New York, New York: New Zealand Racing Board’s Simon Jarvis enters US gambling market

New Zealand Racing Board’s head of strategic marketing and last year’s Marketer of the Year, Simon Jarvis, has hung up his hat to move to New York, where he’s the new vice president of marketing – Sportsbook for the TheScore Inc.

TheScore is a digital media company based in Toronto Canada and is entering the US gambling market with a sports betting platform.

In his role, Jarvis will be leading the marketing team from the Manhattan office to launch the brand and new sports betting app into the New Jersey market, before rolling out in other states.

Before venturing to New York to put his local sports betting knowledge to the test in the US, Jarvis talks us through his last few years at the New Zealand Racing Board and what he and the team have achieved.

“If I look back at the last two and a half years, the highlights are really around successfully repositioning the TAB brand in the New Zealand market to make the TAB brand much more relevant to a modern Kiwi audience.”

In saying this, he sums up the work he and the TAB team have achieved to build a new brand platform and boost its customers.

It all started when Jarvis joined at the end of 2016. He says at the time, the New Zealand Racing Board had a goal to double its customer numbers, however, it was inhibited by its inability to get the brand right.

The TAB brand has existed since 1952 and with that comes massive legacy and deeply entrenched perceptions of the brand so it was not a simple task for Jarvis to take it to the drawing board — and convince the board changes needed to be made.

“It’s easy to reposition a modern brand but if it has been around slice the 1950’s there’s a lot of perceptions that are deeply entrenched,” he says.

Jarvis got the OK and during the 2017 Lions Tour the new brand positioning, by Y&R and MBM was unveiled.

Called ‘Now You’re in the Game’, Jarvis says it’s an amplifier of New Zealand’s sporting passions as it brings to life the excitement in placing bets and achieving sporting success.

By broadening the appeal, off the back of the campaign the TAB’s appeal moved beyond the ‘male 40+’ category with a younger generation of sporting enthusiasts getting involved as well as more women placing bets.

“The new platform provided allowed us to brand story and bring it to life in a new way that the public hadn’t seen before.”

And the numbers speak for themselves.

Jarvis says it saw unprecedented levels of customer and revenue growth, with a 48 percent year-on-year increase in customers in 2018.

The success has been rewarded with 13 marketing awards, including the Best Use of Customer Insight/Data at the TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards where Jarvis was also named the Marketer of the Year.

Though a great personal achievement, Jarvis credits the work of his team.

“It was a testament to the incredibly talented individuals I have surrounded myself with at TAB.”

He also says a large part of TAB’s success has been its agency partners with Y&R and MBM.

It’s no surprise Jarvis is confident he’s leaving TAB in good hands.

At the time of talking to him the New Zealand Racing Board was not looking to hire a replacement.

Taking his lessons to the world

With such good results at the New Zealand Racing Board, why the move?

“I’ve always had an ambition to spend time in New York City,” Jarvis says. “This opportunity presented itself and for me, it’s an opportunity that’s too good not to take up.”

He says New York is a city that provides a platform to challenge yourself and be the bet you can be professionally.

But that’s not to say he hasn’t enjoyed working in the local market.

“When I consider New Zealand marketing landscape it’s an environment that gives marketers permission to do brave work.

“It’s fiercely competitive so the best consumer brands need to be the most creative and I think for us creativity has become a major differentiator.”

In saying this he points out a few of his favourite local campaigns from the past few years; Lotto’s ‘Armoured Truck’ campaign by DDB, and the New Zealand Police’s recruitment videos by Ogilvy.

“The work created in New Zealand is incredibly brave. I think because of the size of the market there’s no excuse for being as creative as you can. The way to stand out is to be as creative as you possibly can.”

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