It’s interesting watching things play out across the hyper-competitive igaming terrain in Ontario from a marketing perspective, as many of the 40-plus licensed operators in the province blast out their messaging, all to grab land, so to speak.
This weekend at the RBC Canadian Open held at Oakdale Golf & Country Club in Toronto, theScore Bet is taking full advantage of their exclusive partnership with Golf Canada to get the message out a little differently.
Last month, the company did a jersey swap with the Toronto Blue Jays, with which TheScore Bet also has an exclusive partnership. Fans could swap out an old pro sports jersey for a new Jays jersey at a booth set up at Stackt Market, close to the Rogers Centre, while making a donation to Jays Care Foundation. It was so popular that the jerseys sold out and the booth had to shut down early.
For the Canadian Open, up above No. 7 of the Thompson course (Oakdale has three nines), theScore Bet has built HOLE ZERO, where fans can sign up and hit golf balls on an actual 150-yard par-3 hole built there. They check into a locker in the clubhouse, then put on some theScore Bet gear, come out, grab a club, and get a lesson from golf pro Brandon McLeod. Teeing up, they compete for prizes, all while tournament action featuring PGA pros like Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose is going on below their feet. A hole-in-one nets a lucky golfer $75,000.
Aubrey Levy, senior vice president, content and marketing, theScore Bet, said the genesis behind HOLE ZERO was the same thought process behind the company’s Skyline Seats market activation last year at the Canadian Open at St. George’s Golf and Country Club, which took fans 100 feet in the air above the first and 18th holes.
That is, how can we take advantage of our exclusive relationship with Golf Canada to really lean in and put together something unique and interesting for the fans coming out to the golf course?
Outside of a golf simulator or maybe a putting green, there’s never been an actual temporary golf hole built on a course during an event like this, for marketing purposes, at least not in recent memory.
HOLE ZERO has theScore Bet branding all over it, of course, even a trap next to the pin which has blue sand. TheScore Bet also brought back their member lounge, where people can have a beer, something to eat, even play some blackjack, while the golfers walk by.
“Not everything we do is intended to be a one-to-one connection from touchpoint to the brand to betting,” Levy said. “The position I like to take is, if this is your first touchpoint with us as a brand in the market, it’s an amazing experience to elevate your fandom, brought to you by us as a betting brand, and the hope is we build some brand affinity, that as you think about wagering, we’re a top-of-mind brand for you.”
TheScore is a media company, first and foremost, he adds.
“And betting for us is an extension of media. We feel that betting is an extension of people’s fandom. So if we’re going to show up, let’s talk to you as a fan first, give you something cool to do, and if we do our jobs well, when you’re deciding what book you want to bet at, you’ll have some positive affinity with us.”
That’s why experiential market like this will bring longer-range benefit to theScore Bet, as opposed to messaging that hammers you to place a bet. Levy says they could never compete with some of other larger operators when it comes to market spend. Their approach in Ontario was always going to be more strategic: quality over quantity, so to speak, build exclusive partnerships with marquee organizations in two popular sports, pro golf and pro baseball, to build amazing experiences that elevate fandom.
“Going full exclusive was important to us. When you’re exclusive in a category with [bettors], you get full mind share. You get to do things like this, as opposed to being one of three partners in a category, [with the sports organization] slicing up assets. We need Golf Canada to advocate for us with the PGA and Oakdale, so we can bring ideas like this to life.”
And a level of experiential marketing creativity, plus a team to put whatever the strategy is into action, Levy agrees, are where the rubber will really hit the road for most operators in Ontario.
“There’s been a pretty low bar from what I’ve seen, how operators have been showing up,” Levy said. “Not all operators care about showing up in unique ways. They just care about volume. We were never going to market the way they do.”
But it’s never enough to just talk about it. Levy says he played in the tournament’s Pro-Am the previous day, then finished up his day by playing HOLE ZERO with theScore Bet employees all around. He parred it.
Your correspondent? I topped the drive with a 7-iron, hitting it 15 yards into thick grass on the left, took McLeod’s advice by hitting a pitching wedge out of the salad to knock it eight feet from the pin, before three-putting for a five. It was a blast, but I’ll stick to my day job.