You already know we focus our attention here on influence marketing. That encompasses what many traditionally think of as influencer marketing (with the R) where a brand finds a social media content creator with a large audience to post about their product or service. We expand that conversation to include anyone with influence … social media followers be damned … to help communicate your message. 

That brand-to-creator-to-audience style of influence makes up the lion’s share of how we think in the influence or influencer space. 

But then along comes a slightly different model that makes us take note and perhaps inspires us to think differently.

Cooper Lycan is not your typical marketer. Nor is his company in a typical vertical. His background and instincts are different enough, that he came up with a slightly different model for using influencers, even though he may not have labeled that as influencer marketing.

Cooper is the founder and CEO of a sports betting community called SoBet. It’s a place where sports bettors can get wagering advice from influencer in the handicapping and betting space. These influencers exist on social channels and with their own websites. Cooper, though, has built a place where the influencer can find more fans and followers because SoBet shows off their results and recommends them to a community of bettors. 

The brand is taking the audience to the influencers, not the other way around.

I was fascinated by the model so I asked Copper to come on the show and walk us through how it came to be, how it’s working and so we could get some inspiration for perhaps looking at our influence marketing differently.

This conversation is going to be quite insightful. I’m willing to bet on it. 

Winfluence is made possible by Cipio.ai – The Community Commerce Marketing platform. What does that mean? It’s an influencer marketing software solution, but it has additional apps that function to tap into your brand community to drive commerce. Community Commerce Marketing moves beyond influencers to fans and followers, customers, employees and more. Try its generative AI application, Vibe Check, with a two-week free trial at cipio.ai/vibecheck, and generate a library of social captions in minutes you can use right away.

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Cooper Lycan Transcript

[00:00:00] Jason: On this episode of Winfluence.

[00:00:01] Cooper: So I kind of had this idea in talking to some of these guys of like, hey, well your videos that you’re putting on TikTok are super valuable, right? Like I find myself going to them, and I know you have thousands of followers, so other people are doing it as well. What if we just sold that content instead of selling the picks? And then that kind of creates an ecosystem where people are making their own decisions based on advice or analysis through short forms of content.

So that’s what we did. So picture a personalized feed similar to what you see on social media, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, but we just deliver content strictly from our exclusive sports betting.

[00:00:35] Jason: There’s a difference between being an influencer and actually influencing. I’m Jason Falls, and in this podcast we explore the people, companies campaigns and stories that illustrate that difference. Welcome to Winfluence, the Influence Marketing Podcast

Hello again friends. Thanks for listening to WinInfluence the Influence Marketing Podcast. You already know we focus our attention here on influence marketing that encompasses what many traditionally think of as influencer marketing with the R, where a brand finds social media content creators with large audiences to post about their product or service.

We expand that conversation to include anyone with influence, social media, followers be damned to help communicate your message. That brand to creator to audience style of influence makes up the lion’s share of how we think in the influence or influencer space.

But then along comes a slightly different model that makes us take note and perhaps inspires us to think differently. Cooper Lycan is not your typical marketer, nor is his company in a typical vertical. His background and instincts are different enough that he came up with a slightly different model for using influencers, even though he may not have labeled that as influencer marketing. Cooper is the founder and CEO of a sports betting community called SoBet.

It’s a place where sports betters can get wagering advice from influencers in the handicapping and betting space. These influencers exist on social channels and within their own websites. Cooper though has built a place where the influencer can find more fans and followers because SoBet shows off their results and recommends them to a community of betters. The brand is taking the audience to the influencers, not the other way around.

I was fascinated by the model, so I asked Cooper to come on the show and walk us through how it came to be, how it’s working, and so we could get some inspiration for perhaps looking at our influence marketing differently. Today’s conversation is gonna be quite. I’m willing to bet on it.

Another thing I’m willing to bet on is cipio.ai in fact, I joined the company as Executive Vice president for marketing, so that’s a pretty big bet. Cipio.ai is now the presenting sponsor of WinInfluence. Cipio.ai is a community commerce marketing platform. It has a family of apps that help you drive commerce through your own community. One of those taps into a big theme for 2023 for brands and creators, and that is efficency.

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How SoBet is bringing audience members to influencers rather than the other way around. Some inspiration for your thinking. Cooper Lycan from SoBet is next on influence.

