How William Hill won the mobile battle at the Cheltenham Festival

By Chris Lee

The bookmaking industry is highly competitive at any time, but this reaches new heights around prestigious sporting events, such as the Grand National or Cheltenham Festival. And at Cheltenham this spring, William Hill – the owners of the Sportsbook, the most downloaded betting app on the UK market – faced particularly strong competition with a number of competing bookmakers promoting their betting apps heavily across the festival period.

William Hill turned to mobile marketing agency Fetch to ensure that the Sportsbook app achieved the highest possible positioning in the App Store; driving people to place bets via the app; and bringing in a new audience of first-time depositors.

First past the post

As James Faure, William Hill’s mobile marketing manager, explained, the overall objective of the Cheltenham campaign was to be the betting customer’s “number one choice” for the festival.

“To achieve this William Hill aimed to drive customer awareness and app downloads prior to the first day and in particular to the first race,” he told NMK. “The other main objectives were to deliver strong acquisition numbers throughout the festival and retain those customers throughout, maximising the number of bets made and the number of days when bets were placed.”

Another major challenge was that customers would be looking for the best offer and therefore William Hill had to position itself in way that was attractive and competitive but also not too generous as to be detrimental to the longer terms business objectives, Faure added.

William Hill’s mobile strategy

Mobile was set to be a key driver to encouraging existing depositors to place bets throughout the Festival via the Sportsbook app, to acquire new Sportsbook app users and ensure these new users are active to deliver an additional revenue stream from new Sportsbook app depositors.

To achieve this, the three-stranded mobile strategy used a variety of different options via the mobile platform to engage and activate new and existing Sportsbook users.

Fetch ran a pre-Festival Sportsbook awareness campaign using pre-roll videos on iPhone, iPad and Android devices using video ad networks such as Yume and Brightroll. This brought the Sportsbook app back to top of mind for existing users and linked it to the upcoming Cheltenham Festival, the company argued.

An app booster campaign on the first day of the festival with bursts on AppXpert by Surikate and AppGratis pushed the app to potential downloaders by ensuring that the Sportsbook app achieved the highest possible position in the App Store charts.

To engage and inspire new users to take part, display ads on premium mobile sites such as The Sun, The Telegraph, the Daily Express and Daily Star, providing access to an audience of existing and potential depositors, were used.

Measuring impact

By securing the date in AppGratis – the free and discounted app provider – Fetch ensured that William Hill competitors could not get the all-important lead position. Through promotional offers Fetch said it was able to target new depositors as a result of the campaign.

On the first day of the Cheltenham Festival, William Hill achieved the highest number of active unique users across all mobile ecosystems. Throughout the four days of the Festival period the Sportsbook app was number one in the iOS sports category and number eight overall.

Fetch said that the campaign showed how mobile promotion works successfully as a strand of a multi-media campaign. William Hill achieved one million bets placed via mobile devices during the four-day Festival – a very significant proportion of total online business. The opening day of the Festival saw William Hill app downloads match that of Grand National day.

Faure concluded: “Looking back, the lessons that were learnt surrounded engaging customers early to ensure that William Hill was front of mind when the festival started was the key to a strong start. A mix of display and app ranking activity helped to ensure punters saw William Hill when looking for a means to place a bet on mobile. Also a key learning was that a strong consistent message across all channels was an effective way of encouraging maximum engagement.”

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