In Super Group, Neal Menashe builds a global brand from scratch

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Super Group celebrates two anniversaries this year. It’s 10 years since its Betway brand signed sponsorship deals with the Cheltenham Festival Champion Chase and Premier League club West Ham United

Super Group’s sponsorship portfolio is a key part of its rise to global prominence, says CEO Neal Menashe

The end to front-of-shirt sponsorship deals in England’s top division will impact the West Ham partnership, but such a long relationship is increasingly rare. Only three other Premier League teams – Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal – have remained with a sponsor for longer.

“I can remember how excited everyone in the company was when we signed the Cheltenham and West Ham United deals,” Super Group chief executive Neal Menashe recalls. “Although nearly a whole decade has passed, that same sense of excitement is in the business.” 

Betway’s gambling sponsorship portfolio is now global. It works with over 60 partners including the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, Premier League side Arsenal and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. 

According to Menashe, sponsorship delivers an “enviable” level of brand awareness, which in turn helps amortise sponsorship costs across a range of global markets. He estimates almost 60% of all Premier League matches broadcast will showcase the Betway brand in some way, for example.

“The business challenge is how to convert those eyeballs into meaningful customer engagements,” he continues. “Put simply, this industry is all about managing the marketing budget against NGR return. 

“While we are never going to spend 100% of our marketing budget on sports sponsorship, it is imperative to have them from a brand awareness perspective.”

Converting eyeballs to engagement

Super Group’s chief commercial officer Richard Hasson joined the business in 2012

Super Group must harness this top-of-funnel engagement to turn that user into a recurring customer. Revenue of €1.4bn for 2023 – an 8% rise year-on-year – suggests it is doing something right.

Multiple factors play into this process, Menashe explains, most importantly his Super Group team. “We are innately competitive people who get up every day looking forward to the next challenge,” he says of his colleagues.

“We’re lucky to have a brilliant team that have an unrelenting focus on our customers. In this industry you have to eat, sleep and breathe the customer journey and that is what we do 24/7.”

A long-serving team means there’s an experienced and dedicated group of executives setting the tone. Menashe has been at Super Group since the early days, when what was then Betway Group acquired his marketing, CRM and technology business Win Technologies in 2011. 

CFO Alinda van Wyk’s tenure started in 2007

His executive team has equally impressive staying power. President and chief commercial officer Richard Hasson has been in position since 2012, while CFO Alinda van Wyk joined back in 2007.

That longevity makes for an effective unit. “The complicated part of any CEO role is that it’s your job to make the hard decisions,” Menashe explains. “Indecision is your enemy. We’ve been in the industry for more than 20 years; we’ve seen a lot and have experienced most things this industry can throw at you.”

This hasn’t bred complacency, rather increased the team’s desire to win, he adds. 

Africa emerging as a crucial region

That winning mentality is critical as Super Group competes on a global scale. With a foot in just about every market, in Q3 its Africa and Middle East segment in particular stood out. North America’s contribution was the largest in the first nine months of 2023, but Africa and Middle East followed with revenue of €298.3m.

“Africa continues to go from strength to strength,” Menashe says. “We now have a footprint of seven regulated countries with a very healthy pipeline [of new opportunities].”

Super Group is growing globally, but Menashe sees Africa as a particularly interesting territory

A breakdown of revenue by region for the 2023 financial year isn’t live yet. However, Menashe expects to set new records for African customer numbers, deposits and net gaming revenue. Many markets across Africa are rapidly growing but the continent’s gambling market is “in its infancy”.

“There is immense scope for growth in every market, not just sportsbook but icasino as well,” Menashe explains. “We spotted the opportunity a number of years ago and have carefully built a healthy footprint in key markets and the right team to take advantage of the emerging opportunities. 

“With such rapid population growth, alongside economic advancement, there is significant room to grow both the number of markets and market share, so we expect this growth to continue for many years to come.

“We listen to our customers and ensure that our product reflects their needs. We have experienced local teams who also deliver specialised knowledge to their own product teams to ensure we keep innovating while offering a market-leading service.”

Will Africa become the blueprint for LatAm gaming?