 Cooper, first of all, you are a former US Army Special Ops guy, West Point grad right?

[00:05:30] Cooper: Yeah, I am.

[00:05:31] Jason: Awesome. Well, thank you for your service of course.

[00:05:34] Cooper: Preciate that.

[00:05:35] Jason: I’m, curious now that you’re an entrepreneur and running an interesting tech company that we’ll dive into more in a moment, what is it about the Army that prepared you most for running a business?

[00:05:44] Cooper: Yeah, I think it’s, a couple things. And probably at the time while I was in the Army, some things I didn’t even realize. I think the first is, being a teammate and knowing how to operate within teams, right? I think when you look across even the tech sector, which we’re in the most successful companies have the tightest teams the most bought in teammates and it ultimately creates success for the whole company.

And then the second part is decentralized leadership. Allowing people, the autonomy to work make things happen for the company and just kind of realize what makes people tick in order to contribute to the, greater success of the team.

So I think it’s, mostly those two things that I’ve learned. And like I said, I didn’t even realize I was learning them at the time. It just kind of happened. But yeah, I think, those are kinda the two aspects.

[00:06:28] Jason: Excellent. Well, again, I can’t thank you enough for your service with the country. It’s not something that I ever had a calling for or felt like I was capable of doing, but my two best friends served, one still does, and I’m always humbled when I think about people who choose military life. So thank you again for your service.

Now let’s talk a little bit about the business world you’re in now, which I’m sure is often trivial compared to your former life. You are the founder and CEO of SoBet, which if I had to guess, is maybe short for social betting. Am I far off? Give us the elevator pitch description of what SoBet is.

[00:07:00] Cooper: Nope, you’re exactly right. That’s the name. And how it kind of came about was those two aspects, bringing together the social community aspect and the sports betting aspect. But kind of the, the short down and dirty story is I’ve been a sports better for the past, 10 years of my life ever since I, could be doing it.

I was doing it in college. I was doing it in the military. What happened was I became very involved at the almost professional sort of level that people like to say, right? I was a profitable sports vet for the past six years and. When PASPSA was repealed in 2018, sports betting just exploded. And you saw the rise of legal mobile sports books. So it was just everywhere. They were spending billions of dollars on marketing, so everybody just became very familiar with it.

But what you saw happen was the underbelly of sports betting that had already existed, right? It was just happening at more of an illegal level, but kind of like that taboo level.

Started to come to the forefront and a lot of these guys who had been involved in sports betting and selling picks, touts. Those sort of services started to transition to social media to acquire their customers. And a lot of these people had a ton of experience sports betting, right? They had a lot of value to bring to the table and a lot of value, to grow as an influencer due to what they’re putting out there on social media.

 I kind of saw this and found myself as a sports better, going to social media to pull out relevant information from these experts. So instead of going to your traditional media sources like ESPN these bigger media companies, I was going to social media and following very specific people and, using their videos in short form of content to make my picks.

 And in doing so, I got to know a few of ’em, and I, sort of started hearing these gripes. Hey, we’re all competing for the same customer. It’s very hard to have a, steady revenue stream because we’re living and dying by whether our picks are good or not.

And then on the user side of things, you know, you have to swipe your card to get the picks. If the picks are bad, you’re probably not coming back to that person. It was just a very unhealthy ecosystem for pulling out relevant sports betting expert information. So I kind of had this idea in talking to some of these guys of like, hey well, your videos that you’re putting on TikTok are super valuable, right?

Like I find myself going to them and I know you have thousands of followers, so other people are doing it as well. What if we just sold that content, instead of selling the picks? And then that kind of creates an ecosystem where people are, making their own decisions based on advice or analysis through short forms of content.

So that’s what we did. So picture a personalized feed similar to what you see on social media, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram. But we just deliver content strictly from our exclusive sports betting experts. And they, do it in short form, short write-ups, video, to make it very concise and kind of give people the five minute experience that they’re putting hours and hours of research into, in order to kind of help casual sports betters make quicker informed decisions.

So we’ve launched it in June, June of this year. We’re currently at 26 influencers with 1.3 million followers behind them across all social media platforms. And today we’re at a few thousand paying users and we’ve just grown rapidly throughout the football season.

[00:10:06] Jason: That’s awesome. Now, the sports betting world is, really big competitive landscape. I think most people would, understand that, the world we’re talking about here is dominated by DraftKings and FanDuel. And I know there’s a lot of sort of different features and tiers of the different players that are out there.

