PandaScore: Engagement data needed to continue esports betting growth

Oliver Niner, Head of Sales at esports data solutions provider PandaScore outlines upcoming data challenges for esports betting operators seeking to engage audiences in the nascent growth markets of North America and LatAm.

Esports betting has come a long way over the past few years. The total global turnover of esports betting amounted to 46 BLN Euros in 2021, securing the sixth most popular type of sport to bet on and climbing the ranks very fast over the years.

There are some highly established game titles that prove popular with bettors including CS:GO, Dota 2 and League of Legends. Dedicated odds products are giving fans a serviceable depth of markets and lines to choose from on these titles, and constant innovation to adapt to ever-changing tastes.

But there is a missing piece of the puzzle that operators and suppliers alike are yet to find for esports betting: consistent, successful customer engagement.

Old models don’t neatly translate
The models of customer acquisition and engagement that have worked in sports betting, while successful in that space, can’t be flippantly draped over the esports betting space and expected to work. A 40-year-old football punter doesn’t engage with their passion the same way a 25-year-old esports bettor does.

The industry has learned a lot about how esports fans interact with data in different spaces such as news sites, online portals and stats hubs. Esports fans consume a lot of data, have high expectations of the content they consume and want to bet as part of an experience rather than who has the best bonus.

As a baseline, you need rich content for the bettor even before they place their bets: quality widgets, robust and up-to-date match centres, and timely updates during live. Players want data available on how many kills or how much gold a player has all on the same site they’re betting with, rather than going to a third-party site for stats. These behaviours are well established in Europe – the bleed of statistical-based judgement calls has become second nature to bettors. But operators have not yet embraced the level of data complexity that we already have in esports.

US stats culture
As sports and esports betting opens up state-by-state in the US, operators and suppliers must recognise the value of stats-based websites. Being a stats head is a big part of American sports culture, and the big sporting leagues know it. It’s why you have advanced statistics like offensive and defensive ratings in basketball, expected goals in association football or sabermetrics in baseball. Better Collective’s acquisition of the online home of pro-Counter-Strike, HLTV.org, for $37.9m attests to this.

This passion for stats is a big driver behind the immense daily fantasy sports sector, which DraftKings and FanDuel have dominated, and challengers like fantasy platform Underdog raised a successful $35m Series B round earlier this year. Platforms like Sleeper have already been using PandaScore’s data to power its League of Legends Championship Series daily fantasy since 2020.

It’s well established that esports has an unmatched richness and quality of data thanks to its digital nature, putting it in a perfect position to engage US players in ways that are familiar to them.

Additionally, esports fans expect an experience catered to their specificities, be it the game titles they love or where they’re from – the latter being a key factor in how you offer esports.

Harnessing Brazilian social
The Brazilian market has its own unique benefits and challenges. Social media, community building and strong influencer marketing campaigns are some of the best ways to reach esports fans. Upstart esports organisation LOUD have punched above their weight on social media, amassing 1.3 million Twitter followers over 2 years and becoming the most tweeted-about esports team of 2021.

Esports-focused operator Rivalry has built dedicated Twitter accounts to better target key segments, including Brazil – which is particularly important for global operators to reach players across different continents and languages.

Others have built dedicated content that merges esports passion with their brand, such as the ‘Betway Squad’, a content house of popular Brazilian esports influencers creating dedicated content with the operator’s brand front and centre.

We’ve seen similar targeting strategies in the country from the likes of KTObet with football, where they focused on connections with smaller clubs to build their profile and presence in local communities.

Building connections through strong branding, rich content and data, then putting that information into communities in the places where they engage is critical – and something that the broader esports betting community can learn from Brazil.

The best is yet to come…
There are lessons to be learned from the American and Brazilian markets when it comes to customer engagement with esports betting, but the industry is still learning how to engage this player base. A big part of that is the simple fact of not having enough concrete data on engagement to make more informed marketing and product development choices.

It’s now key for suppliers to be developing better data capture tools specifically focused on customer engagement, such as widgets measuring session length, single user dwell time and more. With more data in hand, suppliers and operators can work hand in hand to harness the energy and vitality that esports brings to every match and tournament.

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