Speaking on Super Group’s 2023 results call, Menashe suggested parallels between Africa and Latin America’s emerging regulated market, a small but growing region for the operator. 

“We’ve been there a long time,” he told analysts. “We are likely to see what the regulations mean in each of the countries, if it is Chile, Brazil or Peru. 

“For us, it’s an important market and the software we use is very similar to Africa. It all bodes well,” he added.

Middle Eastern promise

In these emerging regions, fans watch football. Betway’s partnerships in the Premier League afford it brand visibility around the world, so the company’s investment in England has a net benefit globally. “There are so many benefits from being part of long-term relationships with the teams and leagues we sponsor,” Menashe says. 

But these relationships only work provided the agreements generate returns so Super Group keeps a keen eye on proceedings. “We make a detailed evaluation of any potential deal and continue to do so ahead of any renewal,” he continues.

The UAE could be a new growth opportunity, provided the regulations are viable

Menashe applies that same critical eye to new market opportunities, including in the United Arab Emirates where there could be a massive market developing covering land-based, online gaming and lottery. Menashe is keeping an eye on the opportunity but remains noncommittal until he sees the operating conditions. 

“The level of growth will be directly dependent on the tax and regulatory regime that they put in place,” he says. “If they are structured in a way that creates sustainable competition, and access is smooth and transparent, then it has everything in place to be an exciting new market. 

“Indeed, the potential of the UAE, and wider Middle East, despite the obvious challenges, is significant.”

Making the right calls

But a CEO’s job is to make the difficult decisions, he says. That means knowing when to stick and when to twist. 

Many believe India is a sleeping giant for gambling. Its population tops one billion and there’s a huge audience for sports, especially cricket. Considering Super Group’s sponsorship portfolio already includes cricket competitions in South Africa, India feels like a natural fit. 

India’s hefty goods and services tax ultimately prompted Super Group to withdraw from the market

However, the revamped Goods and Services Tax (GST), set at 28% of turnover, prompted Super Group to pull out of the country. “It’s quite simple,” he says. “We have to make calls when we’re not seeing returns. It is uneconomical to have Indian GST at 28%.”

Some operators invest for the future. They maintain a presence in difficult markets in the hope of conditions improving or lawmakers amending legislation. At Super Group ROI is the watchword, hence its withdrawal from India. 

In Germany, high taxes on casino games prompted changes to its games to ensure an economical return, Menashe adds. “Every market has its own process that you have to go through. And that’s fine as long as you then regulate the unregulated.

“[But] there is no point in putting pressure on the regulated sector if customers are going to decide to go to a sportsbook or casino that doesn’t comply with the rules.” 

Regulation is ultimately inevitable, he says. Super Group welcomes the oversight: the market functions and regulators take effective measures against illegal activity. 

Building a global brand from scratch

Alongside the 10th anniversaries of its Champions Chase and West Ham deals, Super Group also celebrated two years as a listed business on 28 January. It’s an anniversary of sorts for the industry as a whole, too. The first online casino went live 30 years ago, in 1994.

Beyond the inevitability of regulation, what does he see driving progress as online gaming moves into its fourth decade? 

Betway’s sponsorship extends into the US major leagues, including deals in the NBA and NHL

Artificial intelligence (AI) is, of course, one of the key elements of gaming’s future. “We are just in the foothills of understanding what these technologies can do, but I have no doubt that they will have an impact on the way gaming businesses are run and how we evolve interactions with our customers,” he says.

But Menashe is unsure which brands will be around then. The pace of deals picked up in 2023 and in 2024 that pace is likely to quicken. 

“I predict that the industry landscape will be fundamentally different in five years’ time,” Menashe explains. “Although it is imperative that healthy levels of competition are maintained to ensure our ongoing attractiveness to the existing and potential customer base.”

Super Group will remain part of the industry landscape whatever form it takes, he argues. As Menashe says sonsorship brings an international audience to Betway, giving it significant staying power. And there’s room to grow further as more markets regulate. 

After more than two decades at Super Group, he is still up for the fight. 

“We’ve built a global business from scratch,” he says. “A culmination of over two decades of return on marketing spend. Who else can say they’ve done that?”

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