Gianfranco Capozzi, Head of Esports of EsportsBets, Catena Media, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Gianfranco Capozzi and the rest of the team of EsportsBets, Catena Media, are fully dedicated to esports. He says that at EsportsBets, they are at the core of esports and gaming technologies; they provide content that generates traffic resulting in revenue for both affiliates and brands. Gianfranco speaks about the world of esports betting, technology trends that are currently impacting the esports industry, and about cryptocurrency in esports betting — follow his story below.
How did you first get into the affiliate space?
A few year ago, I was working with a well-known German Sportsbook operator, managing their digital marketing campaigns. Although I was initially specialising in social media activities, I got the chance to test different channels and media opportunities. At that point, I realised that affiliates were one of the major traffic (and revenue) sources for our brands.
As I became more interested in the sector, and as the interest for esports continued to grow, I was able to join a start-up focused on both marketing affiliations and esports. The start-up and the esports betting affiliate sites were then acquired by Catena Media, where I’m currently leading the Esports department.
How did EsportsBets take off?
Originally EsportsBets.com was another acquisition by our company. Once we set-up a central, diversified, and dynamic team within the larger organisation, we became fully dedicated to esports and that is when it really started to take off.
We’ve gathered people from a diverse range of fields and backgrounds, from journalists to SEO experts, digital marketers to betting tipsters, to build up a solid product. All with a common passion: esports and competitive gaming.
I think the key to success in our industry is starting with a specialised core team and then growing them into different sectors. That’s how we built success over the years.
The content and products we create for our site have a very simple philosophy: we want to make the things that we would enjoy if we were the users. Innovation, reliability, and sustainability are all things that we want to bring into everything that we do.
What incremental value will you provide?
When we partner with other businesses, our goal is to develop a sustainable relationship that benefits both parties. It is not just about placing an advertising banner on a content website, there’s much more behind the scenes. It isn’t only about esports news, or covering tournaments, events or esports betting odds. We are at the core of esports and gaming technologies – we provide content that generates traffic resulting in revenue for both affiliates and brands. Our goal has always been providing quality over quantity within the iGaming industry.
How does esports betting work?
The esports industry is still a highly fragmented market with numerous stakeholders, like game publishers, esports teams, esports events organisers, media agencies, esportsbooks, etc. And while the esports sector continues to grow in popularity and profitability for both esports entrepreneurs and investors alike, esports betting affiliate services are yet to see their real form.
Esports betting is basically placing bets on the outcome of matches and tournaments; specialised esportsbooks (i.e., endemic esports bookmakers) also offer opportunities to bet on different markets within the games, like on the first map winner / First Kill (or ‘First Blood’ for League of Legends), and other dynamic markets.
As affiliates, we look at esports betting as the opportunity to serve different markets and betting options, to our eager player base. As the markets, the games, the players’ preferences vary so much, there are literally infinite possibilities and chances to differentiate, educate, and inform the audience.
The esports betting affiliate market is still in a growing phase, just a few esports sportsbook operators have acquired their own affiliate portals and/or are managing affiliate deals through third parties. This may be due to the fact that esports betting is relatively new to the esports scene and has not yet matured like the largest gambling sectors like online casino, sports betting, or horse racing.
It is said that esports is the fastest growing theme in the gaming sector. Why in your view?
With the emergence of the youngest generations (now the Millennials are the largest cohort in the current workforce worldwide, while the Generation Z are becoming adults) and technology evolution, esports is undeniably booming.
I’m one of those people who believes that esports will overtake traditional sports and online casinos as the fastest growing segment of the online and offline gambling market within the next decade.
The reason is simple: far more people have access to video games (whether on console, PC, or mobile) than have access to traditional sports. Casino games are even less available – I remember, when asking about feedback on some casino slots to a younger target (25-28), one of the replies was “it looks like a grandma’ game”.
What are the current betting trends in esports? Which are the growing ones?
We all know that the strongest esports betting markets focus on CS:GO, Dota 2, and League of Legends. In the last few years, we also saw the rise of the battle royale genre, with Fortnite and PUBG getting massive attention, first from the fans, and then from the betting industry.
Now, we’re looking at some major growth and high performing results from VALORANT and its first tournaments held this year; you could also say that Call of Duty (from their inaugural Call of Duty League and this year’s edition) has gained traction with their high visibility and volume of betting options.
Will the growing trends become a mainstay and take over the current trends?
I am sure there will be titles that will rise and shine, and others that will get abandoned and fade into the dust. New games and leagues will grow at super-fast speed, and esports organisations, individual players, and brands will be racing to maintain their footing in this ever-changing esports landscape.
Casual esports gamers vs professional ones. Which one is your number one segment?
My favourite segment is something in the middle. I usually differentiate between two categories, casual gamers and hard-core gamers. However, this is rarely a permanent distinction. There are times when players dive deeply into a single game and then spend their free time playing other video games.
As a patch update or a new game release can literally disrupt an entire game, even the players are changing their focus. In my experience, it’s always important to serve both segments.
