BUSINESS: Fonbet looking to expand in Cyprus after megabucks Omonia deal

7 mins read

Leading Russian bookmaker, Fonbet seeks to expand its presence in Cyprus after the €1 mln exclusive sponsorship deal it sealed with resurgent football club Omonia, which will give it the necessary brand awareness to eventually launch a chain of sports betting shops.

Already active in Cyprus and licensed by the local gaming authorities for online sports betting, Fonbet’s Regional Marketing Head Kirill Ustinovich said the company would also consider regional expansion, while the introduction of blockchain technologies for payments is already on the drawing board.

Fonbet, 65% owned by a Cyprus-registered holding company, operates 100 sports betting outlets in Moscow and a further 1,000 in the Russian regions.

It was reportedly the biggest advertising spender on Russian TV during the summer’s World Cup, having outlaid more than all the official sponsors combined. Fonbet is also the official sponsor of the Russian National football team, apart from sponsoring Euroleague Basketball and the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Omonia’s new sponsors feel that they have made a good move investing in the club’s brand, hoping that the Nicosia team under the management of New York-based Cypriot investor Stavros Papastavrou will regain its lost glory and reach new heights, pathing the way for Fonbet’s Cyprus venture.

Ustinovich told the Financial Mirror that they are highly enthusiastic about the partnership as they were looking for a strong partner since they launched their operations on the island at the beginning of the year.

“Omonia is the most popular club in Cyprus with a 70-year history filled with success and we are eager to also become a reliable partner for the club on its path back to glory and success,” said Ustinovich.

The sponsorship deal was announced by Omonia’s new General Manager, Demetris Gregori, at an event at the Hilton Park in Nicosia to present the new kits that will have the sponsor’s name emblazoned on the front of the shirts.

Gregori said that the historic Nicosia club is implementing an ambitious plan and wants to combine this new beginning with a fresh and strong partnership. One that will send the message that Omonia is back in the big time.

Ustinovich commenting on the sponsorship deal said that Fonbet does not want to just be a name on the club’s shirts, but it wants to be a part of Omonia and its fans. He added that Fonbet has surprises in store for the fans through various events and special offers and called on Omonia fans to “stay tuned”.

Asked how the company perceives the Cyprus market, Ustinovich said that Fonbet feels that it is “very promising”, adding that he was surprised to see how popular football, and sports in general, are on the island.

“I had the chance to watch the friendly game between Omonia and Panathinaikos and saw fans going to the stadium with their families.”
Fan Culture
Ustinovich added that he was impressed by the culture of the Cypriot fans which he found to be friendly and passionate about their team.
He said that Fonbet’s strategy is to develop the brand in connection with sporting events and he feels sure that Cypriot fans will welcome their efforts to contribute to local sport.

“At the same time, our surveys show that sports betting is very popular among Cypriots. We believe that with our experience we will be able to bring high-quality service to Cypriots, fresh ideas and interesting approaches,” said Ustinovich.

On the company’s future activities on the island, Ustinovich said they are in an ongoing process of evaluating and studying the local culture and people’s habits in regard to betting. He said that for now, they will keep to their online betting business and not open shops.
“It makes sense to open shops when your brand is well-known, so as to avoid non-expected losses and missed opportunities.”

Fonbet has a strong presence in online and offline betting in Russia where they have the biggest chain of shops.  Ustinovich stressed that strengthening of its market share in Russia came after many years of hard work.

Fonbet is the number one bookmaker in Russia, both online and offline. The company has betting shops in 500 towns throughout Russia.

Ustinovich said that after being successful in Russia “it was logical that we would want to expand outside of Russia. We have 25 years of experience; a variety of great products and we are able to deliver great services to players”.

He also made a point that betting is not an easy business to set up anywhere in the world.

“There is a variety of restrictions, supervision by regulators, limited advertisement. In different countries, there are different terms and laws. But, for us, this is part of our work. We feel that we are ready and, in a position, to build our success.”

Cyprus is viewed as a possible stepping stone for expansion in the region, while Fonbet is also looking into ways of pushing the betting industry forward with the introduction of new technologies like Blockchain and allowing customers to bet using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.