Currently, eSports is the most dynamically developing sport in the world and as the surplus of digital platforms increases, eSports fans can be overwhelmed with content, whether it is generated by influencers, sports media outlets or eSports leagues themselves. As one of the first betting providers to identify the opportunity to bet on cybersport events, Parimatch continues to blaze a trail in customer engagement with its latest consolidated approach and according to Stepan Shulga, Head of eSports at the leading international betting company, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Where do you see the next big wins in terms of keeping fans loyal and how do you balance up creating engaging content with driving revenue?
With so many digital platforms from so many groups it is important to produce the most engaging and varied content possible – and for us, at the moment, this is video. However, moving forward, we are looking how we can offer more interactive content and help support deeper engagement with the customers. We believe that there is a lot that we can learn from the popularity of forums with eSport gamers.
With regards to eSports, you’re making waves with your Virtus.Pro partnership, can you discuss Parimatch’s investment strategy in eSports?
Our entire business strategy is unified by one ultimate aim – to connect our customers with both mainstream and niche sports through the best quality betting products. For that reason, we do not have a separate business or investment strategy for eSports; our approach is to ensure first and foremost that our customers experience an excellent online service. eSports is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and we were among the first betting providers to identify the opportunity to bet on cybersport events. As a market leader in this regard, we know the field well, and what eSports fans are most interested in. We also work to ensure our brand resonates with millennial audiences, who follow eSports most closely. Our partnerships with Virtus.Pro, one of the most established international eSports organisations, and some of the most popular and high-quality video games, such as DOTA2, exemplify this strategy.
eSports is still seen as a relatively new phenomenon to mainstream audiences, what’s the key to interacting with current fans whilst targeting new customers to the sector?
There is no magic key – but in order to engage current fans it is important to closely follow and analyse the eSports market to anticipate emerging trends. We work with eSports experts and specialists, and they help us identify audience patterns and create insights. This is a continuous and systematic process and ensures we stay ahead of the curve, and therefore maintain customer loyalty. For targeting new customers, we first conduct market research to understand who this audience might be. Understanding the customer has to be the first stage in the process, before identifying channels and content. In the digital age, social media is more important than ever for reaching new potential customers – and it is important to cut through with strong brand personality. We recently underwent a bold rebrand, which helped us to stand out from the crowd.
The younger millennial market is a key focus for eSports in the US, Asia, Africa and beyond, how is your team targeting this segment of players responsibly?
At Parimatch, we believe betting companies are accountable for customer welfare, and therefore champion responsible gambling principles. We have introduced measures in the business to ensure all customers are protected, through 24/7 customer support, collaborating with responsible gambling organizations, limitations on betting accounts, and sharing information on the dangers of gambling addiction on Parimatch owned channels.
eSports wagering seems to be a key focus for the sector at this time, where do you see the possibilities and issues ahead for bookmakers?
The window of opportunity, as it may seem to many, is not opening now, it is fully opened, and it may soon be closing. The key opportunity is learning. We learn to meet the interests of a young audience, including through eSports. Theories are tested within one day; the response of the audience comes at an incredible speed. There are plenty of difficulties in this market for bookmakers, the most important thing to understand is respect for customer choice. We often underestimate the power of gamers’ loyalty to their entertainment. We believe gaming to be something irrational, teenage. This is the main difficulty, if you do not treat them like others — if you don’t give them enough attention, you will lose the game.
From a sector perspective, the lack of uniformity and established rules and federations for eSports, as in traditional sports, makes it difficult to plan and predict. The lack of adequate expertise and experience of managers in eSports is also a significant problem.