Farewell, or just goodbye? PokerStars ends marketing campaign featuring Ronaldo and Neymar

  • Stars’ appearance in 2016/17 Raise It campaign drew 160 million views
  • Parent company Amaya tells affiliates to focus on free welcome bonus offer

PokerStars’ marketing strategy in recent years has seen the business attain further mainstream brand recognition thanks to ad campaigns featuring major sports stars. The likes of Ronaldo and Dwayne Wade have been called upon to front campaigns produced by the leading online poker brand, resulting in viral videos that have accrued millions of views.

It’s a strategy that’s proven very successful for PokerStars but it also will likely have come at a high cost. After all, the Ronaldos and Neymars of the world don’t get out of bed for anyone.

Now, it appears that PokerStars is preparing to wave goodbye to the sports stars who have been at the forefront of the brand’s marketing in recent years.

Parent company, Amaya recently released an email to its affiliates, notifying them of the change in policy stating: “Starting April 1st 2017 we will be focusing on our ongoing Free Welcome Bonus Offer. In addition, our branding team has designed some wonderful creative and banners to help support your acquisition efforts and drive in some big numbers!

“Therefore, as of midnight March 31st 2017, all Cristiano Ronaldo & Neymar Jr promotions materials (ie. banners, images, etc) will have to be replaced as the Cristiano Ronaldo & Neymar Jr banner creative will no longer be valid for you to use from that date.”

Change in approach?

From a playing perspective, this change in policy makes no difference: PokerStars will continue to operate just as it always has, even if you won’t be seeing household names guesting in its videos and promotional campaigns over the coming months.

The use of famous sporting personalities has undoubtedly helped spread the word about PokerStars, making the name familiar to football, tennis and basketball fans.

Amaya’s decision marks a dramatic change in approach for the gaming giant, which was hailing the effectiveness of its most recent #RaiseIt campaign in late 2016 and early 2017 that raised 160 million views thanks to the appearance of Cristiano Ronaldo, Dwayne Wade and Neymar.

Even without the likes of Ronaldo and co being used to promote welcome bonuses and other PokerStars offers, it’s unlikely that the brand is going to relinquish its place as the preeminent online poker room any time soon. The sports stars might be heading off for the time being, but in their absence, the game continues.

OUR VERDICT

Whether the decision to drop these stars from upcoming Pokerstars campaigns, including those at affiliate sites, is for financial reasons or simply because of a change in strategy is uncertain, and it’s likely to remain that way. What’s not to be doubted is the star potential of the guys in the videos: in 2014 Time 100 recognised Ronaldo as one of the world’s most influential people and, in 2016, ESPN declared him the world’s most famous athlete. One wonders if, bearing the aforementioned points in mind, this is a process of housekeeping rather than anything too drastic and, for Ronaldo et al, it’s more a case of goodbye than farewell.

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