As we look ahead to another exciting weekend of racing at the Grand National this week (9th – 11th April), the below interview takes you on a whistle stop tour of the Cheltenham Festival 2015. An event that lives long in the memory of any horse racing “super fan” and one that saw the last Cheltenham for A.P McCoy that most certainly cannot go without a mention in any news piece this year.
Neil, how was your experience of Cheltenham this year?
Cheltenham was huge this year, both at the event and online. The first day of the festival, Tuesday 10th March, was the crowning element of the week , as there was a lot of money riding on the four Irish favourites all trained by Willie Mullins. A lot of people – including myself – had four-fold accumulators going into the last of the four races where Mullins’ Annie Power was running, and of course the horse fell jumping over the shadow of the fence. It’s estimated that when Annie Power fell, it saved the bookies around £50 million pounds. Thankfully, both the horse and the jockey were uninjured following the fall.
Online, bookmakers stated that it was a difficult festival from a profitability point of view, but from a performance, i.e. acquisition point of view, there have been a lot of great results. The long-term gains of getting Cheltenham customer are large as they are some of the most valuable customers an operator can get, so there’s a lot of focus in the gaming industry on Cheltenham.
What does a valuable Cheltenham customer look like?
The most valued Cheltenham customers tend to be very wealthy, in the upper end of the ABC1 demographic, (including Royalty) who pay thousands of pounds just stay around Cheltenham. They go to the festival and stay for a full week in the area, hiring out a cottage while the Cheltenham residents rent out their houses and head off on their own holiday.
What are you key tips from Cheltenham?
Get your basics right
The industry has called each year ‘the year of the mobile’ since 2011, however some companies are still struggling to get their strategies right for mobile. Localised strategies were also key for Cheltenham. For our clients, we had a huge focus around the Cheltenham region across mobile and saw a huge acquisition uplift from this strategy.
Another thing to note was that some operators failed to turn off their PPC campaigns when a horse won. At Latitude, we have a process in place to make sure campaigns are paused once a race has finished and budget is used effectively. People will still search for those races, but they’re either doing so to check the result or collect their winnings and hence have no intention to bet.
Latitude launched our clients’ campaigns two to three weeks before the festival, making sure that we were attaining higher value punters with a clear intention to bet – and bet large. They’re the ones looking early, looking to see their form, looking at best odds guarantee.
Think about enticements
We’ve seen lots of focus for bookmakers on what they call a ‘no run no bet’, i.e. if the horse is a non-starter, the customer gets their money back. This will be prominent for the Grand National this weekend as well, just to try and get those people in early and bet early. As mentioned earlier, these punters are likely to be more valuable because they are the ones conducting more research, and once acquired, they are likely to become your most valuable punters for the entire festival.
Gold Cup, the Friday and last day of the festival, was still the biggest day by far. We noticed some operators being less active with their adverts around Gold Cup day, so I’d suggest making sure that budgets are managed effectively throughout the whole week to make sure you’ve got enough spend for the duration of the festival.
Don’t forget social
Focusing on engaging social was key at Cheltenham. A good example of this is the ‘Chelten-ham’ campaign run Coral, where they raced miniature pigs around a course with live commentary. Both Coral and Paddy Power go for quirky, funny stuff, whereas other brands aim for acquisition through corporate and news-focused messages. However, what’s key here is that you keep to your brand and know what your user wants, utilising data effectively within your social advertising to target your most valuable customers.
A surprising factor for us was that the Monday, which is the day before the festival starts, saw a greater volume of depositors than the penultimate day of the festival. This is something to think about also in preparation for the Grand National.
There was a big focus on pushing mobile users (outside of search) towards bookmakers’ apps directly, in comparison to previous years. This should continue to be a key consideration for all other key sporting events. This also highlights the value of a mobile strategy at Cheltenham, as we saw that the operators that were bidding aggressively on mobile saw the greatest return, pushing users to download the mobile app where possible.