So I wanna make sure everybody understands, to be clear so bad is not a sports book, right? Tell us how it differs from, say, a FanDuel or even a casino sports betting site.

[00:10:32] Cooper: No, we’re just content, right? We’re a media platform where we contract sports betting experts who deliver expert content in, short forms of media. So we’re completely agnostic from the sports books, and I think you make a good point. It’s an incredibly competitive landscape on the sports book side. And because of that, the sports books have poured a lot of money into affiliate marketing.

For people who don’t know what affiliate marketing is for these sports books. They pay all these media companies per new money user that the media company generates. So they give them banner ads to put on their sites. They plug ’em into podcasts, all your traditional forms of paid marketing, and then in return they pay an absorbant amount of money for a new money user, for somebody that deposits money onto their sports book.

What this has kind of done is it’s created a lot of ad fatigue in the space, especially for your casual betters, right? We were sitting in a room the other day and I said, look, there were a hundred people in these, room, and if you ask them what draftings was, they would probably say they knew.

But probably only one or two of them actually have an account, which just kind of tells you the reach that these sports books have and the, competition that it would take to break into a marketing channel like that.

But what it’s also done is it’s, kind of a, taboo thing for a sports book marketing through sports betting content, right? Because ultimately the sports book , is made to make money. So they have to, make a profit and ultimately they have to have people lose to make a profit.

So it’s kind of created untrusted channels for content if you will, where the same media company that’s telling you who to bet on is marketing for all these sports folks, right? So not only do you have ad fatigue, but you have just kind of like this weird, taboo phenomenon going on where the sports book’s telling you who to bet on.

So what we’ve done is we’ve stayed completely agnostic to date and I think there’s ways to work with sports books in order to get them involved. I think there’s a ton of ways, but right now we’re trying to build, just that trust with our, user base through communication. And that communication is just expert content. Staying agnostic from sports books.

[00:12:30] Jason: I could definitely see a, scenario where your experts, your influencers that you have in your community are, you know, so widely used and so widely trusted. The sports books come to you and say, hey, let’s put your independent third party experts as recommenders on our site so that it separates that sort of, I guess bias if you will cause if I go to, let’s say, DraftKings and the DraftKings, experts are telling me to bet a certain way, but DraftKings only makes money if I lose, then there’s obviously some bias there. So I could definitely see you building a foundation that fixes that maybe right.

[00:13:03] Cooper: Yeah, exactly. And our, platform is premium too, so it costs money to access this information. We charge users 9.95 a month. So ultimately, like there’s money in the ecosystem especially, for us to operate as a business. But also like for a company to come in, like a sports book and potentially partner with us in some way. Like, you’re kind of alluding to.

[00:13:23] Jason: 10 bucks a month ain’t bad. You win one bet over a 30 day period and you’ve made your money back probably, so good stuff.

[00:13:29] Cooper: That’s what, our guys say it, it pays for itself, so.

[00:13:32] Jason: We’re talking to Cooper Lycan, he’s the CEO of SoBet, a sports betting information and social network side of sorts. When we come back, we’re gonna walk through how it turns influencer marketing on its head a bit, and gives influencers an audience versus the other way around. Stay tuned.

Back with Cooper Lycan from SoBet. Okay, Cooper so SoBet is a site where you can find sports betting influencers, handicaps, and prognosticators if you will, and you can follow their betting advice, see how they perform with their recommendations and such. That’s easy to grasp. But this isn’t a bunch of handicaps who work for you and they are creating content for your site exclusively or whatever.

You’ve gone out and engaged existing sports betting influencers to offer up content on your site. Tell us a little bit more about how you came upon that model and what was the reaction when you approached some of these folks and said, hey, I’ve got this idea. You wanna do it?

[00:14:32] Cooper: Yeah, I think, if you can follow me, I know everybody kind of complains about the whole crypto and NFT communities. Understand them fully, but that’s honestly where the idea, kind of stemmed from, was I saw these rising collections of NFTs and what NFTs essentially were, and are artwork, collections, digital artwork, collections that carry a ton of value and bring people into a community that has a lot of perks behind that digital piece of art, right? So a lot of people are like, why do you pay so much for a Bored Ape? Well, you’re not paying for the Bored Ape, you’re paying for the community, the value that it brings, your access to other people who have bored apes, the perks that come with it, such as events, merchandise, things like that.

