As one of the leading crypto betting websites, Sportsbet.io has done very well for itself since its relatively recent foundation. It boasts a global customer base and revenues sufficiently large to enable its owners to sign several expensive sponsorship deals. Given how high-flying the brand is, we would expect to see them active for years to come. Their visibility in English football is due to last until at least 2024 but time will tell if they sign another deal given the crackdown on gambling sponsorship.
Who Are They?
The Yolo Group, formerly known as the Coingaming Group, are the company responsible for the creation of Sportsbet.io. This was not the company’s first venture into online gambling though. They initially began with Bitcasino.io, the first licenced online crypto casino, built on Yolo Group’s proprietary platform. Having proved popular among Bitcoin holders, they opted to launch a standalone sportsbook site in 2016, this being sportsbet.io. Since then, they have also launched Slots.io, which went live in 2019.
An embrace of cryptocurrency, in particular Bitcoin, has been key to the Yolo Group’s success. They have not focussed solely on this though as sportsbet.io, for example, accepts multiple types of FIAT currency. As one of the first to properly exploit the rising demand for crypto-based gambling, they have managed to gain a great customer base, becoming a widely recognised and respected name in the industry. In fact, in the 2022 EGR Power 50 Rankings, the group ranked in 26th place meaning they are one of the top gambling companies worldwide.
Today the group has offices in Estonia, Ukraine, Australia, Brazil and Malaysia, such is their global presence. With over 800 employees, this is a large operation and one that is much more transparent than a lot of other crypto-focused brands. You can actually find named individuals involved in the operation such as Maarja Pärt, previous CFO and current CEO of the Yolo Group. They do not, like many rival brands, have their own UK gambling licence, however. Instead, they have a white-label agreement in place with TGP Europe, as this provided a much easier entry to the UK market.
Football Sponsorship Deals
Bitcasino.io still represents a huge part of the Yolo Group’s business but sportsbet.io has become something in the jewel in their crown. This is why sports sponsorship has been something they have been prepared to throw lots of money at. As well as the three English-based deals mentioned below, Sportsbet.io also became the shirt sponsor of Flamengo in 2019, ‘master’ sponsor of Sao Paulo FC in 2021 and a partner of the re-named Brazilian eSports team Imperial Sportsbet.io.
Although they have had a focus on sporting teams, they seem a little less bothered about signing deals with individual players (retired or active). It is rather unusual for a sports betting company, but three of their brand ambassadors in 2022 (King Kaka, Tekno Miles and Cassper Nyovest) were musicians. They did, however, agree to terms with former Arsenal man Nwankwo Kanu, locking him in as a global ambassador for a four-year stint. Prior to this, they had recruited former World Cup winner Denilson.
Watford (June 2019)
The first venture of Sportsbet.io into the world of football shirt sponsorship saw them successfully negotiate terms with then-Premier League outfit Watford. Sportsbet.io committed themselves to a three-year deal following a very solid 11th-place finish for the Hornets. This marked the club’s fourth consecutive season in the Premier League so they looked like a relatively safe bet but relegation followed during the first year of the Sportsbet.io deal.
Although relegation will have likely impacted the value of the deal, it was originally expected to be a very expensive partnership. Over the course of the three-years, Watford were reported to earn in excess of £20m, making it the best deal in the club’s history at the time. The partnership did not end up reaching its duration though as after two years, Watford secured a deal with rival crypto bookmaker Stake.com instead.
Even though Watford’s relationship with Sportsbet.io was relatively short-lived, the pair did work very closely together during the two years. For example, a few months after announcing the deal, Watford began allowing fans to pay in Bitcoin for merchandise purchases and hospitality boxes. Additionally, Sportsbet.io brokered a deal with the Hertfordshire club to have ‘Bitcoin’ as their sleeve sponsor. In doing so the bookmaker also ran a club-backed drive to improve awareness of cryptocurrency.
Southampton (August 2020)
During the 2019/20 Premier League season, Southampton’s main shirt sponsor was LD Sports, a Chinese ‘content marketing and entertainment’ platform. The pair agreed upon a three-year deal, worth a club-record amount for the Saints. Just a little over a year into the deal though, Southampton pulled the plug abruptly claiming LD Sports was no longer an appropriate or viable partner. Having ended the partnership with immediate effect, they halted the sale of replica shirts and attempted to find a new sponsor very quickly.
Coming to the Saints’ rescue was Sportsbet.io who stepped in to ensure that they were not playing with a blank shirt for their season opener with Crystal Palace. The initial deal was just for a one-year partnership but Southampton agreed to improved terms with the Yolo Group (then Coingaming Group) towards the end of the season. This new arrangement was reported to be worth more than £7.5m-a-season and three years in duration. Expiring in 2024, it means it will not be impacted by the pending ban on gambling sponsors featuring on the front of Premier League shirts.
As part of the new deal, Southampton have the option of claiming certain performance-related bonuses in Bitcoin. If they vastly exceed expectations to qualify for the Champions League, they would be entitled to £1m worth of Bitcoin, should they wish to accept payment in this form. Even if none of the bonuses is met though, it is still believed to be a record-breaking sponsorship deal for the club. This may not be the case, however, should the Saints spend part of the deal playing Championship football.
Arsenal (September 2020)
There was no real possibility of securing a front-of-shirt sponsorship deal with Arsenal given their long-running contract with UAE airline Emirates, but other commercial partnerships do exist. In this particular deal, Sportsbet.io joined forces with the London club as their official betting partner for a three-year period.
It cost the bookmaker £1.5m a season so not nearly as expensive as being the shirt sponsor would have been but still a sizeable amount. Although the deal was largely focused on global digital marketing, there was a physical aspect to it as well. Arsenal promised to deliver training sessions for Estonia’s U19 women’s team, with Estonia being the country where Sportsbet.io operate from.