A North East digital marketing company specialising in the iGaming and gambling sectors is helping its clients tap into a global industry worth $50 billion (USD) a year, as the world learns to relax online.
DigitalCity talks to Chris O’Rourke, one of the minds behind Stockton-based Affili8 Marketing, about how the business was conceived, how Teesside University’s DigitalCity Accelerator Programme helped the firm develop and about his hopes for the future.
Where were you born, brought up and educated?
I’m Hartlepool born and bred and attended The English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College, before studying a media degree at Birmingham City University. I’m not sure I was a model student, but it was a means to an end and I eventually moved into sales. After Birmingham I moved to London and Australia but family ties brought me back home.
Describe your early career and first jobs?
One of my first jobs was telesales for the Hartlepool Mail and I also worked in sales for the Sunderland Echo. I’ve worked for a number of agencies over the past ten years in a business development role and in my last job I was head of digital marketing.
Where did you get the idea for your current business?
After leaving my last agency I decided to set up a small digital agency. Some of the contacts that I had in the iGaming and gambling sectors actually reached out to discuss their business ideas and so a former colleague and I decided to launch our own business in Affili8 Marketing, two years ago, being the middle men to promote other brands. When other contacts heard what we were doing they were interested and we managed to attract £245,000 of investment in the first year, which was great.
Tell us about your business in terms of its reach, turnover and staffing levels…
We’ve managed to build an extensive network of affiliate sites on the regulated side of the market, and we use SEO to drive traffic, registrations and deposit players for our casino and sportsbook partner brands across the UK, Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
We’ve increasingly become in demand for our consultancy service in SEO and Paid search and so extended the business to offer these services. We have spent that last year building a great, trusted team of seven and hope to turn over around £500,000 next year.
What makes the business interesting for you?
The sheer volume of people involved in the sector is fascinating and I also love the client side and delivering results for clients and affiliates alike. Surprisingly the margins are tight because of the fees, royalties, insurance and taxes our clients pay and it is a competitive sector, so they rely on volume to flourish. With our help clients can see tangible results and increased success. We have seen some grow from start-ups to millions in turnover a month in a very short period of time, which is rewarding for us.
What is popular at the moment and where do you see your sector in the future?
We are seeing massive growth in regulated gaming and gambling, particularly e-sports, and the changes in North America present a particularly exciting time for us. It’s an incredible industry that is changing all the time. We are also taking a deeper interest in the ethical side of gambling and gaming. It is not so much about providing solutions to addiction, as that requires specialist help, but as we attract new people into gambling and gaming it is about educating them at the point of entry to make them aware of what is happening to their physiology when they play and win, why that might become habitual and ensure they always play within their limits. We are designing a course and suggest people complete it so they are aware of the possible dangers.
How did you hear about DigitalCity?
DigitalCity contacted us thinking we might be suitable and we registered for the Accelerator Programme. We then received a call from Scott Watson, had an interview and we were selected for the programme.
What has DigitalCity done for you personally and your business?
We had never had our own business before and there is a lot to learn. The Programme proved so valuable as it helped us understand how to think about our product and how best to develop it from a prototype stage. We found the advice from DigitalCity to be very insightful and invaluable consultancy.
What are your aspirations, hopes and plans for the business?
At this stage we want to make sure we remain profitable and we can see ourselves become a strong local employer and we have plans to build towards around 50 staff. Whatever we do in the future, and however we grow the business, we certainly will be looking to stay in Teesside.
Would you recommend working with DigitalCity and, if so, why?
We have learned such a lot from DigitalCity and the University’s expertise and we apply this knowledge in our business. I would recommend the Programme to anyone and would like to do more with the University in the future. From my previous role I have experience of many of the important aspects of running a business. But when it is your business you feel the added responsibility so any additional expert help and advice is welcome and makes the business more interesting and fun.
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