Bettingpro.com editor Neil Roarty takes a look at a sport that has come a long way in a short time – and why affiliates should be taking it very seriously as a money making opportunity.
What’s the best thing about Christmas? For many it’s spending time with their families, going on nights out with friends and colleagues, over indulgence in food and alcohol and, of course, presents. For a sports betting affiliate it should be the World Darts Championship.
The World Darts Championships at the Alexandra Palace is an event which has grown exponentially in the past decade to the point that it now draws in 66,000 fans across 15 days and millions of viewers on Sky Sports. The broadcaster is so devoted to the tournament that it is not only screening the action on Sky Sports 1 during December but it is also turning the Sky Sports Xtra channel over to become Sky Sports Darts during the festive period.
That alone should tell affiliates that this is an event worth taking note of and it is amazing that more have not yet cottoned on to the appeal of ‘the arrows’. This is a sport that is almost exclusive funded by the gaming industry, with the World Championships sponsored by William Hill, the Matchplay by BetVictor, the Masters by Unibet and the Premier League by Betway. Those firms all recognise the importance of being associated with a growing sport that appeals directly to the most important demographic for the gaming industry.
Darts has been transformed from a pub sport into the stadium filler that we see today but it hasn’t lost its roots and its core audience is still the young working class male that is so coveted in the gaming industry. These binge drinking, banter boys are the present and the future of online sports betting and there are few better opportunities to market to them than during a tournament which has had a 25% year on year growth in viewing figures since 2012. The 2015 final alone had 1.6 million viewers, which is more than the 1.53 million that Channel 4 (a free to air channel) got for the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
So how can affiliates tap into this market? The first thing that should be done is to look to the bookmakers and follow their lead. During the 2016 Premier League Betway gave away free bets to those in the venues and Unibet followed suit at the Masters. It would be a massive shock if there wasn’t an exclusive offering from William Hill for the World Championships William Hill, the Matchplay by BetVictor, the Masters by Unibet and the Premier League by Betway. and the other, non-sponsoring, firms will also be running promotions on the tournament.
It’s incumbent on the affiliates to treat these in the same way that they do the Cheltenham Festival or Euro 2016 marketing offers. Huge pushes need to be made to get these in front of punters, who will be desperate to boost their Christmas bonuses with some betting funds. Give them somewhere to do this.
Finally, and this is arguably the most important point, find out about the sport of darts. At Bettingpro.com we’ve hired professional darts journalists to cover the events for several years. We’ll have them at the Alexandra Palace and they will be reporting live to our readers and social followers. Darts is still a hugely accessible sport for journalists and even relatively small publications can gain access to players and commentators. Taking advantage of this is absolutely crucial if you want to stay ahead of the competition.
The bookmakers know this already and the likes of Wayne Mardle and John Part have columns offering betting tips. These are the two main Sky Sports commentators and so the tie-ins are obvious. There will, no doubt, be some shrewd affiliates who have already signed up their own expert tipster for the World Championships and even more who are using the event for brand sponsorship.
The beauty of darts is that it’s a crossover sport. The same fans who will be piling into the Alexandra Palace are those who will be filling football stadia over the festive period. We know this by the songs that they sing when watching the matches. This means that, unlike a puppy, a darts punter is not just for Christmas and that’s something that sports betting affiliates would be wise to acknowledge this year.
Neil Roarty is the Editor of Bettingpro.com, a multi-award winning sports betting affiliate. He has almost a decade of experience in the gaming industry and in addition to writing for Bettingpro.com has also featured in several other industry publications.