Why you need to play to win

Justin Shank

The greatest time of the year has finally arrived – Football is back! The college and professional football seasons are officially underway and those of us who have been aimlessly searching for a close substitute these past few months can finally sit back and enjoy our favorite sport.

All over the country, fans like me hunkered down to watch our professional and college teams of choice in the first games of the season. Every week we wrestle with high expectations and feelings of doubt, but we always hope for the win.

I’m a Seattle Seahawks and University of Washington Huskies fan. Born in Seattle and raised in the Northwest, I didn’t venture too far from following the home-team(s). That said, as a life-long fan of these two great teams – things have not always been peaches and unicorns. We’ve celebrated incredible wins and suffered through mindblowing losses. Like every team, we’ve had moments of greatness followed by years of turmoil. We’ve won and lost championships.

College football divisions include: FBS (Division I-A), FCS (Division I-AA), Division II, and Division III. FBS colleges will often start their season by playing FCS, DII, or DIII opponents. There is usually a financial component awarded to the smaller school for scheduling these games – think, pay to play. The likelihood of losing these games is often slim, but upsets are always on the table.

This season Howard University (FCS) beat UNLV (FBS) in Las Vegas, 43-40. Howard was a 45-point underdog in the contest; UNLV expected to win the game by double digits. In my mind, this is the greatest upset in college football history.

How football ties into social gaming and your casino

How does this tie into social gaming? There are quite a few popular slogans and anecdotes that come to mind:

  1. You have to be in it to win it.
  2. You can’t win if you don’t play.
  3. You can’t score if you don’t shoot.
  4. You can’t hit the ball if you don’t swing the bat.
  5. You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.

Howard University bought the ticket. They were in the game and they won it. Many tribal and commercial casino properties have entered the online, mobile, and social casino space and are seeing some success. They are in the social gaming game – and there is plenty of space in the industry for growth.

Social gaming provides an opportunity to connect players with your brand on their personal device. It gives your property a new revenue stream, a new outlet to reach loyal players, along with people interested in playing casino games in a non-casino environment. It provides another tool for your marketing department to share information, advertising and entertainment.

While the games are free to play, there are opportunities to spend real money for virtual tokens or credits. Players can often enhance the game experience by unlocking special features or leveling-up by paying a small fee. Provide your players and your brand an opportunity to reach the demographic of people interested in playing social casino games. In order to compete in this space, casinos must buy the ticket.

What I learned

While working at Swinomish Casino & Lodge in 2012, we began to evaluate and create the digital marketing culture we would need to enter the space. Prior to investing in a social gaming platform, we needed to create our marketing strategy and build the digital marketing infrastructure that would allow that platform to be successful. We built a new website and mobile app. We invested more resources into our social media and email programs. We worked on analyzing our online, social media, and mobile app data. The commitment to invest in the social gaming platform was organization-wide. Once we had our infrastructure in place, we selected our preferred vendor and went to work installing and launching our first campaigns. We focused on internal communication by including and educating the entire team on the new technology.

We informed our existing players through email, social media, property signage, and our website. Eventually, we launched our first advertising campaigns and saw the numbers grow, exponentially.

To win the game, you have to play the game. While the smallest properties may not always defeat the biggest ones in terms of market share or revenue, they can still enter the space and play the game. There is money to be made and players to play social casino games associated with your brand. Who knows, maybe like Howard University, your property can beat the odds and upset the biggest social gaming brands one day. If you don’t play, you cannot win.

Justin Shank