by Alison Boothby
Unibet Group – or Kindred, as it is now called – is Europe’s largest online gambling company. With a portfolio of a thirteen brands in 12 countries and an employee base of some 1200, it offers pre-game and live sports betting, poker, casino and racing to more than 13.5milion customers. Patrick O’Hagan , Collaboration Lead, joined us at smilelondon 2016 recently to share his story of how they use Jive to collaborate around brand values, build employee engagement and support the wider global strategy. Alison Boothby listened to his interview with Marc Wright at smilelondon 2016 and spoke to him afterwards.
“We are a rapidly growing business and as an innovation-driven company we are always pioneering technological advances, mobile solutions and new product launches. We want to give every customer a great user experience and our betting structure is totally data-driven. As in our award-winning advertising campaign, we really believe that ‘Luck is no coincidence’!”
The same level of statistical rigour that underpins the external strategy of the business is also reflected internally. “We see ourself as a fair employer with employee engagement fundamental to our success as a business. To get data for employee engagement for example we use the Great Place to Work. If someone reads something on Jive we’re interested in how long it took them, and whether they read it more than once – everything we do is informed by data.”
Jive was introduced at Unibet a little over a year ago and when Paddy arrived in post in December 2015 it had just gone live on a ‘soft’ launch. “No one had been shown how to use it – it had just been put out there – but when I asked people across the business for feedback, they told me they actually liked that fact that they hadn’t been forced to use Jive but could find their own way. Of course not everyone is a fan to start with. Our biggest naysayer was a tech guy in Stockholm who started a blogging campaign against Jive. Ironically he did this on Jive! But it’s good that people can be brave and speak up. A little controversy is no bad thing if it gets people talking and joining in.”
The acquisition of Stan James at the end of 2015, presented some challenges – but also a great opportunity to use Jive to build engagement across the business following this important acquisition. Stan James is a traditional bookmakers, well established in the UK market with a strongly competitive culture. Based in Gibraltar it has 150 employees and a very loyal customer base. Rather than foist the Unibet values and culture upon them, they took a different approach. Paddy told us: “Stan James is a successful brand with a distinct and very competitive culture – quite different to our Scandinavian feel. Rather than dictating to them how Unibet go about things, we wanted our Unibet employees to learn about them and understand their products, their culture, their values.
“We wanted to do something that had Stan James at the focus – both their products and their people. In early February 2016 we’d got Stan James onto Jive. We were looking at ways to use Jive to bring the Stan James community on board but also to use it to share knowledge and information about their business with the wider Unibet employee base who would, after all, be working on these products. To do this we asked them what they normally do for Cheltenham, and they replied, like most offices around the country – ‘a sweepstake’. But obviously, these guys are pros, and their sweepstake was pretty complex.”
With 49 different nationalities working in twelve countries where horse racing is not as big a deal as it is here in the UK, most Unibet employees were not familiar with racing – they’d never placed a bet, never read form and so to bring them closer to the Stan James customers, it was essential to teach them how to think like them. Paddy continues: “We launched the competition first with a blog from our Head of Global Racing (good executive engagement right from the start) explaining that you will have a virtual pound for each race, every day, you will accumulate winnings using the same odds as our customers and we’ll have a daily and an end of festival prize – nothing huge, just some amazon vouchers.
“Then our Head of Racing gave us a ‘dummie’s guide to racing’ that taught us how to bet, what to look out for on a race card, how to study form, what the numbers mean; how to be an expert. I’ve heard about systems and theories, but I had no real idea. Using this knowledge, I came in the top ten of the company – even beating the CEO!”
This blog proved extremely popular and they went on to ask the Stan James Traders to write a blog for each day of the Cheltenham Festival with the aim of maintaining interest in the sweepstake and keep participation high.
“We had expected a list of the runners and riders and if we were lucky, perhaps a tip or two. What we got was insane – the level of detail was incredible! By day three the traders were having competitions with themselves within their blogs, highlighting who was doing less well. These early Stan James blogs generated an enormous amount of interest: the first blog had over 2000 views, 70% of which were from Stan James employees. By day four, this had moved to 50% clearly indicating that integration was happening quickly. We had 91% activity and more than 60% of the European group participated in the sweepstake. It fully reinforced that we are By Players, for Players. We could not have wished for more.”
“Paddy’s story of onboarding Stan James using Jive is like gamification on steroids,” commented Marc Wright. In most acquisition situations, platforms like Jive would have been used to tell the new business how things are done, but Unibet turned this on its head – and very successfully so.”
The internal comms team at Unibet are not big fans of push communication – rather they see their role as facilitators of collaboration and communication. But there are of course times where top-down messages are needed. Jive is the perfect tool to support their aims in this regard.
Rebrand, reorg, new strategy
After coming to the end of a very successful strategy cycle, the summer of 2016 brought a new challenge which was to launch the next phase of global strategy. Along with the associated rebrand to Kindred there was a degree of company reorganisation – potentially an unsettling time for employees. Paddy picks this up: “All the information was released through Jive with the CEO presenting a live Powerpoint, a blog with FAQs and a link to a questionnaire. The comms team gathered feedback from across the business and checked for understanding before the CEO hosted a live Q&A to provide on-camera explanations to all the questions that were raised. Jive has a feature whereby the most popular question appears at the top. More than anything else, our people wanted to know what would happen to our brand promise :By players, for players. This links back to the pride they have in Unibet and their desire to remain part of Unibet. We were able to reassure them right then and there that the Unibet brand still exists under the new group brand of Kindred.”
The launch of a new strategy, together with a group rebrand and a reorganisation is a big achievement for any business. That Unibet did this within two seeks is staggering! As a Scandinavian based tech company which values being agile as an organisation, Unibet proved that with the right mix of will, leadership, culture and technology you can achieve the almost impossible.