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Locker Room Labs Sports Technology Spotlight: Bryan Bennett

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Welcome to the tenth edition of the Locker Room Labs Sports Technology Spotlight. In this series, we sit down with industry partners and experts to discuss the evolving world of sports tech including the incredible innovations being developed in the space. The next professional featured in this series is sports and iGaming tech consultant, investor, and investor, Bryan Bennett. We sat down with Bryan to discuss his perspective on topics that are trending in the sports betting and iGaming industry.

What international companies do you anticipate will take market share in the US sports technology industry? 

Looking specifically at the operator side of the business, the 2024 football season is going to be a pivotal one since it will be the first time that Fanatics, Bet365 and ESPNBet all enter for a full season at scale to compete with the incumbent leaders. Of those three, I’m most bullish on Fanatics and Bet365 as they both have unique product offerings that set them apart from the crowd. ESPNBet is really competing on bonus spend at the moment and that has never been a long term recipe for success. If they can demonstrate more integration with ESPN online and broadcast properties, that could be interesting but so far that has not proved to be the strategy or at least it has not yet been executed properly. 

Can you define the importance of companies working with industry-specific consultants and the benefits of having industry veterans on the team?

I’m obviously biased here, but consultants and advisors that have decades of experience in the US and abroad can be critical to the success of companies, especially young ones just starting in the gaming industry. Speaking specifically about the US landscape, the industry is rife with landmines whether they be regulatory, fundraising, marketing, trade and risk, product, etc. A solid industry expert, even if they’re on board simply as an advisor, can help any young company navigate around or through an innumerable number of challenges. From a personal perspective, I work with a half dozen startups as an advisor to simply offer guidance on decisions that I have also faced over decades in the real money and free-to-play gaming space. 

In your opinion, what are the key success factors for betting, fantasy, and iGaming apps to stand out in a saturated market?

I’ll focus more on the sports betting side since that’s where most of my experience lies and it’s significantly more available in the US than iGaming. From a betting perspective, the key challenge has largely been one based on your marketing budget. The Tier 1s have been able to simply steamroll Tiers 2 and 3 simply by outspending them by a wide margin on marketing. But looking specifically at the top tier and how new entrants like Fanatics and ESPNBet can stand out, innovating on product and the overall betting experience will be key factors outside of keeping up on marketing. A few items that I think will be difference making in the future are video streaming, micro betting and innovative bonus strategies. 

Streaming is popular in Europe and there is ample opportunity to ramp those efforts in the US. I think that’s even more important when it comes to secondary sports and increasing betting on those sports mid-week or during the US betting down season from April to August. Sports like surfing and various motorsports are available via feeds like ALT Sports Data, but being able to bet those sports while watching them live could significantly increase handle while exposing betting to new audiences. I would think ESPNBet would have some advantages here with the sheer amount of content that ESPN has at its disposal. But so far, the integration between the broadcaster and the betting shop has been less than innovative. 

Micro betting has received a decent amount of press coverage but isn’t widely available yet. I think a big issue there is how it has been implemented. You can’t expect bettors to treat micro betting as a true second screen experience if they’re required to select from dozens of options in real time. I really like the Kero Sports product with a bit of curation to give bettors a limited set of options that can be easily reviewed and bet while watching the game. 

And finally, I think bonuses and rewarding players is due for a major overhaul as the current system just isn’t scalable. It rewards bonus hunters with sub-optimal customer acquisition and retention strategies. I’m really interested to see how Fanatics progresses with their FanCash program and whether that can really make that a major differentiator to attract and retain customers. The big question is can you impact betting behavior with gear and perhaps experiences rather than bonuses. No one has really proved that out, and Fanatics probably has the best opportunity to do that.

Bryan Bennett | Board Observer at ALT Sports Data, Inc.

What do you believe are the most significant barriers to entry for new startups in the sports technology industry?

It really depends on how the company fits into the gaming landscape. For startups looking to compete as an operator my recommendation would be to avoid the regulated space completely. There are too many 800 pound gorillas there already and any new operator would need hundreds of millions in marketing spend to even scratch the surface. That ship has likely sailed in the US. But there is still ample opportunity in other areas for operators, specifically in sweepstakes. There will likely be a significant number of new entrants between now and football season, but there’s still ample opportunity to compete with the right product. For startups offering B2B services and products to operators, the challenge is quite different. The sales cycles can be very long and oftentimes the operators don’t control their own product roadmap if they have outsourced to a third party like Kambi or OpenBet. For B2B companies, the key is to get a first integration live, even if it doesn’t generate revenue, to get real usage data. I tell my B2B startup clients constantly that data cures everything and will open doors far more quickly than a powerpoint presentation. 

Can you share your insights on the global landscape of betting, fantasy, and iGaming apps and the opportunities it presents for industry growth?

I’ll talk more about the areas that I’m most excited about whether they be in the US or International. While I’ve been 100% focused on the regulated US market for the last 10 years as the COO of Betfred US and the SVP of Interactive for AGS, I’m now diving into some unregulated areas of opportunity, specifically in sweepstakes and skills-based gaming. Sweepstakes has been around for a while with Chumba and others, but 2024 is going to be a huge year of growth on the sports side of that model. Fliff has really had the market to itself for a while and I believe they will have a lot of company for the upcoming football season. For skills-based gaming, I’m working with a startup that can add wagering to golf simulators and other true games of skill, and I’m really excited about the growth potential in that space. There are certain activities like golf, darts, cornhole and others where in-person wagering has historically been a massive component for years. Adding remote, electronic capabilities can expand those wagering activities exponentially. And finally, there are gray markets where iLottery, casino and sports are rapidly growing. I’m exploring some opportunities in those geos, but we can save that for a later day. 

How do you see the intersection of sports technology and fan engagement evolving in the coming years?

I think we’ve just scratched the surface on how technology can be used to not only aggregate fan behavior data, but to use that data to increase revenue across the board. Again, I think ESPN and Fanatics are probably uniquely positioned to be leaders in this effort if for no other reason that they already offer multiple products to sports fans – content and betting in the case of ESPN and gear, memorabilia and betting in the case of Fanatics.

I’ve had some conversations with Credenza, a blockchain company that is already working with the St. Louis Blues to track fan behavior and purchases across all aspects of their Blues fandom – tickets, gear, content etc. Getting to a position where you can follow a Blues fan throughout their various fan interactions whether it be making a wager, attending an away game or buying gear will allow companies to tailor very specific experiences for that fan that drive value for everyone involved. From a betting perspective, you can reward that fan with more attractive pricing on certain bets or free or discounted tickets and experience rather than just another bonus bet. Using blockchain technology to create a fan passport of sorts can really change the experiences casual fans and bettors have on a regular basis, and Credenza is leading the charge on that effort. 

About Bryan Bennett

Bryan is a Senior executive with extensive marketing, business development, business strategy and overall P&L management experience in the iGaming, sports betting, mobile games and general mobile ecosystem sectors. As a founding team member for several startups with successful exits, he can easily alternate between deep strategic planning, corporate development, fundraising and detailed tactical execution. To learn more about Bryan, you can reach him here.

About Locker Room Labs

Locker Room Labs is a US-based and software engineer-owned development team specializing in sports, betting, fantasy, and iGaming. From UX Design and MVP Development to Custom App Development and Staff Augmentation, Locker Room Labs is tailored to bring sports software to life. A testament to their innovation is “The Playbook,” a proprietary sports platform-as-a-service that accelerates development time to market and curtails custom software build costs for clients. To reach Locker Room Labs, you can visit our website here.

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