Oliver Niner, Head of Sales at PandaScore
Spain continues to be one of the most lively and thriving esports scenes in Europe, but esports betting is yet to catch up. From Ibai Llanos continuing to be one of the biggest personalities on Twitch, investment in esports teams from professional sportspeople and the growing presence of Spanish organisations in LoL and Valorant – esports isn’t going anywhere in Spain.
Despite the fact that esports betting is accounted for from a regulatory perspective, we’re yet to see operator investment in product development and marketing to capture esports bettors. In most cases, esports is still considered part of the long tail, or an add-on to the broader sportsbook.
This approach stunts the growth of an operator’s esports vertical, and in a market like Spain, this is a missed opportunity to build the player base of the future.
Spain’s betting culture still persists
It’s well-documented that Spain has quite a mature betting culture, in large part thanks to the popularity of national lotteries. It also has many of the social elements that you find in markets such as Australia, where it’s part of enhancing the entertainment experience and engagement with your favourite teams and players.
The online sports betting segment in Spain continues to grow beyond the 7.7% share reported in 2020 with the lion’s share of it going to football, which comes as no surprise. Esports currently comprises a small portion of this, which is very often the case for endemic operators who are yet to put resources into the vertical.
However in markets with similar maturity like Australia and the UK, large operators who have invested in esports have found it to quickly ramp up to become a top 5 performing vertical in their book. It’s time for operators in Spain to put their best foot forward and begin engaging with Spain’s vibrant esports scene.
Betting is yet to tap into Spain’s esports culture
Spain’s esports scene continues to stay strong, with some key developments in the last 12 months: Spanish streaming giant Ibai Llanos’ esports organisation KOI merged with international organisation Rogue Esports, with all new teams and assets taking on the KOI brand. The joint venture between Llanos and former FC Barcelona defender Gerard Pique now appears across esports titles including League of Legends, Valorant, Rocket League and more.
Additionally, Rebels Gaming, an organisation founded by David de Gea in 2021 received additional buy-in from two other Spanish footballers, with Juan Mata and Bruno Fernandes becoming shareholders in the organisation in late 2022.
The country’s domestic competitions and international appearances featuring Spanish teams are drawing viewership numbers in the tens of thousands – it’s clear that the passion for esports is here.
It’s just that we’re yet to see the kinds of engagements between esports and operators in Spain that we’ve seen in other markets. Now it’s on operators to crack on and start building.
Bravery needed from operators
There’s a striking similarity between Spanish betting behaviours and that of esports bettors: by and large, both demographics bet on sports for the social and entertainment enhancement factor. This behaviour is something that esports-focused operators like Rivalry have built their business around, and it works.
But to capture this energy in esports you need to start with an esports-specific product, from a dedicated supplier that builds, iterates and continually innovates its product to match the needs of the player.
It’s also important to remember that esports is not a set-and-forget segment like you’d see with a big sportsbook using a managed trading service (MTS). Esports bettors expect a more catered experience and reward operators who provide it. Operators will also need to market to this audience in the places they live, with campaigns and engagement that tap into the authenticity of the space.
It goes beyond slapping a logo on a stream or jersey and calling it a day. Partnering with teams and even independent streamers to create entertaining content and run watch parties for major tournaments are just a couple of ways to gain market entry. For the younger Millenials and Gen-Z audience that makes up the majority of esports, longevity and sustainable growth in esports betting also means creating entertaining experiences that aren’t necessarily selling your product and fostering organic community connections.
For operators in Spain, the opportunity is there for the taking. First movers have the advantage in this market considering how under-utilised it is, and if you can establish your brand as an esports betting destination, you’ll be rewarded with lower CPA customers who stick around because they value your brand, not just the bonuses and promotions you offer.