July 4, 2022

David Stoveld, COO of Armadillo Studios, believes that there is plenty of potential for success within sports-themed content in the United States.

A carefully cultivated brand can be a remarkably effective and powerfultool to influence customer behavior.

Companies and individuals build uptheir brands to embody a certain setof values in order to elicit a positive response. In the United States, sports teams, organisations and personalities are a perfect example of the way a brand can become a focal point to be identifiedwith by fans, ultimately for significant commercial gain.

In the age of social media, athleteshave taken a hold of their own messaging to build bonds with their supporters like never before and their influence cannot be understated. That is particularly the case in the US, the natural home of the larger-then-life superstar.

As we see it, this background presentsthe potential for success within sport-themed slot content, provided it is verycarefully focused on the right sports and brands.

In the land-based casino sector in the US, the industry’s biggest suppliers havelong since known how attracted playersare to instantly recognizable names. Significant sums of money are pumped into acquiring a particular IP, with theend result often being a spectacular audio-visual experience that dovetails with player expectations inherent within  that brand.
For example, you might have a famoussinger whose image is prominent onthe cabinet with her hits forming thefoot-tapping soundtrack, or a cult sci-fifilm  utilized within a huge, curved cabinet with dedicated seating. These sorts of highly immersive cabinets, based on widely recognised brands, are far from  cheap toproduce but can certainly draw big crowds in Las Vegas.

Even on casino floors, though, branded sports-themed games are a relative rarityand there have been many examples of high-profile failures over the years.Sport is tribal and its stars often provokemixed reactions from fans, depending on allegiances or geography. The gender balance is also uneven, with a football game, for example, possibly less attractive to female players given that the sportat its highest level is heavily balancedtowards males. For myriad reasons, creating a sports slot with mass appeal has often proven to be a very tough nut
to crack.

So how can an iGaming studio possiblyhope to create a winning sporting slot with mass appeal – particularly when it will typically be played out on a mobile device, without the razzmatazz of the spectacular dedicated cabinet?

Changing demographics

A seismic shift is underway in the way casino games are experienced in the US, with the balance of power moving away from brick-and-mortar and toward iGaming. The rate at which on-the-gocasino content is being consumed is growing exponentially and, in turn, new player demographics are emerging. Youngerplayers might not have the time, cash or inclination to make an extended weekend  trip to the Las Vegas strip but could be inclined to download an appthat allows them to play slots on their commute to and from the city.

When homing in on that youngerend of the spectrum to whom iGaming holds a strong appeal as on-demand entertainment, the selection of the right brand can be a powerful agent of engagement. At Armadillo Studios, our research indicated that a gamebased around mixed martial arts (MMA)could become successful. As a modern,growing and highly entertaining sportthat resonates with the 21-40 age demographic, its stars are household names. The data we examined indicated that, in terms of age groups who enjoy iGaming, a lack of gender divides withinthe sport’s popularity, and its commercialsuccess in the US, a range of titles basedon the theme could prove successful within online casino.

Having selected the right sport, it wasthen a case of finding the perfect matchwithin a high-profile star. Amanda Nunes– also known as The Lioness – fit the bill. As the current reigning champion of the women’s UFC featherweight division,Nunes was the first woman to become a two-division UFC champion and the third fighter in history to hold titles intwo weight classes simultaneously. Herimpeccable sporting prowess has seen her popularity stretch from coast to coast,a factor which is paramount given that our intention was to craft games that can be rolled out successfully countrywide.

The selection of a brand or personalitythat appeals to the new iGaming audiencein the US can also provide an entirely new channel for marketing. This can be particularly effective given that theabove strategy taps into existing fandomand brands, with the stars themselvesadvertising the products given that it is in their commercial interests. The opportunity to attract a new stream of players, at a cost that is far less thanthe eye-watering amount operators are currently spending on acquisition, makes branded titles very attractive.

Times are changing, quickly, and the old rules don’t necessarily apply any longer. The combination of mass-market appeal,commercial potential and the ability toattract a whole new generation of playersis one that it would be unwise to rule out. That is not to say that picking a winning brand for sports-themed games in the US is a slam dunk, but it is certainly worth plenty of consideration.  


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