Melvin Ritsema: ‘Panda’ to the needs of the UK sports betting market

In the first of an exclusive three-part series for SBC News, Royal Panda CMO Melvin Ritsema takes a trip back to 2017 to talk us through his company’s decision to bring a sportsbook into its successful three-year-old online casino platform.

Just over a year ago, we started out on a sportsbook adventure, having identified this as the best way to ensure continued growth and lift Royal Panda into the industry big league.

It’s not to say that the growth had dried up – far from it, but we wanted to take it to the next step by expanding our offer, both to cater better to the wants and needs of our existing customers and to open up a wealth of new marketing sources.

With this in mind, and given that we wanted to become even more focused on our main target market, it made sense to diversify our product portfolio with a sportsbook offering.

As an online casino – we’d already entered the world’s biggest regulated market in the UK, which is dominated in all sectors by some massive companies, and not just survived but thrived. As such, we wanted to apply the same magic touch to the sportsbook.

Having assessed the viability of this internally, we decided to ‘Panda’ to the needs of the UK market. Okay, not completely, because these discussions brought home the realisation that while there was no doubting our marketing know-how, or even our expertise in keeping customers happy, we needed to form a strategic partnership to conquer the sports betting space.

More specifically, we needed some help on the software side. Now, everyone in the industry is aware of the competition in this area, but we were quickly impressed by the BetConstruct platform. It was also important to us that BetConstruct wasn’t yet being used by any of the UK’s biggest operators, so our product would stand out as a unique proposition to our target market.

The deal meant we had two companies looking to make a name for themselves in a competitive sector through quick, decisive thinking and a proactive, winning mentality, as well as great platforms.

Perhaps more importantly, we were impressed by the willingness of the BetConstruct team to work with us as a partner. They wanted a big client in the UK and we wanted a partner who would put our needs at the front of the queue – this was a win-win for both companies.

However, we didn’t want to be seen as just another casino operator trying to eek out extra revenues by putting everything in the hands of a turnkey solution provider. For this reason, we made plans to combine the Royal Panda sportsbook rollout with a sporting statement of intent – namely to enter a front-of-shirt sponsorship deal with London-based Championship side Queens Park Rangers (QPR).

This three-year deal with QPR instigated a ‘Royal’ traffic boost straight from the outset, put Royal Panda on the map with a traditional and well-known football club both in the UK and abroad, and gave us another focal point to apply our in-house PPC and marketing expertise.

At this stage, we were keen not to overstretch ourselves or to attempt an unrealistic positioning of the brand, but instead careful to get a ‘feel’ for how best to go about this. Yet even back then, the end goal was clear – to take on the established sports betting operators in the lucrative UK market. This was just the first step in the company’s quest for greater success in the UK and beyond.

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