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  • Breakfast with NEXT: Play’n GO’s Andrew Pink on what the Olympics taught him about business 
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In the latest edition of Breakfast with NEXT, Play’n GO head of brand and communications Andrew Pink talks to Sonja Lindenberg about his professional volleyball career and what it really means to be “in it for the long haul”. 

The 30-year old intern

At 30, Andrew Pink still hadn’t had a stable job. He was just about to start his first professional stint—a modestly paid internship at a London PR agency, earning a monthly stipend of £400. 

Reflecting on those days, he chuckles at the fact his boss was in his early 20s and “didn’t know what was going on in the world of work.”

Despite the late start, it wasn’t as if Pink was idle. He was incredibly active, in fact, and played professional volleyball, competing at the London Olympics in 2012. 

Born and raised in America, but with dual nationality thanks to his British father, Pink was selected to train with Great Britain’s volleyball team back in 2006.

“It was around the time that Britain had won the bid to host the Olympics and they started building out all the sports they would need to compete in as host nation. 

“They finally put money into volleyball and hired a proper coach. They were looking for guys with two passports who were playing volleyball professionally, because at the time, nobody played volleyball in the UK at a very high level,” he explains. 

A year prior Pink, a volleyball player since school, completed his marketing and international business degree in the US. He then decided to take a gap year in Europe to play his beloved sport.

While playing volleyball in Germany, Pink was approached to join the Team GB national team. “The coach told me: you have a good chance at competing in the Olympics, but you need to dedicate the next six or seven years to this task.”

Initially hesitant, Pink considered finding a job instead, but he eventually agreed.

Subsequently, he competed with the British national team while playing for various clubs across Europe and “trying to make a living”.

Pink made it into the final team and says it was a great experience, although not especially lucrative. “I think I could have made more money at McDonald’s during that time,” he jokes.

Quitting volleyball

Shortly after the Olympics, where Great Britain lost all five of their matches, Pink again decided to get a job and initially intended to pursue sports journalism. 

But following his first internship, he found himself drawn into agency work and eventually joined gambling PR powerhouse Square in the Air for several years.

After a short period in executive search and a two-year tenure in the lottery industry with Camelot, Pink made the move to Play’n GO in March 2021.

Since then, Play’n GO has grown significantly. “When I joined, there were approximately 400 employees, and now we’re approaching close to 800,” says Pink.

However, this growth came with its own set of challenges: “Around 30% of our team has joined in the last two years, and we’ve transitioned to a fully remote model.”

Pink admits that establishing a robust culture in gaming can be difficult, as can communicating Play’n GO’s identity and future plans.

Preparing to compete

Pink sees preparation as the crucial element for success and draws parallels between sport and business.

“A significant aspect involves preparing to compete, having the ability to assess the situation and the market, and analysing the strategies opponents might employ to gain an edge,” he says.

“I believe athletes, including myself, have a substantial advantage because we have that long-term perspective.

“For instance, we began training in 2007 for an event that took place in 2012. For five years my sole focus was to secure a spot in the final Olympic team.”

Yet, there are also key differences. 

“In volleyball, I aimed for the team’s success while also striving to outperform others to secure my spot on the team,” he says. 

This competitive mindset doesn’t seamlessly translate to the business world. 

“At Play’n GO, my objective is the success of everyone. I don’t carry that same competitive edge against my colleagues. 

“It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, allowing me to be a supportive leader rather than an ultra-competitor. This transition has been refreshing,” Pink explains.

Entertainment in the gambling sphere

Despite meticulous long-term planning, success isn’t always easily achieved. 

“Throughout the years, Play’n GO could have easily made more money by taking certain paths, but we’ve deliberately chosen otherwise for various reasons,” he explains.

“We want our games to be entertaining, for players to have a fun experience. That’s what we think will be the future of the industry. The problem is not everybody in the industry sees it this way.”

Pink points to bonus buy games as a key example, where players can buy into the bonus round of a slot game for a predetermined multiple of their original bet. 

“The issue we have with it is that we don’t think it’s entertainment. Players only do a few spins in the bonus round and they end up losing a lot of money, or perhaps they win and that’s it, over.

“We firmly believe we’re taking the right approach, not out of arrogance, but because this is the direction we’ve committed to. 

“It’s difficult because at times, it may not feel like we’re coming out on top when you witness competitors earning substantial profits, even if it’s not the kind of profits that we want,” he adds.

Evolving beyond release parties

Just like in sport, business demands endurance and the ability to conquer challenges.

Pink recalls his time in the Olympic village with 10,000 international athletes, all of whom had done very little apart from train for the event in the preceding years.

“I think 80% of them were finished within the first three or four days. They come for the 100-metre dash and don’t make it to the next heat, and that’s it.”

In contrast, Play’n GO is continuing on its journey of becoming a versatile entertainment provider following the recent launch of its own music division, Play’n GO Music.

Pink’s primary focus, meanwhile, is on expanding the firm’s marketing department. 

“In the past, we would celebrate a new game release with a themed party. However, now that we release sometimes a game a week, that approach is impractical. We need a more sophisticated strategy.”

Over the last two years, Play’n GO has been actively recruiting talent worldwide for its marketing team. The slots supplier now has people in Malta, Sweden, Spain, Poland, the UK, and the US.

“I believe one of the advantages of going completely remote is the access to talent. 

“We’re not confined to being within a short distance of the central London office. We are attracting incredible people to our business. This wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t shifted to fully remote,” Pink says. 

US ambitions

Play’n GO has ambitious growth plans and wants to steer the industry towards “a regulated and sustainable future.”

Moving forward, the company is actively focused on growing its business in the US, with social casino games holding significant importance in this expansion strategy.

“Ultimately, we want our North American business to mirror our European business, and we want to grow our European business a lot more.”

A new sporting challenge

While Pink supports Play’n GO’s professional ambitions, his personal sporting pursuits have shifted. 

He hasn’t played volleyball in a while. “It might sound odd, but it’s frustrating when you used to excel at something, but you are no longer as good as you used to be due to not dedicating the same extensive time and effort to training.”

He now finds himself on the sidelines and enjoys watching high-level matches.

His passion for competition endures, however, having embraced padel as a fresh sporting challenge. 

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