Why Twitch will resurrect poker sponsorship

Why Twitch will resurrect poker sponsorship

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In my opinion the most noticeable change Twitch will bring to the poker industry (as we know it) is revitalising the sponsorship of professional poker players by major online poker rooms and/or brands.

The old form of sponsorship died, and rightly so. With a few exceptions, it was hard to tell if sponsored poker players helped an online poker room at all. Sure Michael Mizrachi was featured on the front cover of a magazine, but did that improve traffic, deposits or rake generation? It was almost impossible to capture any evidence to suggest either way, but the likelihood was no.

Sponsorships were therefore reserved for the very big names, the very hard working players and people who were famous outside of poker who brought with them mainstream attention.

The new stars of poker

6eESlb5Twitch Poker is going to change all of that. We have already seen it with the sponsorship of Jason Somerville, which I believe will be remembered as a watershed moment in online poker. Jason has a highly entertaining Twitch account, he is a brilliant ambassador and a great player. He is the poster boy for both online poker and Twitch right now.

At the other end of the spectrum you have the anti-hero StickyRice1. He is thoroughly entertaining to watch, seems to have no clue what he is doing, is a complete degenerate and regularly slowrolls his opponents. By all reports, he also seemingly doubled the traffic at the Bovada online poker room while he played there.

Other than Chris Moneymaker, when can we say any single poker player had that impact on the traffic of a poker room (Except maybe the queue to play Gus heads-up?).

Measurable impact

jason-somerville-pokerstarsOne of the biggest problems with the old sponsorship model was that it was so hard to measure the analytics of whether a sponsored pro had any impact on a site. Twitch turns that on its head. In a form of natural selection, the most popular and engaging players rise to the top by virtue of their followers, views, chatbox engagement and donations.

The latest winner of an EPT is of little value to an online poker room these days. A popular Twitch streamer with 5,000 engaged followers? That’s an entirely different proposition.

Scott Ball of Twitch summed this up for me perfectly:

I think poker sponsorship is essential, but I think one of the reasons it’s declined is many poker players don’t do the best with growing their brands. The ones who are doing well, not all of them know how to actually show that they are doing well. With Twitch and our stats on our dashboard, everyone has access to our channel, they now have analytics to back up what they’re doing, show the work they’re doing, show the results that are coming.

I think that helping players build their brand a big part of what we’re focused on right now in poker. And giving them the analytics to show companies. Twitch is going to be huge utility for the them in landing sponsorships for sure.”

And what better way to showcase said poker room than by the streamer playing there? Wearing a patch at a WSOP event would, at best, get your logo some screen time on ESPN. However, that popular streamer playing on their sponsors poker room is the best brand endorsement you can get.

This week I spoke to Twitch broadcaster PokerStaples, who is in my mind the first big organic Twitch Poker success story, about why a popular Twitch stream is worth much more than a patch on a ‘TV Pro’:

“I have a sponsor with a HUD company. That is my only affiliation right now, which has been really nice. I’ve received lots of offers from rakeback and affiliate sites, but no actual poker rooms yet. 

The potential with me is 40+ hours a week of camera time. The impact a patch could make, or even a chair sponsor, where you have so much airtime and so many people watching over the day is more powerful than what you would find at the World Series.”

Even if the sponsors don’t catch on, the better the streamer, the more opportunity they have to monetise their popularity. There are number of monetisation strategies including ad revenue, subscriptions, donations and merchandise. Likewise a good player who has their own books, training courses or paid coaching services need look no further to Twitch for their marketing efforts. Whether it is endorsing a poker room or their own endeavours, the most marketable players will get the most rewards with Twitch.

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