When it comes to partnerships between US media giants and sportsbooks, they tend to be the market leaders. It is possible that it is using the Sports Illustrated brand for its US push. TheScore and Barstool Sports could be acquired by Penn National to drive its growth.
According to the rampant speculation, DraftKings or Caesars are the most likely partner for ESPN in its betting operations. The companies involved are usually large and listed.
The business pivoted from a Europe-focused, multi brand business into a US-focused, media brand-driven competitor.
Daniel Graetzer wants the public to know that he is building a new proposition for the US sportsbook industry and not just a novelty.
Building betting into a lifestyle brand
The operation was formed out of the desire of the CEO of the parent company to build something different from the rest of the sports betting market. He explained that the online sports betting landscape in the US was becoming a bunch of generic sportsbooks competing on spend and price. There was very little recognition of the brand.
He acknowledges that as a young company, it was unable to match market leaders in spending and lacked the resources to introduce cutting-edge technologies. It was never an option to compete head-to-head with the dominant players in the market; rather, the approach is to avoid doing so.
There is a blue ocean thinking. They are competing in a race to the bottom in the red ocean. I would like to build something different.
Graetzer feels that there is a lack of a lifestyle brand in the sports betting space. The nostalgia that comes with a title that has been in the market for 25 years, as well as the trust and awareness around the core Maxim brand, are what makes it work.
He goes on to say that it is much more than that. Some of the best attended events in the market include the Super Bowl, Miami Swim Week and Art Basel, which are run by Maxim. Everyone wants to be at that event.
We want to give that kind of experience in the sports betting world as well.
Break things when you move fast
The fact that a young company was able to partner with a large brand like Maxim is due to Carousel Group’s fast recognition of the US opportunity and subsequent transition to concentrate completely on the market.
He saw an opportunity to create a company that could compete in online sports betting with new technology. It was about the same time as PASPA was repealed.
I started putting the carpet down in the office when I realized that it was going to be the biggest opportunity of my career. I knew if I didn’t attack this now, I would regret it for the rest of my life.
The pivot to a North America focused business was prompted by this. We acquired our own technology, started building our own sports betting technology from scratch, built all of our competencies in-house, and our own trading, marketing, customer support, fraud, payments, risk, everything.
I believe in building a vertically integrated business where you can hear what the customer is saying and translate it into a product output.
The foundation is Maxim and the product is MaximBet
In September of 2020, it launched SportsBetting.com in Colorado, with a market access deal with Caesars expanding its reach to New Jersey, Indiana and Iowa. It was not until April last year that it announced its partnership with Maxim, along with a $50m investment from xSigma Entertainment, the igaming-focused investment arm of Chinese engineering giant ZK International Group.
This was more of a case of being able to pivot once again when the opportunity arose, and less of a result of seeking out such a partnership. He explains that his background is in tech startups. You know you are going to succeed because you see a challenge, take your vision and pivot towards an opportunity.
He says that his partner is a fantastic one. There are elements of the publication that have been retained, but other areas of the sports betting business have changed, according to him.
We are not the magazine and you can see that through our brand. We have a traditional logo, but we are vibrant and dynamic, modern, inclusive, and very diverse.
The strategy is to get the best out of both partners and Maxim. We build this brand together because we take the best out of sports.
We take the best of all our partners, so we are not necessarily a Maxim sportsbook.
The queen did not pick an heir apparent
Regardless of whether that is different to the wider sportsbook market or to the publication that gives it a name, MaximBet is positioned as different. And this is also demonstrated by its partners. It was the first to market with a name, image and likeness (NIL) at college level, making it available to female student athletes across Colorado.
In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, the NCAA lifted its prohibition on student athletes earning money from NIL in June 2021.
Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon was the first bookmaker to announce an active Major League Baseball player as a brand ambassador. The musician became the first female celebrity to act as a lead ambassador for a sportsbook.
The deal withNicki Minaj is a perfect example of what we want to be as a brand. This is where we are playing in: mainstream media, entertainment, lifestyle, fashion, art and music, because Nicki Minaj is a global icon.
Rather than tie-ups with teams or additional brands, the partners of MaximBet are being informed by their individual personality. A push to develop word of mouth and bring players through reputation rather than being one of multiple brands competing for air is what it is.
Sports betting and casino are our main focus, but we want to create an experience and a whole brand around that.
Lessons about customer care
She is one of the most influential people on the planet right now, and on social media she is the sixth most followed female celebrity worldwide. He suggests that the way she interacts with her fans offers lessons for how an operator can develop a loyal following.
He says that she is incredibly savvy. She has one of the best relationships with her fans of any personality or athlete.
There is an elite level of fans that she engages with so heavily. She invites them to get together, she invites them to listen to her music before it is released, and she does prayer sessions with them.
He believes that the way she treats her fans is what operators should engage with their consumers in. As an investor in the business and an advisor to the board, Minaj can play a long-term role in its future.
She brings a lot of great ideas to the table. We are really looking forward to seeing them come to life.
Something tangible is being offered
Something tangible to the players is what this all revolves around. The deals with the likes of Blackmon and Minaj add another layer to the marketing team at MaximBet, according to Graetzer.
He says that an aggressive push on bonusing is not going to happen. Since the Barbz are screaming for it, it’s merchandise.
Blackmon, as a very local hero in Colorado, is very different from the hip-hop icon, but he is still important. We are doing some amazing events and special appearances with him.
Brand awareness is the biggest challenge for newcomers in the sportsbook market, and being able to build trust and awareness lets players see a brand as a significant competitor, according to him.
It starts with a trustworthy brand that everyone knows and recognizes, so they know what you will offer, that you are genuine, and that you offer incredible experiences.
A Halloween party with Fat Joe and Cheat Codes was held in Denver, and a Super Bowl party with Chainsmokers was held in Los Angeles. Graetzer says they love local and small activations. Big ones are something we love as well.
National coverage of our Super Bowl event was huge, but also a local event that we ran in Denver. There is nothing more important than connecting with the local community than we operate on both levels, we see the need to build a national brand, but there is nothing more important than connecting with the local community.
Don’t rely on the betting engine to experience the experience
The focus is on building long-term relationships with players, rather than the underlying technology.
This has led to the outsourcing of its sportsbook technology to Kambi, as well as its player account management platform to White Hat Gaming. The value of the business is being provided by the fact that the loyalty platform is being built in-house and that MaximBet will own the player experience.
When he sees a fairly simple middle ground, he says the in-house versus outsourcing debate is being “talked to death” on panels.
He believes that there are companies that are doing amazing things like White Hat. I want to compete with the big guys in the market, but I don’t want to change the wheel.
I want to compete on brand, on experiences, on rewards, not on building out the same product that 50 other people will have in the next two to five years, that’s what I want to compete on.
While the business is preparing for further expansion, he believes that MaximBet’s approach is already disrupting the market. Others are trying to build muscle with their own variations. He says that they are authentic.
By setting the trend, we are doing this the right way. The first MLB player deal, the first female-fronted brand in the US, and the first NIL deal are just some of the first-of- their-kind deals we do. You can not take that away from us.
He says that his team is leading the US market in terms of brand positioning, and that he is determined to keep that run of firsts going.
He says that they are so hungry to scale up. We have great market access, and we are going to roll out a number of states soon.
We are in a mad rush to get our brand in front of as many people as possible.
Daniel Graetzer said that the startup was formed out of his desire to build something different from the rest of the sports betting market. He said that the online sports betting landscape in the US was becoming a bunch of generic competing on spend and price. There was very little recognition of the brand.