Covering All Bases: Andrew Garven Discusses Covers’ Expansion Amidst Industry Shifts

Covering All Bases: Andrew Garven Discusses Covers’ Expansion Amidst Industry Shifts

“Competition for new player acquisition is greater than ever before and the challenge is for affiliates to prove their they remain the most cost-efficient means of providing them.”

SBC’s Affiliate Leaders engaged in a discussion with Andrew Garven, Head of Marketing at Covers, leading up to his upcoming speaking engagement at SBC Summit North America this May. The conversation delved into Covers’ inception and its transformative journey into a pinnacle brand renowned for its premium sports wagering insights. Garven underscored the brand’s unwavering commitment to adaptability in a dynamic landscape, spotlighting pivotal elements such as community immersion, responsible gambling advocacy, and cutting-edge multi-channel marketing strategies, bolstered by enduring partnerships with industry titans. Additionally, he shed light on the shifts within the US industry and offered insights into Canada’s evolving market.

Q1: Can you tell us about the origins of Covers and how it has evolved over the past 25+ years in the industry?

Covers was founded in 1995 by two sports betting entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada who identified a lack of online sports betting resources where passionate players could come together and grow. Having built on their trailblazing efforts, Covers has since grown into a global brand that is trusted to provide the best sports wagering information and entertainment to every level of bettor in our millions-strong community.

The sports betting industry has changed significantly since 1995, requiring Covers to constantly evolve to stay ahead. Be it handling the transition from gray market to legal or adapting to the way that sports bettors consume content, our commitment to provide the best possible information and experience to our users has remained a constant priority.

This commitment has also been reflected in the developments to our product offering to meet the changing needs of sports bettors. Having started as a general sports and subscription site, we transitioned to being more community-based, offering free contests, picks, projections and an unrivaled data offering to help users make informed bets. Following the repeal of PASPA in 2018, we invested heavily in our sports and casino toplists to develop them into the most trusted for consumers and the premier acquisition channel for partners.

Editorially, we have steadily added more and more sports and now cover all major North American and significant international events that have relevance to bettors.

Q2: With an abundance of affiliate partners available, how do you differentiate yourself and stand out as a brand in the eyes of both operators and players?

We believe that our longevity – and the experience and authenticity that comes with it – is what sets up apart from many of our competitors.

While many affiliates sprung up as a result of the sports betting boom post-PASPA in 2018, we already had 23 years of optimizing our content and building long-standing relationships with our partners under our belt. Moreover, many of the individuals who built the foundations for the success we enjoy today are still with us, with multiple leaders across marketing, content, SEO and IT boasting tenures of over a decade.

Peerless in terms of data and analytics, we are a dominant SEO affiliate in our key geos and have built a team that is just as passionate as our user base, with sports bettors creating content for sports bettors. We pride ourselves on the fact that any sports bettor – from a curious first-timer to a seasoned professional – who visits the site will be catered to with an end-to-end experience.

In the eyes of our partners, what sets us apart is the quality of player that we are providing. Users are finding Covers because they’re searching for high-intent keywords and finding a wealth of high-quality content as a result. Our low bounce rate, repeat visitor and retention numbers are industry leading and that is recognized by the operators we work with.

Q3: How do you approach the integration of various marketing channels (such as social media, email marketing, SEO, etc.) into your affiliate strategy to enhance brand building and content engagement?

The industry is no longer the taboo that it once was, and sports betting conversations that previously took place in bespoke gambling websites and blogs are now more widespread online. In order to remain at the center of those conversations, we realized that only providing an on-site experience wouldn’t be enough. In the past three years we’ve built an in-house marketing agency comprising PR, social media, CRM, production, programming and SEO.

This has allowed us to begin producing channel-specific content by channel-specific creators to reach more bettors than ever through their preferred medium of consuming our content. People follow people, so visitors to Covers are presented with original programming that is produced in-house by a stable of personalities, like industry veterans Jason Logan and Joe Osborne, and creators such as rising stars, Jon Metler and Josh Inglis, who are authentic, credible and relatable.

Our success in this multi-channel strategy has given us the opportunity to work with some of the biggest operators in the country including FanDuel, DraftKings and  bet365, who sponsor our in-house podcast The Sharp 600.

Q4: Could you provide insights into the community aspect of Covers?

Our community is one of the longest-standing user-generated content hubs in sports betting and the longevity of individual participants is unparalleled. With bespoke forums on site for all betting topics, the dedicated NFL, NBA and MLB sections each have over half a million threads and counting.

In recent years, we’ve branched out into a number of off-site channels and built passionate communities there as well (19k on Instagram, 167k on X, 19k on YouTube). We’ve taken the best of what we do on-site with the likes of pick content and brought it to a completely new audience on different platforms.

Contests have always been a part of the Covers experience, but most recently, we’ve partnered with the likes of Chalkline to offer newer players a risk-free opportunity to win prizes while familiarizing themselves with popular betting types, such as props. We have found that these have served as an excellent conduit for increased customer acquisition, particularly in new markets.

Q5: Can you share your insights on the current landscape of affiliate marketing in the United States? How has it evolved in recent years, and what trends are shaping the industry?

