Representatives of WSOP.com had previously taken the position that they were not interested in using sponsored pros as part of their marketing strategy, and until now, WSOP.com had remained the only major regulated online poker site in the US to not utilize professional poker players as a marketing tool. Yesterday it was officially announced that 2012 World Series of Poker Champion and Player of the Year, Greg Merson, had become WSOP.com’s first Brand Ambassador.
Merson is not a company “pitchman” according to Seth Palansky, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Caesars Interactive Entertainment. Instead, WSOP.com views the former world champ as “a trustworthy source who knows online poker from firsthand experience”—a trait that the company thinks will resonate with their target audience.
His success at both the live and online games make Merson the perfect fit as WSOP.com’s first brand ambassador, according to Palansky. “He’s authentic. He’s human. He works very hard at his craft and on himself and undoubtedly can help make WSOP.com a better product and help spread the word about our offerings.”
A Different Type of Brand Ambassador?
This is not your ordinary brand ambassador deal. “It is more like an incentive-based online poker playing program,” Palansky told pokerfuse. “This is meant as an incentive-based deal for players who log a lot of hours playing online poker and can help recruit others to do the same, while providing valuable feedback for our product and offerings.”
“This is a WSOP.com deal,” Palansky made sure to point out. “We aren’t buying Greg into WSOP land-based events or forcing him to participate or stay away from any events either.”
WSOP.com would like to establish a “Gold Club” of sorts that includes World Series of Poker Main Event Champions “who play a lot of online poker and spend the majority of their time in Nevada or New Jersey.” But according to Palansky, the brass over at WSOP.com “are still discussing and formulating” the concept.
Ever since it was announced that WSOP.com would be launching an online poker room in the US, people have speculated on the prospect that the all-time leader in World Series of poker bracelets, Phil Hellmuth, would make a perfect brand ambassador for the company.
“We would welcome Phil into this 'Gold Club’ plan,” Palansky stated. “The truth though is this benefits those that play a lot of online poker and spend most of their time in Nevada or New Jersey. So we’re not sure Phil would find this the best fit, but we’re open to talks with Phil and all the other Main Event champions.”
Other US Ambassadors
Soon after it became the first regulated online poker site in the US, Ultimate Poker began signing a stable of sponsored pros whose primary roles appeared to be playing a lot of online poker and engaging players at the tables. The company signed more than ten players before it celebrated its one year anniversary, but has since trimmed that number to four.
In addition to representing the company at live events, the remaining sponsored pros each seem to have distinct roles. Jason Somerville hosts a daily live stream that boasts over 17,000 YouTube subscribers and serves to educate and entertain its audience. Danielle Anderson and Dan O’Brien star in the Internet hit “Me vs. U,” and Antonio Esfandiari serves as the face of Ultimate Poker.
Though partypoker has not signed any professional poker players as brand ambassadors since it re-entered the US market, presenter Kara Scott and poker announcer Mike Sexton are both company representatives that are highly recognizable in the US and can more than hold their own at the tables. The company also employs German high stakes professional Marvin Rettenmaier, and has recently signed its first US addition to the team, former professional hockey player Ken Daneyko.
888poker recently ended its relationship with its only US-based sponsored pro, JC Tran one year after he entered the 2013 World Series Main Event Final Table as the chip leader.