I saw this happening in the NFT world and I was kind of involved in NFTs and crypto. And I, realized a lot of these sports betters had massive communities behind them already in the influencer space. And a lot of them were, struggling to monetize due to the ecosystem that I kind of explained before.

This idea kind of came about because, these influencers were micro influencers, but had the ability to monetize and make money, due to the communities that they had already built. And that’s kind of the thing that we’ve leveraged the most is these influencers who have communities, loyal followers, who wanna support them, who believe in them, who believe in what they’re doing, believe in what they’re building.

 And so what we do is we bring them onto the platform they market through their communities, to bring their communities, under our umbrella and then we give them 60% of the revenue for any paid users, they generate off of 9.95 a month. And that’s perpetuity. So that’s, as long as they’re on the platform, they’re getting that money.

So we have influencers, micro influencers who have 30, 40, 50,000 followers making thousands of dollars a month and now actually turning it into a full-time job where they can spend all of their time creating content, all of their time putting analysis and, work into sports betting where they can, actually work on growing that community um, to further monetize it versus working a nine to five job, not making enough money, having to grind on the side to create content and, build that community.

So we’ve really kind of taken a community based approach to, bring all these individual communities under one big sports betting community.

[00:16:45] Jason: So in that sports betting community, if I, let’s say I follow, you know Joe Smith. And Joe Smith is one of your guys, right? And I come in and I want Joe Smith’s picks. You know, basically I don’t have blinders on. I can’t just see Joe Smith picks. I can see everybody else’s picks. Right. It’s, more of a, let’s bring sports betters here and they can see all of our experts. Is that, correct?

[00:17:05] Cooper: Exactly. Exactly. And it’s not, necessarily to say every single pick that Joe Smith posts is gonna be on there. But it’s just, we put out over 200 pieces of exclusive content. It’s kind of like how we, like to frame it. Cause it’s not just picks too. There’s a lot of educational videos. Some influencers have actually run promos behind the paywall where they’ve driven users to the site to take part in a contest.

 We kind of like to blanket as expert sports betting and content and yeah, really just our overarching goal is to engage these communities, to bring them into a healthier community to where, they are getting more informed through our content, but also having some sort of entertaining edge to it.

[00:17:44] Jason: That’s great. So it’s not, tip sheet. It’s basically just come in and if you like talking about sports and you like talking about sports betting, there’s a bunch of content here for you consume in a community to engage with. That’s fantastic.

So ,the reason I’m so fascinated with SoBet and why I wanted to kind of roll this out here for the listeners of influence is most brands approach influencers and say, I wanna partner with you, so you’ll tell your audience about my product.

And you guys do that certainly, but you’re actually approaching influencers and saying, I wanna build an audience for you over here on my site, which will make you more trusted, qualified, and influential in your marketplace. That’s a very different approach. Is the intent for SoBet to drive traffic to the site to find more influencers? Or are you counting on the influencers primarily to drive traffic from their audience and then discover other influencers? Where’s that mix for you?

[00:18:37] Cooper: Yeah, right now we’re very creator heavy. We actually don’t do any paid marketing. All our marketing’s done through our influencers, and that’s where the bulk of our customer acquisition comes from. And naturally it’s just kind of grown itself, right? Like once one influencer has 40,000 followers, he’s making thousands of dollars and he has a couple more influencers that he knows and he tells them they want to be a part of it.

And then on the kind of the free facing side of things, if you will, or the social facing side of things, we’re building this fun media brand, right? So we put a lot of resources around these influencers to succeed in not only content creation, but growing their brand, growing their communities and we do that in the forms of partnerships, resources to connect them with Web3, which kind of makes natural sense due to what I talked about before with NFTs.

And really just making sure that like we’re building these resources around the creators, so that it does grow as this creator platform. I like to call it a B2B2C business, right? and that second B is the influencer. But really it’s about helping them grow and helping them grow their communities to in turn grow the SoBet community.

[00:19:38] Jason: Love it. I know your sports vetting influencers are very carefully vetted. Your site says they are sharp, rank, vetted. I don’t know what that means. Tell us how you find these handicapping influencers and what you’re requiring them to do to be involved.

