Ahead of the upcoming Canadian Gaming Summit, taking place between June 18-20, SBC’s Affiliate Leaders had the pleasure of speaking to James White, Co-Founder & COO of HotTake Sports. White, who brings a fresh and inspired approach to the realm of affiliate marketing, delves into how HotTake Sports has carved out its place in the industry, fusing a user-friendly and socially active platform, with responsible gambling education and engaging gaming content. Additionally, discussions encompassed the transformative power of gamification, how utilising social media can aid brands in engaging with millennials and Gen Z players, and the challenges felt by smaller affiliates in building solid operator-affiliate partnerships.

James White on HotTake Sports’ vibrant and inclusive ecosystem

“Whether it’s betting education, sports analysis, or entertainment, our goal is to offer valuable and relevant content that enriches our users’ experience and fosters meaningful connections.”

Ahead of the upcoming Canadian Gaming Summit, taking place between June 18-20, SBC’s Affiliate Leaders had the pleasure of speaking to James White, Co-Founder & COO of HotTake Sports.

White, who brings a fresh and inspired approach to the realm of affiliate marketing, delves into how HotTake Sports has carved out its place in the industry, fusing a user-friendly and socially active platform, with responsible gambling education and engaging gaming content.

Additionally, discussions encompassed the transformative power of gamification, how utilising social media can aid brands in engaging with millennials and Gen Z players, and the challenges felt by smaller affiliates in building solid operator-affiliate partnerships.

SBC: Let’s talk about your company first. What inspired the creation of HotTakes and what sets it apart from other platforms in the market?

James White: Our journey with HotTakes began during the onset of COVID-19. Myself and our co-founders were all residing together during our university days, seeking ways to engage ourselves. As ardent sports enthusiasts venturing into sports betting, we realised the absence of user-friendly and socially interactive platforms to acquaint beginners with the intricacies of betting and facilitate sharing picks among friends.

Motivated by this gap, our CEO Tyler Amirault embarked on the mission to address this challenge by building HotTakes. After a year of immersive self-learning in app development, HotTakes emerged with a suite of distinctive features, setting it apart from other offerings in the market. What further distinguishes us is our provision of a free-to-play betting simulator and our emphasis on education and promoting responsible gaming. This approach fosters a meaningful connection with beginners and resonates particularly well with the Gen Z demographic.

SBC: How does HotTakes approach community-building and fostering interaction among its users?

JW: At HotTakes Sports, our approach to community-building and fostering interaction among users is multifaceted and driven by a commitment to creating a vibrant and inclusive ecosystem. We prioritise partnerships with university clubs, providing platforms for engagement and promoting sports enthusiasm within communities. Additionally, our internship programs offer valuable opportunities for students to gain practical experience while infusing fresh perspectives into our team.

Collaborations with Toronto bars and concert venues serve as additional touchpoints for community members to connect through events and gatherings. On our app, interactive features such as controversial ‘sports takes’ spark lively discussions and debates among users, enhancing engagement and fostering a sense of belonging. Moreover, we incentivise user interaction by offering bonuses for referrals, which promotes organic growth and camaraderie within our community. Through these initiatives, HotTakes Sports is dedicated to creating an environment where sports fans can come together, share their passion, and build meaningful connections.

SBC: You’re quite big on gamification – how does that translate into the user experience on your app? 

JW: We find that through gamification, you can define a clear goal and have users figure their way out to that goal, which allows ample time to intuitively learn and understand concepts. In the context of HotTakes, by making prizes very visible and showing public claims from other players, our users quickly become infatuated with that goal, and it just so happens that properly making sports betting picks is the path toward the goal. In this way, we create stickiness and learning through practice instead of theory.

SBC: Given the focus of the upcoming panel discussion and your company’s active presence on social media, how can the gambling industry make the most of social media platforms to connect with millennials and Gen Z in meaningful ways?

JW: We’re committed to maximising social media platforms to authentically engage with millennials and Gen Z in the gambling industry. One key approach we’re taking involves collaborating with content creators who specialise in various aspects of sports and gaming, which has helped us achieve over 9k Instagram followers, and 21k TikTok followers in less than a year.

