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How a sports and esports betting startup is targeting the under-30 market, from memes to tracking Gen-Z gambling habits

  • Rivalry is an online esportsbook, sportsbook, and media company based in Toronto.
  • Rivalry cofounder Steven Salz spoke about how he’s trying to court the next generation of bettors.
  • It includes developing a recognizable brand and catering to Gen-Z betting habits.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Steven Salz is looking to attract the next generation of bettors.

Salz is the cofounder and CEO of Rivalry, a Canadian media company, sportsbook, and esportsbook.

Rivalry’s target audience is younger than that of some its sports-betting competitors. The company is focused on targeting bettors under the age of 30.

Research has shown that Millennials and Gen Z differ when it comes to their attitudes on gambling. For Salz, targeting the under-30 crowd means using specific strategies for building brand awareness and playing to the habits of Gen-Z bettors.

He broke down four basic strategies that guide Rivalry’s approach to the market.

1. Targeting the habits of young gamblers

While legal sports betting is on the verge of expansion in Canada, Rivalry’s gambling license from the Isle of Man allows it to operate in regions like South America and Southeast Asia.

“What we find every single time we go into these markets is the brand awareness [of other companies] and targeting of people under the age of 30 is almost non-existent,” Salz said.

He said that this younger audience not only has different brand recognition, but different spending habits, too. Salz said younger bettors often spend smaller amounts more frequently, which Rivalry wants to capitalize on.

“We wanted [Rivalry] to be like, what you spend on Starbucks a week, or

Uber Eats
, not hundreds of dollars a week,” Salz said.

2. Creating media content unrelated to gambling to get new users and raise brand awareness

Parts of Rivalry don’t focus on betting at all. The company has a YouTube channel (39,000 subscribers) and Twitter account (34,000 followers) both dedicated to creating “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (CS:GO) content.

“We want to have a consumer brand that people were as interested in, like our voice and media and everything we have to say, as much as potentially the product of sports betting,” Salz said.

The company is looking to expand on its digital presence. Salz said Rivalry has 15 social media properties, and that it’ll look to double that number over the rest of the year.

Some sportsbooks in the US have also looked to media to find new customers and build brand awareness. Last year, Penn National Gaming took a 36% stake in Barstool Sports (with the option to increase in the future) with the goal of using the media brand to cut down the costs of acquiring new gamblers.

3. Creating an ironic visual brand

Part of Rivalry’s consumer brand includes both memes and irony. A slide deck Salz shared on the company’s visual identity described it as “taking everything we love about internet culture and shoving it right into Photoshop.”

It features elements of old Windows operating systems, memes like Harambe, and the checkerboard pattern in the transparent background of images you find online.

Salz hopes these visual concepts will help Rivalry stand out from its peers and attract young bettors.

A slide with Harambe on the right against a background of the sky and text that reads, "Our Digital DIY concept is something that stays true our hand-built-in-a-Toronto-basement-spirit while also leaning into an aesthetic that both us and our audience lives and breathes. Basically, we’re taking everything we love about internet culture and shoving it right into Photoshop. A touch of stock imagery, a dash of memes and whole lot of theres no stupid ideas is creating a world that can’t be ignored, many can question, but most importantly something that’s genuine to us and the audience we’re looking to attract. We’re becoming one with the internet by combining thoughtfully designed grids, typography and instantly recognizable colors with images created with all tools Photoshop has to offer. And more importantly always staying relevant as we evolve with the internet, mixing the latest trends with moments that simply can’t be forgotten. RIP Harambe."

Rivalry’s visual brand includes memes and irony

Rivalry


 

4. Verifying ages and encouraging responsible gambling

While Rivalry tries to target younger bettors, it also needs to make sure that its customers are of gambling age.

That’s a problem that has plagued esports betting and, in particular, the CS:GO community in the past. In 2016, Bloomberg reported that teenagers were able to bet on professional CS:GO matches by connecting their inventory from Steam, the marketplace where CS:GO is sold, to third-party sites. A few months later, after being threatened with legal action, the game’s developer, Valve, stepped in to request these sites cease their operations through Steam.

Rivalry requires bettors to send documentation, such as a driver’s licence or passport, to verify that they’re old enough to wager and that they live in a place that accepts its Isle of Man gambling license. (They also wager with money rather than weapon skins in their inventory.)

“We want to win the battle of being the clean operator, regulated, operated in a new age space of esports that can make that work, and beat the guys operating outside of the law,” Salz said.


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