The Making of Bodogconference.com
By Bodog.eu Sports, Casino and Poker Founder and CEO Calvin Ayre
How fast does time fly. It is now early 2005and we are well into the planning of our second annual Bodog.eugaming industry conference. It is also two and a half years sinceI first came up with the idea to put a conference together forwhat I accurately identified as a segment of our industry thatdid not have a place to come together – sports handicappers.
But, let’s go back in time and let me tell youhow it all came to pass. It was actually the summer of 2002 whereI first got the idea for the conference. We were at an affiliateconference for online casinos that a UK-based magazine put onmid summer in Vegas. While in Vegas I made a point of having ourteam, including the original Bodog Girl Suzy Jackson, meet upwith all the sports handicappers who were in the area. There area lot of them and I noticed that even though almost all of themrecommended the sportsbooks they thought were most credible, noneof them came to the conference.
It was then that I realized that there was notenough value being created for the handicapper to justify thetime and expense to go to the conference as it currently existed.In thinking on this I also realized that if someone put on a conferenceand optimized it for the handicappers, that not only would allthe ‘cappers in Vegas show up, but that quite likely so wouldevery handicapper in North America. I also realized at that timethat we would have to hold the conference in the summer slow season,and that it would likely take a year to put together if we wantedto do it right. The last observation was that having a focus ondoing deals with sportsbooks would be enthusiastically receivedby most handicappers. Given what a great party town Vegas is,I knew that doing it right would by definition include a greatparty.
By the time I left Vegas on this trip I had thebasic plan in my head on what would later become the 2004 Bdg Handicapper Conference. Originally we were going to do the firstone in 2003, however over the course of the next year we realizedwe wanted more time to plan things out and get a dedicated teamon this project so that it would be a hit right out the gate.With conferences you only get one shot to do it right. As luckwould have it we were afforded an opportunity to test our hypothesisthat the sports betting handicappers and marketers would liketo have an annual networking opportunity. One of the handicappingservices that we advertise with wanted us to sponsor a party tocoincide with a sports betting festival they were putting on inVegas.
The target of this festival was players, butthere would be a few handicappers coming so we said, “sure.” Thisparty was the first of what has now been officially named ‘BodogGirl’ parties and was a smashing success. I was amazed at howmany times during the course of the evening that I heard someonesay that they had just met someone they had known by phone andemail for years but had never met in person. This was all theinput we needed and in the fall of 2003 we put detailed planstogether for the 2004 Bodog.eu conference. We work with a companycalled Riptown.com Media and we gave them the job of putting theconference together in Vegas. The person in charge was a youngVancouver-based woman named Kate Krioukova. Kate had never puton a conference before, but what she lacked in experience, shemade up in intelligence and hard work.
We knew that the conference would need the supportof the entire industry to reach its true potential, but we alsoknew that someone had to prime the pump so we went into this conferencewith the intent of spending all the money needed to make it firstclass, we did not look at this as a profit center, but ratheras a inter-industry branding exercise. This meant that everythingwas done first class from our choice of the Mandalay Bay Hotelfor the guests and the conference, to the ultra-hip poolside partyvenue at the Palms Hotel and Casino.
If there is one thing that everyone in the industrynow knows (after attending the first annual Bodog.eu conference),it’s that Bodog.eu knows how to organize events! Both the conferenceand the party were over subscribed, we had to turn down speakers,and all of the exhibition space was sold out. The highlight ofthe entire event had to be Joe Montana showing up to sign Bodog.eufootballs for the big Bodog Girl party at the Palms. This partyhad everything (and then some!) – from the juggling midgets tothe balloon girls and mermaids, to the 20 plus Bodog Girls andfinally to Joe Montana tossing you a pass – it was pretty mucha sports and gaming enthusiasts dream come true! Joe returnedto the conference the following day and gave an hour-long speechabout his life – he had the crowd so completely engaged that youcould hear a pin drop!
The conference was such a hit that we have decidedto expand it and make it an annual event. This year it’s beenrenamed the Bodog.eu Poker and Sports Marketing Conference, andthough we are still the lead sponsor and will pay whatever ittakes to make this world class again, we are going to have allof the other top brands in online sports betting and poker inattendance, and we will be providing speakers. In addition, weare going to have the top speakers in the world in other areasof interest to anyone doing marketing for online poker and sportsbetting sites, as well as sports handicapping sites. Lastly, weare going to have the industry’s top suppliers present. This willbe a unique conference of its type and is worth attending justfor the networking opportunities associated with this conferenceand the bigger than life Bodog Girl party. Our party was sucha hit that even George Maloof, the owner of the Palms Hotel andthe Sacramento Kings NBA team came down and asked me for a Bodog.eufootball with Joe’s signature on it. We even got a shot of himtossing it around in his casino later that very night!
Why are we mixing sports betting and poker inone conference? The main reason is that these two product channelsare increasingly showing participatory cross over. Meaning thatsportsbooks are opening poker rooms and marketing companies historicallymarketing sportsbooks (including handicappers) are now also marketingpoker rooms. The two channels are morphing closer together andthe reason why is clearly that there is substantial overlap betweenthe customers of the two channels. Clearly there is a thirst inthe industry for this type of event, and Bodog.eu is very proudto be the lead sponsor of it. That said, we are also looking forwardto working closely with all of our best competitors in makingthis conference into something of value for the entire industry.Lastly, Bodog.eu thinks everyone in the industry deserves a goodparty and nobody in the industry throws a party like we do. Lastyear was over the top, but I personally promise that we are goingto outdo ourselves again this year!
Anyone interested in finding out more on thisconference can go to www.bodogconference.com which is updatedall winter long in the run up to the July 2005 Poker and SportsMarketing Conference. You can also email kate@Bodog.eu for moreinfo or to get on the conference mailing list for regular updates.
For more articles by Calvin Ayre go to www.calvinayre.com