Which are the key technology trends that are currently impacting the esports industry? Is mobile gaming the future of esports?
Among the key technologies, I’m sure blockchain technologies, artificial intelligence, and both VR and Augmented Reality can all have a big impact on the industry. We’re all expecting these to take on, and looking at the massive changes that could bring to the industry.
In regards to mobile gaming, I think it can be a fraction of the esports revolution, but I think unlikely it will be dominant in esports. There is already some “distaste” between PC gamers and console gamers. Add the mobile gamers to the equation and you will have a completely different scene, where both PC & Console gamers are distasteful of the mobile ones.
What is the role of AI in esports betting?
AI in esports betting is becoming more and more relevant, because esports betting operators and service providers are starting to explore the possibilities of AI being used to improve the users’ experience.
For example, AI can be used to create more accurate esports odds that are competitive with those available in the market, by using AI data to make predictions about esports matches.
We have already seen a great deal of interest from operators and providers who are keen to explore how they might use AI for esports betting purposes, and not only from the odds trading departments but in multiple divisions within their organisations.
How does cryptocurrency esports betting work? Will cryptocurrency change esports betting?
Betting on esports with crypto, it’s been one of the hot topics and a growing trend for the last couple of years. As cryptocurrencies were growing in popularity, their use in esports betting was not left behind.
Esports and crypto enthusiasts are alike, tech-savvy and challenging, that’s why esports blockchain startups are focusing on crypto betting and esports technologies, while esports operators set their eyes on esports affiliate opportunities to grow.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
The strongest markets have historically been the UK, Canada, and Germany. But recent trends show really positive outcomes from LATAM (in particular Brazil) and certain Asian countries – and those are the emerging markets to focus our attention on.
I’m confident that the US, once their state by state legislation allows it, will be the top market for esports betting, in whichever form it will take at that point.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
Creativity and a good understanding of esports are a must nowadays. Being naturally curious and eager to learn will also help esports affiliates to better understand the industry and trends. Another skill which esports teams/affiliates should develop is the ability to adapt quickly.
Esports has a younger audience than any other traditional sport and it will be hard for esports betting brands if they don’t educate them about esports, esports betting, and gambling.
What does it take for an affiliate business to thrive?
Replicating what other affiliates are doing cannot be the right answer. Esports affiliates should always question and challenge their assumptions.
In my view, esports affiliates need to keep looking forward, never be satisfied, and always try to improve themselves. If esports affiliate businesses can do that, then there will be no limits.
Esports affiliate business owners should have a relentless passion for this industry, boast on innovation, and continue to reinvent themselves.
Can you foresee any growth for the affiliate business industry?
Yes, I can – as the core aspect of the affiliate business industry in my opinion is to focus on the top-competitive marketing channels as well as generating leads and customer acquisitions.
The operators are focusing on the technologies behind, the final offers to the players, payments gateways, etc. – and affiliate business owners should focus on the best marketing channels to get players for them.
How do you choose your operators and how do you manage relationships with multiple Operators?
When it comes to esports, I do prefer working with operators who have a clear understanding of what esports betting really entails. On some occasions, I briefly worked with operators serving a general football-landing page or not offering any dedicated esports bonus or sections to our players.
As we work within a very specific betting niche, there are several ‘standards’ that we need to make sure are in place from the very beginning of the partnership (for esports, it’s related to esports betting currencies and other technical issues). When we work with esports operators that already understand esports, it makes our lives easier, saves time, and allows us to focus on building/growing the correct audiences.
What is your approach in the initial stages of a new partnership?
I try to figure out the needs of the operators. It’s important to have a clear understanding of what kind of exposure they want, what kind of brand awareness and marketing strategy they are targeting, and what kinds of KPIs they need.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? SiGMA Europe, Africa, Asia, or Americas – which of these four expo shows would you likely book on your diary for 2021, COVID-19 permitting?
I’ve been actively participating at the SiGMA European exhibitions for the last 4 / 5 years.
I’ll also be looking forward to SiGMA Asia, and if I am able to attend then that would be great – as there’s some invaluable opportunities arising there, especially in our esports segment.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all, business is done with people, not just companies! Your hobbies, favourite book, favourite quote, whether you are into Gaming yourself, etc.
I consider myself a gamer even if I don’t necessarily play any of the popular esports games anymore, but I do love MOBA, FPS, and battle royale titles and gaming in general.
As for my hobbies, I am really into watching esports matches and top tournaments, while I also play some titles like GTA V, Red Dead Redemption and World of Warcraft occasionally as a hobby. Aside from esports and gaming, I am also a keen crypto enthusiast.
My favourite book is the ancient Chinese military treatise The Art of War by Sun Tzu, while my favourite quote is by Bruce Lee: “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own”.
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The next SiGMA iGathering networking event will be held in Riga. The dinner, which is planned for the 26th of August, at 19:00, is set to take place at the stunning Royal Casino. The evening will also welcome guests from neighbouring countries Estonia and Lithuania, tapping into a wide network of the region’s top industry thinkers.