[00:19:51] Cooper: Yeah. So really what we’re looking for, when we’re kind of doing our own personal vetting through social media is the intersection of knowledgeable sports vetting and, content, right? So entertainment and sports vetting kind of intersecting somebody who can operate on camera and behind the microphone, but also give you knowledgeable information to help you would be a better sports, better.

On the sports vetting knowledge side, I can do that vetting myself since I’m a profitable sports better, I can kind of know who’s, talking the talk and who’s walking the walk. And on the entertaining side, it just kind of vets itself, right? You, see who has more influence or more followers et cetera.

But how we really vet them on our site and say out of it completely, in terms of the process of tracking bets and delivering exact numbers to maintain that trust that I was talking about, is this partnership with Sharp Rank. And what Sharp Rank is, they’re a third party independent ratings agency.

So they go B2B and they get sports betting analysts from media companies onto their site. They track all their bets, and then they deliver the results in a leaderboard, to kind of almost be the morning star of sports betting, if you will.

It’s really important because, I believe in like their vision and kind of driving legislation behind being on one of these sites to actually call yourself a sports bedding expert. But I also believe in the fact that we should deliver transparent information to our community to let them know who’s actually doing well, who’s not doing well that sort of stuff.

[00:21:08] Jason: I’m curious if you think that this model might work in other verticals. If you were to start, let’s say a cocktail recipe website, could you go engage mixologists and bartenders to provide you with exclusive content? And do you think there’s a market there for people who would wanna subscribe to that content? And that might be a bad example, but what are your thoughts there?

[00:21:27] Cooper: I think there’s these niche markets for creators almost everywhere. I think a, another vertical, you see it happening a lot and it’s the fitness vertical. There’s a lot of fitness, influencers out there that can monetize, what they’re doing well when they’re putting out diet plans for free, when they’re putting out workout plans for free and they’re doing things at work and they build a community because those things work, then you have the opportunity to monetize it.

I, I’m not very familiar with mixologists. Um, I’ve never, I’ve never been a bartender in my life, but I’m sure, if there’s some sort of expertise involved in that skill, then the market exists.

[00:22:02] Jason: Well, there’s definitely expertise there and probably, unfortunately I’m more familiar with them than I probably should be, but that’s that’s the way that works. Cooper, this is fascinating stuff. Way to go and put a spin on leveraging influencers a little different from what people are used to saying.

If people wanna find out more or even perhaps connect with you online, where can they find you?

[00:22:21] Cooper: Check our website out. It’s sobet.io. Sign up for the platform. It’s 9.95 if you’re interested. I think it’s, low enough price point to check it out. We got a lot of entertaining content on there. And then also I’m on LinkedIn, so check me out on LinkedIn. I post all our updates generally on a weekly basis, so that’s a great place to follow our, progress as well.

[00:22:42] Jason: Excellent. Well, I’m gonna go get some tips for the NFL games this weekend and see what happens.

[00:22:45] Cooper: Yeah, you should.

[00:22:46] Jason: Thanks for the ideas and thanks for sharing with us today.

[00:22:49] Cooper: Okay. Thanks Jason. Thanks for having me on.

[00:22:51] Jason: Certainly a unique industry and perspective on how influencers are used there at SoBet. Find links to it and Cooper’s LinkedIn on the show notes at jasonfalls.co/cooperlycan he is spelled C O O P E R L Y C A N, jasonfalls.co/cooperlycan.

Don’t forget to completely change the way you produce social media content. For the better. Get vibe check from cipio.ai, a two week free trial. No credit card required awaits you at jasonfalls.co/vibecheck.

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WinInfluence is a production of Falls and Partners and presented by cipio.ai. The technical production is by MPN Studios. WinInfluence airs along MPN, the Marketing Podcast Network. Thanks for listening folks. Let’s talk again soon on WinInfluence.

 Winfluence, the Influence Marketing Podcast is an audio companion to my book Winfluence: Reframing Influencer Marketing To Ignite Your Brand. Get your copy online at winfluencebook.com. While you’re there, sign up for the latest ideas about influence marketing delivered in my periodic newsletter, or book me to speak to your company or organization about influence marketing.

And if you need help with your influence marketing strategy, drop me a line at [email protected] If you were someone you know as an influencer, a brand manager that uses influence marketing or one of the many amazing people working in the influence marketing services world, and they would make a good guest for the show, email me at [email protected]

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