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  • Q&A: Jesper Svensson on Betsson’s biggest ever shirt sponsor deal with Inter Milan
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Betsson announced today (1 July) that it has signed a new front-of-shirt sponsorship agreement for its Betsson.Sport infotainment brand with Italian Serie A club Inter Milan.

The deal was hailed as the largest ever shirt sponsorship deal for both Betsson and Inter Milan.

To find out more, NEXT.io editor Conor Mulheir sat down with Betsson Group CEO Jesper Svensson to discuss the agreement in more detail.


NEXT: It seems shirt sponsorships by gambling firms have become increasingly rare in recent years, in part due to a growing public backlash. How do you navigate the changing attitudes of sports fans towards the gambling sector when agreeing a deal like this?

JS: I think it is a bit dependent on which country you’re in, in many ways. For example, the UK has a different sentiment than many other countries. We don’t experience any negativity from fans with the partnerships we have been doing lately, where we become a club’s main sponsor. 

In general, we have been met very positively as supporters of the clubs. For the general fan, I think when they see a company supporting the same team as them financially, in most cases it is viewed as a positive.

NEXT: Additionally, many countries such as the UK have introduced new regulations to get rid of front-of-shirt sponsorships altogether – how do you see changes like these impacting Betsson’s advertising and sponsorship strategy over, say, the next 10 years?

JS: I think 10 years is a long period of time – If I look back over the last 10 years, I would not have been able to predict much about the changes that we have seen in that time.

But, what we do well at Betsson is that we adapt fast to changing environments, and I think the whole industry has done that relatively well in many ways, because when the rules change, you have to change yourself – and we are used to it, there’s always a lot of changes happening. 

For us as a company that operates with around 25 different licences, there is always a new change to adapt to – that’s for sure. So I think nowadays, the importance of adaptability for us as a company is totally different from what it was 10 years ago.

NEXT: How do you think regulators and operators can strike the right balance between regulatory oversight and maintaining a free and fair market?

JS: There is always a balance to be struck, but I think that when you do have a local regulation in place it should cater to the companies who have a local licence and make it possible for them to operate in an environment that is good both for the regulator and for the companies.

When that doesn’t happen, we have unfortunately seen that black markets continue to grow, and that’s not good either for the regulator or for the companies that follow the local rules.

Regulators also have a responsibility to make sure there is a positive environment within the regulation, so that players stay within the regulated market, because it’s very easy today for players to go wherever they want to go.

NEXT: In terms of changing regulations, are you a critic of the front-of-shirt sponsorship ban coming into effect in the UK?

JS: I think for regulations to be balanced, operators in the licensed market need to have some sort of right to promote their brands. 

So I think it’s perhaps not correct to single out any individual activity within the world of marketing, because there are so many different activities you can do. 

But, if there is no way to promote your brand because there is an all-out ban, then the licensed market will not have a lot of benefits compared to the unlicensed market. 

NEXT: This latest partnership was described as the largest shirt deal ever both for Betsson and for Inter. Can you give us any insight into the figures involved?

JS: Together with Inter, we have decided not to give the exact numbers involved, but I can say that we’re both very happy with the deal. There is a market range for big clubs like this, and I think it shows something of our statement of intent within Betsson and Betsson.Sport to go in and do a deal of this calibre. 

I also think this is why it has been viewed very positively from the Inter side and from Inter supporters, because it is a significant amount of money that is being agreed upon here. 

But we believe in the Italian market over time, and Betsson.Sport has a good opportunity with this partnership to grow in the Italian market. We have a history of doing well in Italy on the casino side with StarCasinò, but we recently launched Betsson.Sport earlier this year, so that’s why we now have a different marketing push coming up with this partnership.

NEXT: ​​How successful has Betsson.Sport been at delivering traffic to Betsson’s operator brands since launching earlier this year?

It’s early days for us in the market with the brand, but obviously I think after something like this deal with Inter, the traffic will go up significantly.

We also take a long-term view on our opportunity in the market, so we are looking for gradual growth over time here. Things don’t change overnight in any market, but obviously this is a way for us to get really good exposure in Italy, so that’s very positive for us.

NEXT: Do you have ambitions for the brand to gain further recognition in global markets outside Italy?

JS: Of course, Inter is more than just Italian, it is truly a global brand for us. For example, it was also important for the deal that they are as strong as they are in Latin America – they have a lot of players, both today and in the past, who are some of the best players from that region, so that also played a big role for us when we decided to go through with this partnership. 

For us, our main focus is on Europe and Latin America, but over time we have an intention to grow in other regions as well. Africa is one example, where this partnership will get good exposure given how big football is over there. 

But if you look at how we see the here and now, Inter is a great asset for us to have for marketing in Latin American markets such as Argentina and Brazil, where there’s a long history between those countries and the football club.

With that said, I think sponsorship is just one part of the marketing mix, but there are many other parts within the marketing umbrella. So you need to have a good mix of all those activities, and no sponsorship will be successful if you don’t activate it and invest a lot around it. That’s why we invest a lot into the digital side, because that comes as part of the sponsorship in itself – you also have to do the digital activation alongside it.

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