Why esports betting companies are leaning into original content to raise awareness about their services

The header image is an illustration of two people sitting on a couch watching sports on a TV.

As esports betting companies approach an audience relatively unfamiliar with gambling, they are investing in original content in a bid to educate users and spread the word about their offerings.

In recent years, sports betting has exploded in the United States thanks to a favorable Supreme Court decision that handed betting legalization rights to state governments in 2018. Esports betting has also flourished accordingly, but its numbers still lag behind those of traditional sports betting, in part because the esports audience is relatively younger, less wealthy and more unfamiliar with gambling.

To raise awareness about their services and how to safely use them, the esports betting company Rivalry has partnered with esports organizations such as Fnatic in the past — but with middling results. “We didn’t get our money’s worth,” said Rivalry CEO Steven Salz. 

These days, instead of relying on other brands or publications to spread the word about Rivalry, the company has pivoted to a focus on original, owned content, hiring the esports journalist and former publicist Cody Luongo as a senior manager of corporate communications. Luongo will publish journalistic articles about Rivalry on social media platforms — such as a recent LinkedIn article promoting the brand’s activation at the IEM Rio Counter-Strike Major — in addition to publishing whitepapers on esports betting and building out content platforms owned entirely by Rivalry.

“The grand vision would be to have a website and call it Rivalry Magazine,” Luongo said, adding that the site could also support other aspects of the company through features like a careers page, as well as sections educating users about safety and best practices in gambling.

Rivalry is not the only esports betting company that plans to use original content as a marketing channel, although it is perhaps the farthest along in its ambitions. Unikrn, which relaunched last week, also plans to invest significantly in original content. Education will be a significant aspect of Unikrn’s content play as well, although Unikrn CEO Justin Dellario declined to share many specifics about exactly what this content will look like.

“Teaching and giving them a platform to learn in a harm-free environment is important to us,” he said. “Content will continue to be important for us, and I would say that how Unikrn defines content will hopefully be different than some of the other companies that are out there.”

At least one company in the traditional sports betting space, Better Collective, has also invested in esports media to expand its gaming audience. The company has owned and operated the Counter-Strike news site HLTV since 2020, and it followed up on that investment by purchasing the FIFA community website FUTBIN in April 2022. 

Unlike Rivalry and Unikrn, Better Collective is approaching its media properties more as traditional journalistic businesses than marketing channels for esports betting. Still, there are similarities between the different companies’ strategic moves: For Better Collective, the hope is to use its expanding media arm to grow its audience and raise awareness about the entertainment value of esports and esports betting.

“We see esports as the driver of the train for us to move Better Collective, as a company, more toward major sports betting media,” said Better Collective svp of esports Henrik Lykkesteen. “HLTV is by far the biggest and most influential Counter-Strike site, and FUTBIN is the biggest FIFA-supporting site out there, so that’s where esports fits in for us.”

https://digiday.com/?p=480058

More in Marketing

Inside X’s latest, desperate attempt to beguile advertisers

If X has its way, 2024 will be the year it hits the long, twisted trail back to advertiser land, according to the platform’s pitch deck.

How Amazon Prime’s ‘Fallout’ series highlights the power of post-apocalyptic video game IP

To some extent, the mainstream success of the “Fallout” series is a reflection of the massive scale of the Amazon Prime machine. But the consensus among viewers and critics is that it’s a damn good show, too.

Why the New York Times is forging connections with gamers as it diversifies its audience

The New York Times is not becoming a gaming company. But as it continues to diversify its editorial offerings for the digital era, the Times has embraced puzzle gamers as one of its core captive audiences, and it is taking ample advantage of its advantageous positioning in the space in 2024.