I moderated a very interesting panel discussion at the #BOSAmerica conference last week. The panel consisted of a stellar line up of industry professionals, all of whom had a very unique perspective on the market. They also had years of experience under their belts building successful affiliate and digital marketing brands.

Joining me in the big debate were Marc Pedersen (Better Collective), Adam Small (usbets.com), Marcos Oliveira (Clever Advertising) and Chris Capra (Vice President of Digital Operations from William Hill)

Our discussion was centred around how affiliates would be positioned in this burgeoning market, and what tactics would be used to reach a new sports betting audience. Here are some of the key takeaways from this discussion:

It’s a case of 50 countries, not just 50 states

The variance between state by state cultural and sporting preferences is key to successful customer engagement. It’s going to be imperative to understand your audience and segment your content strategy accordingly to target customers on a very localised level.

Affiliates will need to consider their strategy before taking a blanket approach to cover all sports and all states. Whether you are launching one site, or considering a site per state with specific marketing focus, taking note of the subtle audience differences will be key for building a successful marketing strategy.

Operators will value affiliate relationships because of this
Affiliates will play a key part in engaging with audiences in every stage of their online journey prior to conversion at an online sports betting operator site. Affiliates will be more agile in approach and will drive customers to their brand , content and service prior to hitting any one operator.
The fundamental user journey that an affiliate is trying to support will ultimately serve to help operators expand their local reach (state by state, and sport by sport) thus helping to reduce digital marketing costs. Therefore affiliates will play a vital part of the online marketing mix in the US, and will seek to work cohesively with operators to acquire, activate, and retain customers online.
The road ahead will be complex, but we’ll all be travelling it.
Nobody knows how the market will develop. We won’t know what the rules are until the bills are passed or how long the regulation process will take to work through all the available states. This leaves affiliates and operators unclear exactly how to plan for the months ahead.  
It also keeps everyone in the same playing field. The stringent advertising rules that are implemented on a state by state basis – will require high levels of compliance and continued monitoring.  
Player values are still being determined
Whilst early adoption is always a good strategy to secure brand awareness, it might be costly to invest in at the start. This will impact pricing models on traffic sources (there were some mentions on average CPA’s being quite high but the general consensus is that a sports betting customer averaged around $250 but combined player values were generally higher). The key is not to get lured in with big numbers, but rather to focus on how to engage the right audiences, in the right places at the right time and for the right price points, for your business. 
The market is still immature, player values and lifetime retention values are currently being established. They might change dramatically state to state and be impacted by a number of factors from product, brand, promotion and positioning. Traffic sources are being tested and customer experiences still being defined both online and across other divide and betting formats.
The future is bright
In short, whilst the US presents a complex market, there is no doubt there is a great opportunity for affiliates and operators to with together to build successful relationships as the playing field levels out state by state.