The most expensive medium, television commercials, is out, with the exception of New Jersey (where Hard Rock had an online casino business for years because that state was uniquely resistant to sports betting).
Hard Rock’s betting app is live in Virginia, Arizona and New Jersey, and more states will go live this year, he said. But with so few states where gambling is legal, Hard Rock Digital isn’t making national purchases like other sports betting apps have done to boost their overall brand image.
At some point in the future, when Hard Rock Sportsbook has a larger scale and the category is widely accepted, the company will launch national campaigns. For now, however, Maloney said “we don’t think it’s an effective investment for our business right now.”
According to Maloney, one of the main differentiators of Hard Rock’s approach is that other gaming apps focus heavily on adding raw signups. Anyone who installs the app, creates an account and logs into a credit card or bank can avail huge promotional incentives or get free credits to start betting.
“It’s as deep as they go from a KPI perspective,” he said. “We have worked very hard with our analysis team and Within to go even further.”
Hard Rock maintains a 14-day review period from the time a new user signs up until the company assigns a lifetime value estimate to that user.
Tracking account installs and sign-ups is also important, he said. Performance channels like Facebook, Apple, and Google get paid on downloads regardless of Hard Rock’s 14-day analysis window. But the addition of the two-week lookback period means the company is not just optimizing campaigns to apps or publishers that are driving installs, but to media that are attracting new users who, of their own willingly, will place bets and use the application consistently.
Hard Rock has found value with in-app promotions that keep people engaged after a download. An NBA Finals offer is a $1 credit for every three-point shot made by the Boston Celtics or Golden State Warriors, regardless of which team that person is betting on to win. But compare that to Draftkings, which offered over $1,000 in risk-free betting credits to people in New York who downloaded the app to place a single bet.
Hard Rock Sportsbook has also redesigned its allocation, in light of the loss of mobile signal and its requirement to acquire new users at cost-effective rates, Maloney said. For one thing, it primarily uses modeled data, rather than closed-loop deterministic attribution (the typical performance marketing approach).
On Android, for example, there’s more visibility into data from specific apps or sites that are bringing in valuable new users, whereas on Apple, those attribution connections typically don’t work. Hard Rock therefore builds models based on what works on Android, which it then applies to Apple iOS users.
Hard Rock Digital is also expanding its media mix modeling attribution, Maloney said. The MMM project kicks off in New Jersey, where the gaming site and app has been around for years and the brand has offline marketing like linear TV and radio. Blended modeling doesn’t attribute specific conversions, but assigns credit on a channel-by-channel basis, which is why it’s been a long-standing standard for marketers who spend on traditional media.
Maloney said MMM will have clearer application even in digital-first or digital-only marketing in the future. Google, Apple, and Meta are more like stand-alone channels that self-report their own metrics and cannot be globally assessed across apps and web. In that sense, they are more like TV, radio, or OOH which can only be assessed against each other on an aggregate level, not by tracking individuals across apps and the web. .
“It’s a tough time to be a performance marketer,” he said. “Looks like the chessboard flipped every now and then.”