SBC News caught up with Betbazar CEO Alex Iaroshenko to discuss why the explosion in popularity for Efootball over the last 12 months is only continuing alongside Euro 2020.
Iaroshenko explained that the highest engagement with Efootball is coming around the live matches, making it complementary to the tournament schedule for sportsbook operators.
He added that while League of Legends and Counter Strike followers are a valuable demographic, he expects sports titles to be the most lucrative for esports betting in the next few years.
SBC: We are coming out of a time when a lot of people turned to esports in lieu of traditional sports. How popular has Efootball been so far during the Euros?
AI: Esports, and Efootball in particular, has been immensely popular in the last year and continues to grow every day. Far from being in competition with each other, it is great to see that live football and Efootball have a synergistic relationship, this is especially the case for the Euros – where it’s all about entertainment.
Looking at the statistics, we’re seeing that during live matches, the warmup, halftime break and especially right after the game is when the most Efootball engagement takes place.
It is giving spectators something to follow and bet on during the event’s downtime, making them more likely to keep engaging with the rest of the tournament.
The popularity of it tells me that a lot of people turned to this as an outlet during the pandemic. We already knew this, of course, but it is great to see that bettors are keeping it as part of their entertainment schedule even though live sports are returning.
The key now is presenting a complementary offering to the tournament schedule – without cannibalising the sportsbook spend.
SBC: In what ways are we seeing bettors engage with Efootball? Where are the spikes around the Euro 2020 match schedule?
AI: We can clearly see the vertical’s popularity from the number of bets that are required from our clients, as a result, we have steadily increased the number of events on offer. We now cover about 300 events per day and aim to have five to six games in a row to fuel this demand. This has proven to be profitable for the operators and engaging for the bettors.
This profitability comes from the slightly less predictable nature of Efootball, and indeed esports. Whenever the favourite wins in any sport it means losses for the operator. Efootball actively diversifies this risk as the volatility is much higher, which not only means increased revenue for the operator, but also makes the event more exciting for the player.
It also means that players that have done well betting on the favourite in the live match are more likely to continue playing on the Efootball vertical, in effect keeping the action going from earlier.
SBC: How is Efootball generally consumed? Are players simultaneously watching it alongside live football? Are we seeing any connection between the two as the format evolves?
AI: They’re not watching simultaneously, they only have one pair of eyes! Post-match consistently proves to be the most popular time for traffic and engagement. I predict this trend will continue throughout the tournament because there isn’t enough time pre-match, as an Efootball game takes eight minutes.
I think throughout the tournament this will continue in a similar trend. We see an average of 80% of bets during the event in-play with approximately 20% either side, giving plenty of time to capture interest.
There is an element of instant gratification here where the player engages and has a result very quickly and is ready to go again. Utilising this functionality correctly, an operator can get a lot of bets in a very short space of time.
SBC: How much does the performance of real-life teams affect the way players are following Efootball national teams? What betting behaviour have we seen from this?
AI: I don’t think there is a correlation. You’re dealing with two completely different teams. For example, if Spain is playing in the Euros then it’s still unlikely you’ll see increased bets in Efootball.
For this reason, we always make sure that each Efootball event is clearly distinct from the one happening in real life. It was suggested that, for example, if France and Germany were playing for real that we have the same teams playing in Efootball, but this is a recipe for disaster.
Some punters are sure to get confused and will end up sending complaints to the operator, thinking they were betting on the actual match or vice versa.
There is also a possible legal issue of misrepresentation here, where it can look like an operator is trying to mislead a player, so we avoid that altogether.
As well as that, and last but not least, we believe that it is strong enough an attraction on its own to not have to rely on the real event. There is obvious synergy there, as they help each other, but Efootball doesn’t need to mirror football in that way.
SBC: What demographics do you see being naturally drawn to Efootball during the Euros? In what ways do you think this group will diversify in the next five years?
AI: It is pretty much the same demographic that is betting on football. This is a wide range of people with some attraction from players who follow esports first, which is largely a younger audience, but it is predominantly football fans, which means it also attracts an older demographic. This is why we see esports numbers spike during a tournament like the Euros.
However, it is difficult to compare this to the wider esports audience, which skews in a younger direction, but football and Efootball fans are far more reliable bettors.
The League of Legends or Counter Strike esports followers are a valuable demographic, not nearly to the extent of Efootball but we definitely see sports being the most lucrative channel for esports to follow for the next few years at least.
Having said that, we are confident it will work the other way around as well and we will start to see football fans getting introduced to esports in this way and becoming interested in Counter Strike etc. as well and start to grow that side further. There are many synergistic facets to this business.
SBC: What will be key to the expansion of this demographic and enticing new players to give Efootball a go? How should operators start to look at upselling what’s on offer?
AI: The explosion in its popularity is inevitable; football is hugely popular, and this will drive Efootball’s growth. The best thing that operators can do to make the most out of this vertical is to treat it just like they would any other sports and represent it that way in their sportsbooks.
In fact, it should ideally go in the football section where the bettors that are most likely to engage with it will see it. It’s just another fixture to add to the accumulator. After all, this summer’s all about entertainment, so if you can deliver content that will truly resonate, you’re really onto a winner.