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Emily D. Swoboda
 

The New IM Wave

8 February 2006

PCWorld.com reported in November that instant messaging usage (commonly known as IMing) jumped 19 percent in 2005 and that Americans are now using IM more than e-mail. IM has become such a preferred means of communication, in fact, that Western Union recently stopped hand-delivering telegrams--a service it had offered for over 150 years.


"The fact is operators are being forced to re-strategize their current marketing initiatives and discover new ways to circumvent large publishers and market directly to the customer. Sport.IM accomplishes this because it places the advertising message directly on the user's desktop, where the Department of Justice holds no jurisdiction."
- Chris Gafoor
Sport.IM

Many businesses use IM as a way to keep in touch with staff in and out of the office. It is faster than e-mail and in most cases is free.

Canada-based Internet marketing and management firm Cyber Success Inc. is taking advantage of the phenomenon as well as fixing its biggest flaw: not being able to cross-communicate with users on different services. The company, which manages affiliate programs for the likes of Sportingbet and BetonSports, has created Sport.IM, a free-of-charge, sports-oriented instant messaging platform that enables customers to consolidate all of their contacts by importing buddy lists from messaging platforms like AOL, ICQ, MSN and Yahoo. Using the platform, customers can communicate directly with each other and have access to real-time news, odds, stats and other information on professional sports.

Cyber Success co-founders Chris Gafoor and Les Ruzsa dreamed up the idea in early 2005. Gafoor said he and Ruzsa saw a need for a new marketing approach. The old ways of advertising to Internet users (links, pop-ups etc.), he said, were quickly becoming ineffective and obsolete.

"Over the past five years, we've witnessed the I-gaming industry transform from a fragmented cottage industry into a very competitive, consolidated one," Gafoor explained. "However, we've observed the click-thru rate diminish to levels well below 0.5 percent, the customer acquisition cost skyrocket and the average lifetime value of a customer plummet. Most importantly, fewer U.S. media outlets accept online gambling advertising, particularly for sports betting.

"The fact is operators are being forced to re-strategize their current marketing initiatives and discover new ways to circumvent large publishers and market directly to the customer. Sport.IM accomplishes this because it places the advertising message directly on the user's desktop, where the Department of Justice holds no jurisdiction."

Sport.IM is similar to other messaging networks in that it provides a direct way for Internet users to communicate with one another, and Gafoor stressed that it is secure and free of spam.

"[Sport.IM] uses proprietary encryption technology not found in other public messengers. To date, there have been no instances of spam recorded on our network," he said. "In fact, Sport.IM uses advanced privacy protocols, which allow users to invite or deny messages sent from other users in the network."

What makes Sport.IM unique is that it not only enables users to import their buddy lists from the other IM services, but it also gives them immediate access to real-time sports news, stats, and match-up reports. They can also buy tickets to sold-out sporting events, purchase sports memorabilia and even book a flight through the service, and it's all made possible through affiliate marketing. Sport.IM has formed affiliations so far with betting sites like Bet Bug, retail merchants like Expedia and others that will have links on Sport.IM. Gafoor said there are more to come.

The product also employs viral marketing, which Sports IM put to the test in November when it began beta testing. They invited close friends, family members and colleagues exclusively to download the service as an audition. From there, Gafoor said, the network grew as the initial users invited more users to join, and so on.

"Within a short month, we attained a healthy number of users, with no direct marketing, to test the system in a controlled environment," he said. "We officially launched on Feb. 1, 2006 and have seen a staggering increase in the number of registered users in just three days."

The New IM Wave is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda