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Proprietary Research Panel Identifies Pair of ‘North Stars’ for Sports Stakeholders to Follow

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Proprietary Research Panel Identifies Pair of ‘North Stars’ for Sports Stakeholders to Follow

The legalized gaming industry has largely focused on attracting and serving the core sports bettor to date. The next phase of the nascent business’ evolution will be to engage more casual fans and bettors. 

Stakeholders may need to adopt a different approach to reach that demo effectively. 

“The industry has been focused on appealing to the highest frequency and most engaged regular sports wagerers, which are drawn in by the money,” Patrick Crakes (principal, Crakes Media) said. However, “much of why [the broader population] bets is based on intangible utility.”

JohnWallStreet, in collaboration with Betting Hero, has constructed a qualitative research tool offering a real-time look into what motivates the general market. While there is more research be done, our proprietary panel has already helped to uncover a multitude of actionable insights and strategic implications that should inform and guide future marketing and positioning decisions.

“If you’re looking to steer your boat towards a North Star, [here] are two that sit on the same shore to success,” Crakes said.

  1. Betting is a social or group activity.

  2. Investing in betting drives fandom.

“Set your compasses accordingly,” Crakes added.


Every sports organization has challenges and opportunities that are unique to it… its digital platforms should be too. WMT Digital customizes its digital platforms and creative solutions for each individual partner. Mobile apps launched for Virginia Tech, Stanford, and Auburn highlight the advantages of WMT Digital’s custom approach.

Multi Modes. Virginia Tech has leveraged a mobile page builder tool to bring intuitive features, only a toggle away.

  • Fall Camp Mode : Gives Hokie fans a deep dive into camp coverage

  • Triumph Mode: Supports fundraising and NIL-related efforts

  • Gameday Mode: Allows in-venue fans to get more out of game day

Agnostic Integration. Stanford displayed their spirit of innovation by becoming the first major college athletics client to partner with Vivenu for their in-app ticket services.

Customized Homepage. The Auburn mobile app has a one-of-a-kind homepage that displays a personalized news feed based on the user’s preferences, as well as Auburn’s most important fan engagement opportunities.

Recognizing that the sports betting industry needs to focus on growing the pie and that the greatest opportunity for growth is with more casual fans and low frequency bettors, we initially set out to better understand what the demo likes about, or is looking to derive from, the activity. 

“It’s not that they’re trying to make regular and/or significant economic gains,” Crakes said.

Once we began to weave the raw data together with the panel’s responses, we began to realize the study had yielded a host of key insights that could be applied across the sports business.

It’s important to understand that our tool differs from the many qualitative and quantitative market research products that exist in the marketplace. It leverages a well-screened, purposeful, 150-person focus group, spanning demographics (40% were female), state lines (we only polled fans in states with legalized sports betting), degrees of fandom (we’ve coded for them), and engagement.

While the core sports bettor is focused on making money, the general market is more concerned with having a good time. 

For them, “the true jackpot is the fun and camaraderie [associated with wagering],” Ernie Ropas (director of product and research, Betting Hero) said.

Stakeholders need to understand sports betting is a leisure activity for them, and create messaging and/or products through that lens.

“Most people, particularly those beyond the traditional gaming market, are not looking to do any more work. They’re not going to regularly watch a one-hour show or crunch numbers,” Crakes said.

In fact, more of 30% of respondents said they do not seek out any news or updates before placing a wager on a game.

Instead, they will rely upon small personal networks for help. 33.7% said friends, family members, and/or co-workers are their primary source of information.

Many will take betting advice from, or bet alongside, those same individuals. 

“Sports betting is social and the connection is important,” Crakes said. “People [like to wager] in groups, but they are also influenced by them.”

So, navigating the 3rd wave of content consumption –the group chat– is necessary to reach the general market. 

Properties focused deriving more revenue from their existing fan base should be investing in sports betting products as they can increase engagement.

86.5% of respondents said wagering on a sport significantly (36.5%) or moderately (50%) enhances their enjoyment of it. 

But gaming products can help to bring new fans into the fold too. 14% of those polled admitted to having been attracted to a new sport (MLS) because of its unique betting options or the promotions offered around league games. 

“That’s big if you’re trying to grow market share,” Ropas said.

We know getting someone to engage with a sports betting product can be a key step towards building fandom.

Gambling “has a cascading waterfall effect that eventually drives personal and emotional investment,” Crakes said. And when that occurs, people “begin to make [watching the sport] part of their routine and start to view it as a regular leisure activity.” 

So, the obvious question is how can a property investing in sports betting go about appealing to the target audience?

Delivering products that more closely resemble iGaming would go a long way. Doing so enables more people to play along without having to be familiar with the game’s intricacies. 

“Casino players will embrace that,” Ropas said. “We’ve spoken to bettors who were initially attracted to a car number or sponsor who have since become NASCAR fans.”

Streaming games live inside a sportsbook app can also spur incremental general market engagement (see: table tennis in Colorado).

No sport is more general market than the NFL. But operators will have to look beyond pro (and collegiate) football to grow market share in legalized gaming’s next stage.

Liga MX seemingly offers opportunity. Just 2% of those polled said they wager on North America’s most popular soccer property. 

“Think about the Latino emergence,” Crakes said. This is “the youngest, fastest growing segment in the United States, driving almost all the population growth. We know about the importance of Liga MX to that audience. And yet, we have [relatively little activity] here.” 

NASCAR is another property that looks to be underexposed in gaming relative to the size of its fan base.

Editor’s Note: Ropas and Crakes will be appearing on the JohnWallStreet Track at iGaming Next Thursday to talk through these findings and provide additional context on the study (very few tickets remain).

But we have much more in the way of data and insights. Reach out to JohnWallStreet ([email protected]) to request the full study free of charge, coordinate a call to review the balance of our analysis, and/or to commission a custom focus group or research project.  

You can expect to see more from this panel in the future. A sports property that participated in putting the initial survey together has already requested longitudinal follow-up.

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