With sports betting becoming more normalized in North America every year and a more competitive field than ever, affiliates are having to do more to demonstrate their value to potential partners. Search intent for betting has diversified beyond traditional SERPs with huge volumes now on social media, so a multi-channel approach is a must.

In addition, with SEO-driven affiliates at the mercy of increasingly unpredictable algorithm updates, knowing your potential user and being able to tailor your offering accordingly by geo is paramount. Competition for new player acquisition is greater than ever before and the challenge is for affiliates to prove their they remain the most cost-efficient means of providing them.

From an industry trends perspective, there’s no doubt that market consolidation and the reduction in sign up bonus offerings have been the biggest shifts since the early post-PASPA days.

We’ve seen exits and big shake-ups with brands like FoxBet, SI Sportsbook, Barstool Sportsbook, Wynnbet & Unibet, just to name a few in the past year. This is tough to see as we like a good competitive landscape with a lot of product options for bettors.

On the positive side, we’ve also seen improved responsible gambling messaging around excluding the use of ‘Free Bets’ terminology and more realistic sign-up offers as the long term sustainability of the industry and operators become a central focus after the initial land grab.

Q6: How do you foresee the landscape of iGaming in Canada evolving over the next five years, considering the potential entry of new provinces into the market and regulatory changes?

It looks likely that more provinces will legalize in the same manner as Ontario – Alberta first, as progress is less clear in Quebec and British Columbia. We can also expect to see a similar blend of foreign legacy sportsbooks competing with newer North American-based operators as has been the case across NAM in the past few years.

As far as regulation goes, the spotlight on advertising will only get brighter with pressure from all angles to limit its exposure to the Canadian public. We are already seeing federal lawmakers taking an interest in this area, with Senator Marty Deacon proposing a national framework for OSB advertising. Bonus inducements will also be targeted, with pressure on media outlets to reduce the impact of gambling exposure to children.

The role of Indigenous peoples in iGaming may need to be addressed, either on the provincial or federal level. We saw Mohawk in Quebec push hard to be enshrined as an authorized gaming entity during the debate around single-game sports betting back in 2022, while they have also filed a lawsuit to challenge the legality of iGaming in Ontario.

Q7: As a platform serving millions of sports bettors annually, what measures does Covers take to ensure responsible gambling practices among its users?

Our commercial and compliance teams are some of the most knowledgeable and up-to-date in the industry and work hand-in-hand with our partners to ensure that users in new markets are provided with appropriate messaging around responsible gambling.

We also maintain strict editorial integrity and neutrality, using transparent and honest language and encouraging sustainable and measured bets.

Educating our users to make smarter sports bets has always been a priority for us, and we have a plethora of evengreen guides and resources on site to inform readers of potential risks and advocate safe and enjoyable play.

Lastly, we have our own in-house scoring system as part of our sportsbook reviews which elevate those partners that prioritize player care and responsible gambling initiatives.

Q8: Finally, can you share any success stories or notable milestones that exemplify Covers’ impact and influence within the sports betting community?

The first milestone to highlight is our continuity. Next year will mark 30 years at the top of our game and we’ve grown consistently throughout that period to establish ourselves as one of the most reputable sports betting resources in North America. We’ve adapted and thrived in the legal market having seen our traffic double from 16M users in 2018 at the repeal of PASPA to 31M in 2023.

We’ve shored up long term partnerships with all the best products in the space and continue to put users at the forefront as we look to provide objective recommendations on the best places for them to bet state-by-state. These relationships with the most reputable brands has been key to ensuring player satisfaction and great sports betting experiences.

For example, our association with key partner Bet365 has spanned over 15 years, during which time revenue has grown 10x as we expanded into the regulated US states. We’re excited to continue to grow with them and doing the same for other popular brands like FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars and BetMGM.

Covers personalities and creators are now being regularly accredited at events including the Super Bowl, the PGA Tour and the UFC, giving us a presence on the ground at the biggest sporting events in North America and our users new perspectives and access.

The Covers brand has regularly been cited by and linked to as a sports betting authority by some of the largest and most reputable media publishers in North America, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Business Insider. We’ve become the go-to resource for state launches of sports betting, with our analysts providing print, radio or broadcast insight on the rollout of betting to over 100 media outlets in 24 different states.

Through the relationships we enjoy with our partners in the US & Canada we’ve brought peerless content to the sports betting community;

  • Co-branded content with the likes of Bet99 for the UFC – including an interview with MMA legend Georges St-Pierre – and Bet365 for the NFL, including sponsorship of our in-house podcast The Sharp 600 and multiple branded SGPs on their North American homepage during the regular season.
  • Live on location at NFL/NHL/NBA games with FanDuel as part of our “On the Ground’ series
  • Interview pieces with partners – including TonyBet, Sports Interaction, Circa and OLG – to amplify their product improvements and give them an opportunity to unpack their brand strategy to potential users.

———————————————————————————

Garven will be speaking on the Affiliate Leaders: building brands through content and customization’ panel alongside Cassie Brickman (CEO, Betting Hero), Marcos Oliveira (COO, Clever Advertising) and Kelly Brooks (CPO, FairPlay). The panel, which takes place on Wednesday, May 8 at 11:00am – 11:40am EDT, will be moderated by Former CEO of Catena Media, Michael Daly.

Source: SBC NEWS

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