices and streaming both for entertainment and sport.

Betting-age Gen Z-ers meanwhile (18–24-year-olds) on average began using mobiles from the age of just 10 and have grown up in a hyper-connected world, playing on their parents’ devices and spending more than three hours a day on their mobiles. They are seriously switched on in more ways than one, saving more and with fewer financial concerns than their peers, and equally never without some form of digital connectivity, making them a vital audience for sports betting now and in the years to come.

There is, however, a major stumbling block, largely within the younger betting demographic, with large numbers less interested in watching traditional live sport. As one of the proposed, and now failed, European Super League protagonists claimed earlier this year, more than 40% of people under the age of 23 are switching off from mainstream sports.

This is a worrying trend for the betting industry. I don’t believe we have lost this segment forever, but these figures tell us we must find new ways to reach this next generation of bettors. We are competing for their attention, time and spending power with so many other forms of entertainment and cannot risk being left behind.

Next-gen behaviours

Gen Z consumers are swapping 90-minute football matches for streamed events and short-form videos to watch on their own terms and that match their schedules and time commitments. They are multi-taskers streaming games on their phones while simultaneously playing FIFA, dipping in and out of clip highlights, esports streams and commenting and sharing content on social media.

A recent survey found that 83% of Gen Zs and Millennials say short-form premium content fits well into their days, while more broadly, global mobile viewership is growing 6% annually, outpacing growth on all other video platforms. The pandemic has further accelerated this trend, with younger consumers watching mobile content for an average 33 minutes longer than on TVs in 2020, with this set to grow even further.

So, how can we cater to these behaviours and what action do we need to take? To engage younger bettors, you must understand what motivates them. Only then can you start serving them with relevant and compelling products, services, and content they find engaging and will come back to time and again, such as esports which have boomed in the last year.

We need to digitally engage with this new generation and create richer, more immersive mobile and social experiences that combine attractive promotions with betting opportunities. An example is more targeted, quick-fire pre-match and in-play betting markets. Combine these with relevant short-form videos across live streams and across social media, for example, and you could immediately increase your appeal within this demographic.

The industry’s increasing use of data-driven behavioural insights instantly generates personalised messaging, offers and experiences directly to bettors as they are watching or streaming events. This will also serve to attract more of this segment to both traditional and emerging sports, with next-generation consumers now so used to being served bespoke content.

Another thing to address is the way the media now hones in on star players instead of teams. Following this trend, the betting opportunities can be enriched with several types of player markets to bet on, multiplying the fun. It’s no longer just about picking favourite teams, it’s also about picking favourite players and estimating how many goals they score and so on.

In addition, innovative products that offer customers far more interactive reasons to bet, that are personalised and offer longer and more enjoyable experiences, such as BetBuilder products, will engage this generation in new ways.

Platform power

All these areas, however, require global betting brands to have a robust and dynamic platform at the heart of their operations. Without a fine-tuned and well-oiled engine that provides maximum flexibility, scalability and customisation as well as 24/7 support, you may as well pack up your laptop and go home.

At OddsMatrix, we spent many months listening to our customers. As a result, we rewrote and redesigned our entire platform architecture to ensure we hit all these areas and can now offer operators an unbeatable experience that appeals directly to next-generation players, with more than 90,000 live and 75,000 pre-live monthly events, 450+ betting types and more than 125 sports and esports.

Much like the needs of Gen Z players who like to be served bespoke content anytime, anywhere and on any device, the key is control. We surveyed the market and discovered that an incredible 95% of sportsbook operators lack full control over their own odds. We wanted to change that and give brands the power to manage their sportsbook, their odds, and their payout levels using a fully automated system and the ability to configure key sportsbook elements any way they want.

Some might say, is it worth all this effort? Why not just serve those customers who have stayed loyal for years? To that, I say Gen Z consumers are on track to eclipse their Millennial peers by some distance with an eye-watering combined spending power of $140bn.

Our mission is simple: to make sportsbooks relevant to next-generation sports fans. This means taking it to the next level with powerful, flexible, mobile-driven solutions that contain the widest array of sports and esports betting markets in the industry, along with the most engaging and innovative products such as AI and bet recommendation tools.

We must be prepared to offer the sportsbook of the future today because if we don’t, these audiences will rapidly turn their attention elsewhere.

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