Replacing the cancelled sports calendar

a game above
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Focus upon the player experience to captivate customers, writes Steen Madsen, CEO of A GAME 

COVID19: Yet another challenge 

As an Industry, Betting & Gaming has lived through cancelled sports fixtures on an individual basis, from time to time. Nothing, however, comes close to the cancellations and postponements witnessed recently. Only the UK’s 2001 Foot & Mouth crisis, which decimated much of horse and dog racing during that year, offers but a limited view upon the current picture.

Then, the Industry had other – new at that time – online Products to offer: Casino, Poker, Bingo, Virtuals and Slots were all just beginning their rise to popularity.


The new normal is every Sports League, Cup and Championship event off the calendar for the foreseeable future.

Instinctively, the Industry has pivoted to other Product to replace the Corona Virus calendar void:

-Foreign Sports Leagues: For example, soccer from Belarus

-Virtuals: For example, the very well received Virtual Grand National and NASCAR races

Are we really “replacing” the sports calendar to any revenue-reliable extent with these product-only initiatives, though? Certainly, something had to be done, but is there a sustainable strategy, focused upon gaining and retaining Players for the long-term view of Lifetime Value, packaged with this pivot-by-product reaction?

Considering the current crisis, and where we’re taking customers with instinctive product-only reactions to what are, likely, going to be more long term problems than we’d like to admit, leads me to the view that the impact of Coronavirus is effectively yet another challenge for our Industry.

Betting & Gaming: The Core Challenges, Today

Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, wrote in a recent report (Euro 2025 Outlook), about 6 factors creating a gathering storm for Betting & Gaming:

  • Revenue: Slowing growth
  • Regulation: Higher barriers to entry
  • Scale: Being redefined
  • “The Death of Fun”: Forgetting the player
  • Regulation: Country by country fragmentation
  • Audience: Changing tastes


All of these challenges, combined with the now-cancelled sports calendar, may be clearly telling us one thing:

We need to adapt.

Right now, we need to create engaging and exciting events for Customers. We also need to have a serious, and sincere, think about our broader appeal towards The Audience: the broad scope of all adults out there, particularly at present given self-isolation, curfews and stay home orders – many of whom are currently being embraced by online gaming platforms like Twitch, Steam, and the Playstation Network.

To be clear, though, I’m not talking about eSports here. In Betting & Gaming, today, we are in a fight for audience attention and share of wallet. All the time. We compete against other Brands, constantly, but must become more aware and mindful of simply needing to compete against other Entertainment, which also comes, at a Price and Time cost to consumers and is often more attractive than our marketing.

Will pivoting by-product only, a move we have made many times before as an Industry, be sufficient to see us through, and over, the Corona Crisis? Are we replacing, to any revenue-reliable extent, the character of events the Corona Crisis Calendar Void has created? Is a focus by Product only really the right way to captive consumers from the broad, mass-market Audience, the pool from which we must attract customers, and Players, for the healthy, responsible and sustainable growth we all seek as Operators?

The Product Challenge

Brick & Mortar and Online Gaming share many similarities:

  • Mass Marketing
  • Branding for Difference
  • Portals to Service the Audience

There is one constant challenge:

The Products.

As they are all the same, in the minds of The Audience, and for many of our Customers, today.

Essentially, very little difference exists across Betting & Gaming Product, outside of Price and Brand, and, if pushing the Price button, a licensed market can rapidly descend into a race to the bottom amongst Operators, furthering the view of us as a Commodity Industry, in the eyes of those we are hoping to engage.

Is there a clear solution to meeting the Audience with Product, and overcoming the Product Challenge?

The Las Vegas Lesson

An earlier article in iGaming Times discussed how Las Vegas Casino Operators overcome their Product Challenge by never selling gambling.

They welcome The Audience to

  • The Lifestyle
  • The Resort
  • The Adult Playground – Sin City – What Happens in Vegas…

An Audience, living the Las Vegas Experience, alongside the shows, sights, shopping, spectacle, Siegfried & Roy magic, and very close by, all of the time, to all of the gambling opportunities the Resort offers, via individually branded Casino Properties.

The Las Vegas Lesson?

Las Vegas does not gain and retain by Product alone. Las Vegas packages The Product with The Experience.

This has huge, step-change, relevance for us, as an Industry, regardless of distribution channel, product vertical, and united across iGaming and Brick & Mortar.

The Player Experience: Raising Your Game

I founded marketing experience agency, A GAME ABOVE, following many years of operational experience working for Betting & Gaming Brands, to address The Las Vegas Lesson, and the impact it deserves to create across our Industry, today.

The positive experiences I witnessed from Player Experience events in the past –  in terms of player response, retention, reactivation and, most significantly, revenue – across customer-focused events I was involved with, like a Live Betting Championship, and a Million Kroner Casino Challenge, showed the need for a different kind of audience engagement: healthy, mission and achievement-focused customer behaviour, with loyalty built-in, throughout their participation with the game above. It wasn’t just about the transaction of gambling for these Players. It was about the status and achievement in completing a mission, qualifying for a Championship, or receiving a prize from an against the clock challenge.

Stories that Celebrate Players

The Audience, and the Players we seek to help Brands gain and retain at A GAME ABOVE, come for reasons – “stories” we call them – not simply percentage-based commercial deals, that are generic and emotionless. 

If one thing is clear from the success of community engagement platforms like Barstool, it is that content with emotion, that fans and players can relate to and become enthralled by, is king.

In Betting & Gaming we need to move towards packaging The Product with The Experience, and seek new ways to turn the page for gaining, celebrating and retaining “Players”, and not just “Gamblers”.

At A GAME ABOVE, we’re committed to delivering a narrative of inspiring, entertaining and captivating Stories for Players, on behalf of Brands, and alongside their Marketing, Social Media and Player Relations Teams – because we, as an Industry, need to adapt to captivate and celebrate The Audience, bigger and more receptive now, in this time of challenge and quarantine, than they have been at any point in our history.

In Betting & Gaming today, and for the future, it’s time to create stories that celebrate Players and create Community. We have the Products to do it. We need The Experience to be allied to that ability for a sustainable and responsible marketing approach.

Welcome to A GAME ABOVE the gambling.


 Steen Madsen is Chief Executive Officer of A GAME ABOVE

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