PokerStars Elaborates Further on its Choice of Ambassadors

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PokerStars Elaborates Further on its Choice of Ambassadors

Since 2012, PokerStars has undergone a seismic shift in its choice of sponsored ambassadors, with the trend subsequently picking up fresh momentum after a slew of the site’s long term pros parted ways at the start of this year, including the likes of Vanessa Selbst, Jason Mercier and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier.

Together, these players have been responsible for directing a great deal of positive publicity PokerStars’ way over the years through their numerous tournament wins, but these days Team Pro is no longer the central part of the brand’s strategy anymore. Just as important is ensuring that the site has just the right mix of representatives and players in order to meet its marketing goals, including sponsoring a good number of celebrities and top athletes from around the world, and as Eric Hollreiser, director of corporate communications for The Stars Group, explained recently:

“As we increased the use of athletes, there was less demand for sponsored pros from our marketing teams. So we continued to reduce the roster of Pros, while always adjusting the mix of players. We also believed that our ambassadors should not solely be winners and credible/authentic poker players but should live and breathe the game, proactively creating excitement around it and generating multimedia content that reaches multiple audiences.”

2012 a Milestone Year

Elaborating further on the evolution of the approach taken by PokerStars, Hollreiser said that prior to 2012 the site was still competing against Full Tilt Poker and to a lesser extent PartyGaming in trying to secure the best pros to represent their brands. That all changed post-Black Friday after Full Tilt was acquired by PokerStars, leading to a much reduced level of competition for sponsored Pros, as well as a lower demand in general for live poker events across the globe.

After Hollreiser was appointed to his role in 2014, a number of factors subsequently motivated PokerStars to branch out in a different direction, including:

1: The waning popularity of televised poker.

2: A more mature poker market resulting in the novelty of becoming a poker player diminishing amongst mainstream audiences.

3: An explosion in the popularity of celebrities across social media making their recruitment a better way to attract a wider audience.

As a result, sportsmen such as Rafael Nadal, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr were soon snapped up by PokerStars, with Usain Bolt and actor Kevin Hart more recently occupying center stage of the brand’s marketing push.

Players with Popular Live Streams

In terms of the players themselves, PokerStars is now more geared towards recruiting those that already enjoy a strong following on live stream platforms, such as Twitch, with its current sponsored pros including the likes of Jason Somerville Jeff Gross, Jaime Staples, to name but a few.

This approach is now seen as being more effective than the previous one which used to rely on television coverage, not just because of TV poker’s lower viewer numbers, but also because live streaming allows players to interact with an audience, and let their true personalities shine through. As Hollreiser explains:

“Many of them identify as professional streamers rather than professional poker players. And so their success is as much driven by the power of their personality and ability to attract a community as it is their poker prowess or their winning percentage or their ROI.”

Next to Go?

The fast evolving situation at PokerStars has led to a flurry of speculation as to who will be the next players to part company with the site. In fact, HighStakes DB recently held a twitter poll to determine who the community expected to be the next sponsored pros out the door, with the choice presented including Randy Lew, Liv Boeree, Barry Greeenstein, and Jake Cody.

Just 11% then voted for Liv Boeree, which makes sense as she continues to produce great results, with 2017 having been her third most successful to date with $413,787 in winnings, including picking up a career first WSOP bracelet. Boeree is also comfortable commenting on and promoting the game, and also helps raise money for charity via REG (Raising for Effective Giving).

Meanwhile, 39% of voters thought that Barry Greenstein would be the next pro to lose his sponsorship deal because despite his past successes the 63 year-old player is not viewed as being so relevant to a modern poker audience. Jake Cody was not too far behind, either, with 30% of votes due to his patchy tournament results since joining the site in 2013, while Randy “nanonoko” Lew received 20% of votes, with his sponsorship arrangement all but secure considering his twitch streaming popularity, and his being an integral part of “Team Online”.

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