O’Neill: “Online gaming industry will be one of the most benefited by the advancement of the digital trend”

In this interview, Patrick O’Neill, managing partner at Sherlock Communications, evaluates the results of his company’s study on gambling in LatAm. He says the sector shows incredible growth potential, describes some players’ characteristics, and anticipates a great future for mobile gaming.

Winner of several international awards, O’Neill has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, communications and public relations.
Winner of several international awards, O’Neill has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, communications and public relations.

Could you briefly sum the history of Sherlock Communications and its business units? Why did you decide to do a research on gaming?

Latin America is an interesting and complex market, which presents many challenges for international companies when it comes to boosting their growth in the region or positioning themselves in it for the first time. Thus, Sherlock Communications was founded in 2015 with the aim of being a bridge between these companies and Latin America. Our structure and way of working are designed to provide support to those who need to interact with local clients, integrating our work into the global marketing structure of these companies. In addition, based in Brazil, Sherlock Communications has teams and offices in the most important countries of the region: Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador and Puerto Rico. Whether to generate business opportunities or for brand recognition, we have experience and total know-how on each local market. In that sense, we can design effective and successful public relations, marketing and social media campaigns throughout Latin America. We handle areas such as Media Relations, Consulting and Strategic Planning, Message Development, Influencers and Content Marketing, Social Networks, SEO and Digital Research, Internal Communication, Reputation and Crisis Management, Event Organization and Support, Event Coverage and Media Supervision, among many others. In each segment, we always provide our clients with tangible and immediate results. One of our goals is to have an expert knowledge on each local market, which leads us to develop different investigations regarding the needs of our current and potential clients. Therefore, we decided to delve into the betting industry in each of the mentioned countries. We usually define studies with high quality and quantity of data. On our website (https://www.sherlockcomms.com/), we have available a variety of research on health, media and tourism, among other topics.

What were the goals set at the time of the report? Which aspects caught your attention the most once the results of the study were obtained?

Among the objectives, was the knowledge of the betting sector in the region, and in each country in particular. Each of them has different regulations or is still working on that aspect, as is the case of Brazil. We saw that it would be interesting to obtain very specific data about local gamblers’ perception. At the same time, we understood that the increase in the use of mobile technology and the appearance of the pandemic (with the temporary closure of casinos and gambling rooms) had changed the scene. We were right about thinking this way. We are also proud to provide quality studies on different markets in Latin America.

Did you notice differences between the Colombian survey respondents and those of the rest of the countries, being Colombia the only one with a solid approved online regulation, with several companies in operation?

In Colombia, online gaming was authorized in 2017 and, since then, bets grew by 303%. In 2019, 5.4 trillion Colombian pesos were generated thanks to gaming and further progress is still expected. It has different particularities. For example, 90% of bets in Colombia are focused on soccer. We also observe that, for the rest of the surveyed countries, one of the biggest attractions was having free games or special offers. This is important for 62% of respondents when choosing a bookmaker. But this is not the case in Colombia, where 60% of those consulted prioritize the simple local payment system to bet in a certain place. Another difference between Colombia and the rest of the countries is that the participants in this study pointed out that they would be interested in seeing and hearing an international star as an ambassador for a bookmaker. While, in Colombia, greater importance is given to local heroes of their favorite teams.

Brazil and Peru stand out for the passion and gaming frequency of their bettors. How important would it be for companies and States to regulate the situation of online gambling in those territories?

Both Brazil and Peru are the most interesting markets at the moment, because their inhabitants are the ones who most frequently bet. I think it would be extremely important to have clear legislation in both countries to boost business. Gambling industry throughout the region shows incredible growth potential and local laws are a key to its successful operation.

Argentina (36%) and Chile (35%) appear with the highest rates of respondents who admit to ever having gambled. How should companies and brands do to seduce this group?

The intensive use of mobile technology and the pandemic as a trigger for bets to be made online have increased the need for digital marketing actions. That is, the use of the same channels than current and potential consumers. Campaigns must transmit security and tranquility so that the user decides to bet. This can be achieved by optimally informing about responsible sites, mobile payments, secure legislation and any progress in terms of the proximity and concern of companies with their customers. Also, those who started gambling online want to have good experiences to continue doing so.

Affiliate networks, branding, digital marketing, and use of influencers, tipsters and ambassadors. What are the customer acquisition methods that may be more effective in the countries of the region in the coming years?

We will be able to determine which the appropriate method for each company and market is by knowing the local consumer, the regulations of each country and their customs regarding gambling and betting. Betting industry in LatAm is constantly changing due to different factors. It is essential to have local working teams to advise and design the most convenient strategy. At Sherlock Communications, we are ready to do so.

According to the study, many players turned to free bets during the pandemic. Do you see young Millennials and Centennials willing to invest money in sports betting, Esports, poker or online casino? Should betting companies create more social experiences to attract these players?

Yes, definitely. Young audiences, Centennials and Millennials, are used to playing online, without referring specifically to gambling for money. Consolidating this market, trying for them to invest online, is the way to go. They naturally move with technology, so the possibility of creating a community through influencers seems very attractive to this segment.

What future do you envision for gaming via mobile devices, given industry trends and the growing use of these devices by new generations? What do you foresee about the progress of this sector in Latin America for the next three years?

I really imagine a great future. The digital trend is not going to change; on the contrary, it will continue to strengthen. The betting sector will be one of the most benefited from this trend. Particularly in LatAm, online gambling activity shows an exponential growth. Currently, this segment represents about US$5 billion. According to a report by Verified Market Research, it is expected to reach US$114.38 billion globally by 2026.