What really kept the marketing team behind UBET’s rebrand to TAB awake

CMO talks to the EGM of marketing overseeing the rebranding campaign and delves into the customer and well as cultural considerations key to achieving success

The Magic Millions lawn featuring the new TAB brand in Queensland
The Magic Millions lawn featuring the new TAB brand in Queensland


It was the unsexy digital and back-end challenges of rebranding UBET to TAB, rather than the tranche of customer-facing programs, which proved the bigger deal for the wagering company’s marketing team. 

Earlier this year, TAB formally abandoned the UBET moniker and kicked off a major rebrand across Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania. It was the first consumer-facing change implemented since the merger of UBET owner, Tatts Group, with Tabcorp.

The rebrand saw UBET’s physical presence - 1300 agency, venue and racecourse outlets – along with its digital assets and mobile app replaced with the TAB wagering stamp. The latter business has its heritage in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

As TAB executive general manager of marketing and customer, Luke Waldren, told CMO, the decision was a natural and simple one. Having experienced several years of decline, UBET was on a burning platform, and a three-year transformation plan had begun.

“TAB enjoyed significant levels of awareness, even in states it wasn’t operating in prior to the merger, which made it easy to decide on the brand direction,” Waldren said. “It was necessary to have one national brand and create as much efficiency around delivering that brand as we could.”

However, it was equally clear seamless transition must be the order of the day for UBET customers.

“From the outset, we were engaging with customers before we got anywhere near operationalising that change,” Waldren said. “That was important, as it was those insights driving the messaging we eventually took to market.

“What customers told us is they were overwhelmingly focused on us not making it difficult, and not getting in their way. It had to be seamless. Within that, there was a strong theme of not changing anything - in the way they interacted, and way they do things. UBET customers knew the TAB brand and its legacy, so while we could call it what we wanted, it was important not to alter the experience for them as customers.”

The resulting campaign launched in January and centred around the line: ‘UBET is becoming TAB, it’s not a big deal’. This was followed up with an emphasis on big deals such as new products or offers like extra vision and better form guides, making the experience better.  

“We thought it was reflective of an Australian brand not to overegg the fact we are changing the name,” Waldren said. “In-store, with the betting experience and staff remaining the same, the marketing team took a tongue-in-cheek approach to point-of-sale and livery, again reinforcing this theme the rebrand wasn’t a big deal.

“We knew these were the sorts of tangible, simple things customers wanted to know wouldn’t be pulled out from under their feet.”

Waldren’s team also worked to ensure every customer was well aware of the rebrand before it became visible. This included a direct-to-customer program four weeks prior to launching above-the-line activities. Communications were designed to embed the name change while emphasising existing experiences, and included FAQs on logins, features and functions.

“By the time we got to launch day, every customer had been informed more than once about the imminent change,” Waldren said. “This reinforced the seamlessness of it. And in fact, a lot of change would happen automatically. Digital customers just updated the app and continued as they were.” 

In January, TAB kicked off a major ABL push, starting with a nine-page consecutive advertising run in News Corp newspapers across Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania.

“This was intentionally and deliberately a big splash using localised print assets to drive the message on one day, and announce TAB had arrived,” Waldren said.   

Print was supported by TV, radio, search, paid social and performance media. In addition, TAB used the Gold Coast Magic Millions Summer Carnival as a central events platform. Its refrigerated box onsite, dubbed the ‘TAB Cold Coast’, gained widespread publicity and was complemented by advertising across the Gold Coast.

“Over that four-week period, we basically turned the Gold Coast green,” Waldren added. 

The real challenge: Digital and tech

The rebrand communications and campaign was a hefty undertaking. Yet something else sat at the top of Waldren’s complexity list.

Notably, UBET and TAB operated their own customer databases, mobile apps, digital portals and technology stacks, including distinct analytics platforms (Adobe and Google Analytics, respectively).  While these will be unified over the coming 1-2 years, for now, Waldren’s team are running two websites, tech stacks and apps, both branded TAB.

“There is a big degree of difficulty in ensuring we are delivering the best messages, at the right time and in the right location. The enormity of it was the big challenge,” Waldren explained. “The change in the brand is one thing and what everyone saw – and for me, it’s something that has to be well planned, and operations need to be executed well. But behind the scenes, there’s this whole other layer of complexity to be managed.

“What kept me awake at night wasn’t the advertising message, offer, deployment of that work or program around changing the branding. It was the online customer journey. Things like having two apps in the app store, both branded TAB, had the most likelihood of bringing this undone.

“Just think about degree of complexity when it comes to search, performance media, app store advertising and search in the app store – there are lot of layers and jurisdictions. For example, if I search in Queensland, I need to ensure the right message and app gets served up.”

Adding further complexity are legacy brands and affinities such as UBET’s former branding, TattsBet, which had retained high volumes of search traffic. “Those searching for TattsBet, for example, had to be captured and come through the right journey,” Waldren said.

“So talking with two different languages was where most the challenges were. The risk for customers going on the wrong journey was really high. It’s not sexy work, but necessary.”

Uniting Tabcorp and Tatts Group at a technology level is of course a whole-of-company exercise. Waldren cited enormous effort to manage legacy systems and processes to ensure customers get a good outcome.

Several digital enhancements for former UBET customers came with the rebrand, including a bigger range of Sky Racing vision, better access to race replays and a more comprehensive form guide across the app and website. Integrations in the first year, meanwhile, include fixed odds operations and risk management systems, digital commissions in retail networks and some product expansions including international racing and sport and higher-yielding multi-products.

The technological platforms remain separate until after the 2019 spring racing season is over, when all will be migrated to the TAB platform.  Full alignment is due in FY2021.

Up next: The cultural factors of rebranding, plus measures of success

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