With mobile platforms now the lifeline of our content consumption, we have seen storytelling in this space become an extension of the ever-sophisticated and highly elaborate silver screen. One particular Australian brand – Sportsbet – took cinematic value up a notch in the early part of 2022, resulting in the launch of its March campaign emerging as our Video Campaign of the Year

Through the use of new technology from virtual production studio Dreamscreen, Sportsbet, Australia-based online betting and entertainment website, has raised the bar in ad delivery, building promotional shorts that boast bespoke production to take audiences into an otherworldly delight. 

Sportsbet’s team, Jason Thatcher and Raman Goraya, the brand’s heads in brand and advertising, and content and partnerships, respectively, jumped in a conversation with MARKETECH APAC to bare with us how the campaign for its betting products spurted out of the seeds of creativity to ultimately take form as films that time-travels viewers into eras of Ancient Egypt and the Middle Ages. 

The campaign sequel that invited Cleopatra into the spotlight

The March 2022 campaign, which put into focus its group betting feature ‘Bet With Mates’ and multi-bet product ‘Same Game Multi’, was in fact a sequel of an earlier series of ads that marked the launch of Sportsbet’s unique cinematic direction. In the 2021 campaign, settings included barbarian times and storylines circled imaginative themes such as an alien invasion and travelling to the future.

Thatcher and Goraya said that these are the lengths necessary in order to create product and brand stickiness. 

“Sportsbet is always focussed on making sure we can drive [cut-through] and memorability,” they said. “With so many messages in [the] market (within the wagering category especially), if we’re not capturing the attention of the audience to promote our products, then we’ve failed.”

The latest one, developed in partnership with production outfit Palomina, had a trio of ads within it. The short titled ‘Alliance’ was set in the Middle Ages, the film ‘Cleopatra’ showed the queen amongst her people in Egypt, and the ad ‘Rescue’ places fictional characters on a deserted island. Each film was striking and on point both in visual and flow – carried out with top-class cinematography, individuals in the historical settings are seen planning to place their bets as a group with gusto. 

“We used a similar approach for [the] 2021 campaign, and we found our audience [was] highly engaged by bringing fascinating but recognisable environments to life,” shared Thatcher and Goraya.

“There was also quite a bit of humour and cheekiness in putting your everyday person in a setting viewers would usually see on a Hollywood feature or Netflix series. By doing [this,] we were not only gaining memorability but staying relevant to our audience.”

The brand outperforming itself

According to Sportsbet’s marketing heads, the brand outdid itself in the March 2022 campaign with the content hitting above-average levels of its own benchmarks in bringing “Enjoyment”, being “Different” and “Unique”, and as an initiative that “Sets trends”. 

Thatcher and Goraya said they wanted to build ‘tension’ and this suspense and excitement was achieved by crafting environments outside of the current time period. 

“[When] faced with the temper of Cleopatra or a medieval witch, we are able to position our product offering as an interesting solution. Whenever we expand outside the scenarios you see on a lot of advertising, we notice viewers have a higher level of engagement and curiosity.”

Of course, whilst consumers are bedazzled with the brand’s creative delivery, a production of such scale is not without its own challenges. According to the team, the numerous iterations needed for the campaign made for intricate logistics. 

In fact, one of the executions which played around the release of the new Top Gun film had to be delayed due to the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine political tensions at the time.

“Our media investment dictates Sportsbet needs to produce a wide range of creative executions to avoid wear out and irritation,” said the brand’s leaders. 

“Having to deliver up to 30 different executions (including bespoke digital media assets) across 5 unique scenarios becomes a complex production challenge. We had challenges where we needed to adjust scripts for filming time and making sure we can talk to the right product offerings.”

The courage the brand mustered in order to get out of its comfort zone in marketing is obviously paying well. The streak of innovative and original films is not just hitting home in terms of brand engagement, but is also adding up to earn the brand a masterful reputation in adland.

To those who wish to adopt a similar level of creative endeavour, the duo said, “The main advice would be to have ambition but stay agile and expect challenges throughout [the] production.” 

What’s next for Sportsbet?

As far as cinematic narratives are concerned, the campaign won’t be the last in the betting brand’s sleeve, the marketing heads ensured. 

Sportsbet had not been laying low a bit and is consistent with its marketing efforts, albeit on a more laid-back approach. The latest one from its content line-up is an ad for the World Cup, still injecting that tongue-in-cheek play we’ve all come to love.

Thatcher and Goraya said they have a commitment to provide the best and most innovative products to their customers. 

The duo concluded, “Our marketing will continue to support that goal as well as [continue] to highlight the fun and engaging nature of our brand.” 

This recognition is based on Google Analytics results on the most-read stories of 2022, along with editorial validation on the significance of a leader’s contribution, campaign results, and overall impact.