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CMO50 2020 #26-50: Luke Waldren

  • Name Luke Waldren
  • Title EGM marketing, customer and product
  • Company Tabcorp
  • Commenced role September 2018
  • Reporting Line MD, wagering and media
  • Member of the Executive Team No
  • Marketing Function 175 staff, 6 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Gambling and retail
  • 2019 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    There are two skills Tabcorp’s brand, marketing and product leader is determined to build across his teams. The first is speed.

    “As a digital and retail business with operations across all jurisdictions bar WA, we work under a range of risk and compliance obligations. Speed in execution is a skillset we need to continue to compete with digital-only players,” he says.

    The second skill is confidence. “We’ve seen terrific results from people having confidence in their own opinions and ability to create a difference. We are going to do more to foster this,” Waldren says.

    Both skills provided vital during the COVID-19 crisis, where TAB’s marketing and product teams galvanised to deliver very inspiring outcomes during a period where a significant chunk of the group’s business was impacted. “This has resulted in a team that is more confident, resilient, faster and most of all committed to each other,” Waldren says.

    Unlike its competitors, who sell exclusively via digital platforms, TAB maintains a 4500 strong retail network. This meant it was uniquely impacted for its sector when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

    “This network experienced forced closures across the country under measures designed to enhance community safety during the pandemic,” Waldren says. “Simultaneously, sporting competitions across the world were postponed or cancelled. All we had left in wagering was racing and no-one was allowed on- course. This was where our new brand platform was ready to shine.

    “Never did we envisage that ‘Long May We Play’ brand proposition would mean so much more. The very core of the idea is about the role sport and racing have played in our lives for so long and our ability to celebrate it was, without warning, taken away from us.”

    But before Waldren’s team could consider the role of the brand, it had the immediate, more urgent challenge of trying not to lose its loyal retail customers, who were forced to migrate en-masse to digital.

    In the first four weeks of lockdown, when there was a raft of unknowns around everything from sports to retail, Waldren says TAB’s competitors stopped investing. In contrast, it decided to maintain marketing and media investment to ensure customers chose TAB as they migrated to digital.

    “It was critical to remain active across all channels – especially in performance media channels and our customer contact centre,” he says.

    Waldren points to Google search and Apple App Store results as an indicator of this decision paying dividends during the early stages of the crisis and kicked started some very strong momentum. Strong results included the highest rated promotions, equal first for reliability in a mobile betting platform, and equal first for live vision.

    “Simultaneously, the Federal Government launched its COVIDSafe app and we saw an opportunity to celebrate our brand by getting behind the push for Australians to download the app,” Waldren continues.

    The result was the campaign, ‘Help Play Find A Way’ which urged sports fans to download the tracing app as a way of getting all consumers back to the stands sooner.

    “This became a rallying cry for our team and generated strong customer sentiment,” Waldren says. “It meant our brand remained relevant but wasn’t seen as ‘tone deaf’ to the ongoing societal challenges as we all managed through the uncharted COVID-19 waters.”

    Innovative marketing

    Over recent years, TAB has occupied five brand positions but become primarily defined by the betting transaction alone. To find a way forward, Waldren conducted a root and branch review of the TAB brand, discovering four key insights used to help formulate the new brand purpose.

    The first was ‘aspire to be bigger than the bet’, while the second was ‘our inclusiveness makes us Australia’. Thirdly, Tab is ‘a place that brings people together’, while the fourth brand pillar is ‘we’re part of Australians’ lives and most relevant around the big events’.

    “Our strategy is one that is ownable against our competitors, motivates our people and allows us to connect with Australians beyond the betting transaction – that is, be bigger than the bet,” Waldren comments.

    The work led to the big brand idea: TAB. Long May We Play.

    And the rallying cry? “It is a big part of who we are. It has shaped our country and our culture and taught us countless lessons along the way. It divides and unites us. Makes us laugh, cry, scream and sit in stunned silence. It has always been there for us. And with any luck, it always will be.

    “TAB. Long May We Play.”

    Data-driven approach

    Alongside the big brand vision, Waldren and his team have been exercising their scientific muscles and working to better harness data. Over the last 18 months, he’s spearheaded development of an advanced personalisation capability.

    To do this, Tabcorp adopted a full Adobe-based technology solution. Waldren says it’s generated incremental turnover in the past year and driven stronger customer engagement via real-time, data-driven offers.

    “Part of our strategy has been to digitise our retail venue network and simultaneously support our venue partners with additional revenue streams, which in turn helped drive further customer acquisition.”

    The work is projected to deliver millions in incremental turnover over a four-year period, lift customer experiences across the lifecycle, help TAB further its responsible gambling initiatives and step up its customer-focused approach overall.

    “The personalisation capability that we have developed now drives bespoke, real-time interactions to improve customer engagement and deliver brilliant, digitally led wagering experiences both in and out of venue,” Waldren says. “Tabcorp’s commitment to ensuring we show care for our customers remains unchanged – it’s in our DNA. By making full use of our data to better understand our customers’ behaviours, in a responsive, and relevant way, we have bolstered our commitment to responsible gambling.”

    Commercial acumen

    The lack of ‘value perception’ has been a key issue for Tabcorp in previous surveys with consumers. This has been a particular issue for the younger demographic. As USB Evidence Labs inside stated in its mid-2020 Wagering Survey, ‘closing this gap has been an important but painful exercise for Tabcorp’.

    According to Waldren, one of the challenges is a significant part of the wagering category’s marketing approach to customers is via promotions and offers. Customer research reinforces these offers are the number one reason people choose a particular provider.

    “In recognition of this, we decided to elevate our promotional strategy to remain competitive in the short term,” he says. “Meanwhile, developing our ‘Bigger than the Bet’ brand platform for the longer term has allowed us to tap into other motivations for choosing a provider in what’s a competitive and rapidly evolving market particularly in terms of promotional offers.

    Extending TAB’s reach outside of its heartland of horse racing is another one of Waldren’s big, bold bets. All of us know TAB has long been associated with racing – a relationship that began over 60 years ago.

    “Some of us remember lining up outside a TAB outlet well before the Internet was even invented for that once a year bet on The Cup,” Waldren says. “Back in those days sports betting wasn’t a ‘thing’ either.

    “Fast forward to today and our team identified US sports had become far more popular among younger customers. We had an opportunity to carve out a position in Australia as no-one ‘owned’ US sports domestically from a broadcast and wagering perspective.”

    After 12 months of negotiations of partnership and vision opportunities with the three leading sports codes in the US, TAB has become ‘The Home of US Sports’ in Australia through securing the following rights: Official NFL code partner in Australia (a world first for the NFL); Official MLB code partner in Australia (a world first for the MLB); Official NBA retail partner in Australia (a world first for the NBA).

    “These partnerships are underpinned by the acquisition of broadcast rights for all codes. The full suite of live games across the three leagues is also available via the TAB app and website,” Waldren adds.

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