CFO World

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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Cultural factors

Another key to success was finding new ways of working, and Waldren said elements of agile methodology became a must.

“We had a consistent cadence to standups, and key people from across states working together in a way they hadn’t before. They’d not only just come together as two organisations, and had to bring two brands together. It required huge degrees of collaboration,” he commented.  

Most consideration had to be around people, Waldren continued. “There were 30 people from UBET involved in the marketing effort around TAB as it is known now. They were emotionally invested and had spent five years in a hard slog trying to rebuild that former brand,” he said.  

“We worked to ensure this stayed omnipresent and transparent in our conversations, and that we were respectful to the past. You can quickly get into a rhythm of emphasising how UBET was in decline, which can be a negative experience for staff. There was a conscious decision around drawing a line in the sand to say we’re moving forward, and this is the first step.”  

What was less challenging was customer insight, and UBET and TAB customer segments were largely similar, albeit with slightly different labels and descriptions. The differences stemmed from brand purpose, positioning and personality, Waldren said.

The TAB ice box at the Magic Millions carnival
The TAB ice box at the Magic Millions carnival


“UBET’s brand was more masculine, and humour played more of a role. TAB is much broader in its appeal,” he said. In addition, with TAB’s long heritage onsite as well as its digital offering, the brand also commands a more elevated category position.

“That omnichannel capability allows us to have a different relationship with customers and that plays out in the brand personality. It also means we have a responsibility to be more mass and inclusive,” Waldren said.

Measures of success

Nearly three months on from completing the brand relaunch campaign, Waldren and the team have several markers of success. The first priority was to ensure customers transitioning to TAB found it easy and seamless. Post-launch quantitative studies showed 80 per cent agreed it was.

Spontaneous awareness of TAB pre and post-change also leaped 50 per after rebrand launch. Another granular element was lifting perceptions of TAB as a modern, trusted brand with great offers and promotions. Having sat 13 per cent behind UBET in those jurisdictions prior to rebranding, TAB came in 27 per cent ahead post-launch.

“On trust, which is critical in this category and incorporates everything from speed to ease of payments, security of data, responsible gambling and keeping customers safe, TAB went from 11 per cent behind to 22 per cent ahead post-launch,” Waldren said. “This reinforces the strength and perceptions around the TAB brand and helps rationalise the change.”

As technology integration is completed, TAB’s marketing team will kick off another phase of awareness and communication to reinforce the virtues of the TAB brand and new features.

“We’ll continued to reinforce the vision and form experience, and there’s a consistent value proposition now running across the entire customer group,” Waldren added.  “The tech stacks coming together will make us stronger again and bring another raft of products, features and benefits to all customers.”

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