By bringing on board these experts, we’re able to provide diverse and engaging content that resonates with our audience’s interests and preferences. Whether it’s betting education, sports analysis, or entertainment, our goal is to offer valuable and relevant content that enriches our users’ experience and fosters meaningful connections. This is definitely an approach that others in the gambling industry can take. It’s not always about creating gambling content, but creating a brand that resonates with the Gen Z audience, which in turn, fosters trust in that brand. Through strategic partnerships and a consistent presence on social media, we aim to create a community where individuals feel informed, inspired, and empowered to participate responsibly in the world of sports and gaming.

SBC: To follow up on this, how can the gambling industry adapt to the changing preferences and behaviours of younger demographics, particularly in light of shifts in technology and social norms?

JW: The younger generation has a lower attention span, and subsequently a smaller tolerance for consistent losses. Social media has also encouraged wins and highlights of our generation to be shared, but not losses. Engagement is quickly lost if a user does not hit some major win, particularly in their first days on a platform. Strategically structuring offers and bonuses to activate when a user is typically at their lowest in the journey is key to appealing to the new preferences of the generation.

SBC: When it comes to scoring deals with operators (as an affiliate), what are some of the biggest challenges you face? 

JW: When it comes to scoring deals with operators as an affiliate, one of the biggest challenges we face at HotTakes is navigating the complex landscape of the industry to get in touch with the right people.

Given the massive scale of these companies, getting in touch with the decision-makers can be incredibly challenging, requiring us to resort to cold calls and relying on the grapevine to make connections. This process can be inefficient and time-consuming, making it difficult to establish meaningful relationships.

Additionally, earning trust poses another significant hurdle. As a relatively new player in the industry, building credibility and reputation is crucial, yet challenging. Companies are often hesitant to engage in deals with affiliates who lack a well-known presence or established credibility. Therefore, we prioritise efforts to build our reputation, network with the right individuals, and demonstrate our value proposition to overcome these challenges and secure fruitful partnerships with operators.

SBC: Do you foresee any upcoming regulatory changes in certain Canadian provinces? What direction would you ideally like to see the Canadian gambling industry take?

JW: As the Canadian gambling landscape evolves, there’s undoubtedly anticipation for potential regulatory changes in certain provinces, especially with Alberta and British Columbia paving the way for legalisation. With these changes, there’s an opportunity for the industry to embrace more digital calls to action from a marketing perspective, attracting new customers and enhancing accessibility. Ideally, we envision a direction for the Canadian gambling industry that prioritises responsible gaming practices while fostering innovation and competition.

A regulatory framework that balances consumer protection with industry growth would be beneficial, as it would ensure transparency, fairness, and accountability across all platforms. Moreover, promoting education and awareness around responsible gambling habits remains crucial, alongside measures to safeguard vulnerable individuals. By embracing these principles and adapting to emerging trends, the Canadian gambling industry can thrive in a manner that benefits both consumers and stakeholders alike.

SBC: What excites you the most about the Canadian Gaming Summit, and what sorts of connections are you hoping to make while you’re there?

JW: What excites me the most about the Canadian Gaming Summit is the prospect of meeting new partners, investors, and industry peers face-to-face for the first time. It’s an environment where like-minded individuals come together, offering a unique opportunity to network and form meaningful connections within the gaming industry. I’m eager to engage with fellow enthusiasts, exchange insights, and explore potential collaborations that can contribute to the growth and success of HotTakes Sports.

Additionally, I see the summit as a platform to learn from industry leaders and innovators, gaining valuable knowledge and insights that can help propel our company forward. Overall, I anticipate the summit to be an enriching experience where I can connect, learn, and discover new opportunities for growth and development. The goal is to be a sponge, and soak up as many learnings as possible!

_____________________________

White will be speaking on the ‘Next-Gen Gamification: Engaging Millennials and Gen Z panel, alongside industry peers Brooke Hilton (Head of Casino, Pointsbet Canada), Steven Salz (CEO, Rivalry), Andrew Darley (VP, iCasino & iLottery, OLG) and Sim Bielak (President, Suzohapp). The panel which which will be moderated Betting Startups Podcast host Jesse Learmonth, will take place on Thursday, June 20th at 11:15am – 12:00pm EDT.

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