January 31, 2008

J'accuse! French affiliates unhappy at Unibet

It’s not what you say but how you say it. The old saying should be drummed into Unibet’s French marketing team after it found itself in the firing line from French affiliates for telling them their commission rates would be cut by 50% due to the company expecting spikes in traffic following its appearance on a French current affairs TV show. The measure only lasted four days but left Unibet’s affiliates clearly upset, as Jake Pollard found out.

European egaming giant Unibet has been strongly criticised by French online gaming blogs over the past few days following a letter it sent to affiliates explaining it would be cutting their commission rates by 50%. The decision to drop the rates was taken because Unibet was due to appear on a current affairs programme called Droit de Savoir, broadcast on the popular channel TF1 on Tuesday 22 January.

In the email it sent to its affiliates, Unibet said it expected large numbers of new accounts to be opened and a strong boost in traffic following the programme. As a result, it would increase the capacity of its servers for the next four days and reduce its “payouts on sports betting deposits over the same period by 50%”.

The company added that it had devoted a considerable amount of time answering questions and requests from TF1 journalists. It said: “It therefore seems natural that you should continue to benefit from these requests but by subtracting the artificial volume Unibet brings (you) via this report.”

The company issued a statement: “Unibet has one of the most flexible affiliate programs and offers paying per deposit which has shown to be one of the most successful ways to deliver extra results to the affiliates. The “price list” is evaluated on a weekly basis and can vary depending on the sport and gambling actuality to keep affiliates happy all year long. Unibet will soon be offering a loyalty program for its affiliates.”

Unibet said the move was in no way a sanction but the fair price affiliates should pay when an initiative it had undertaken would triple business volumes, but the correspondence caused much anger and consternation among its French affiliates. The fact that the email was sent around 7pm French time on the evening the show would be broadcast, leaving the affected parties minimal time to react, was also seen as underhand and premeditated. One blog commented that Unibet did not recognise the painstaking search engine optimisation work undertaken by affiliates, who also represented the most cost effective method of bringing in regular traffic to operators, while others said the programme had been critical of online betting.

One industry source said Unibet had been guilty of “clumsiness” rather than anything sinister, but did not doubt that the affiliates would have found such a unilateral decision upsetting.