The end of January was a beginning for the new Caesars Club.
The 5,000-square-foot club at the Prudential Center in Newark is the latest branded space to open in the Devils’ home arena, following the approval of sports betting in New Jersey last summer.
Caesars follows FanDuel Sportsbook, which began its branding campaign at the start of the 2018-19 NHL season in November. And, William Hill NJ, which unveiled its William Hill Sports Lounge on the main concourse in December.
As Caesars has been in operation there for a little more than a month, I’m willing to give this new initiative some benefit of the doubt.
However, my initial take on the Caesars Club is one that feels like a “brand slap.”
Symptoms of a brand slap include:
- Making a significant investment for sponsorship of a location.
- Said location is well-appointed with quality signage on the entry/exterior.
- There is little to no interior branding.
- There is no messaging in place to drive attendance to the location.
- No engagement is taking place within the space.
The Caesars Club at Prudential ticks all of the brand-slap boxes. Then, coupled with the fact that access during the major tenant’s Devils’ games is for premium club ticket holders only, there is a lot of lost opportunity for increased exposure.
Where to find the Caesars Club at Prudential
The Caesars Club is located on the main concourse. The exterior and entrance branding is clean and polished with an upscale, high-end look and feel.
There are Caesars Club logos etched into the exterior glass that are facing the main concourse area.
Contrasting the William Hill Sports Lounge (located on the opposite side of the Prudential Center main concourse), the Caesars Club is not accessible to every Devils’ ticket holder. Only premium club Devils’ ticket holders can enter.
Once inside the club for Devils’ games, attendees receive unlimited food and nonalcoholic beverages.
The Caesars Club is open to all event attendees (whether in the premium club level seating or not) for non-Devils’ games/events. The Prudential Center is home to approximately 175 live events, games and concerts annually.
As mentioned, the club space is massive. On this particular night, the area seemed even larger as attendance was roughly at 20-30 percent of the 400-person capacity.
When to visit Caesars Club
While the club is undoubtedly spacious and roomy, from my perspective, your time is best spent there during pre-game, or between halves or periods of sporting events.
There is a limited view of the live-action area from the club location unless you are compelled to stand near the barrier rails that separate the Caesars Club from the premium seating area.
Thus far, Caesars has taken a soft-sell approach to brand the interior of the club. It certainly doesn’t sell Caesars, as there are no permanent logos inside.
However, Caesars has a constant presence on the in-house TV monitors, which features a rotation of messaging promoting signing up for Caesars’ sports betting app with various free bet incentives.
Also, there is a handful of tent card stands located throughout the club that share additional details on sign-up promotions, how to register for a new account, and a summary of available deposit options.
These displays certainly don’t dominate the scene, taking equal display billing with the “jello shot specials” bar displays.
There is no other messaging featuring Caesars’ sports betting odds or score updates. The interior seems relatively unchanged from its previous life as a sponsored club by another brand.
No one touting the Caesars Sportsbook app?
In keeping with the “less is more” approach, there were no Caesars’ reps on-site to help push brand awareness or encourage sign-ups.
Perhaps it was the night I was there, but according to an informal survey of several of the Caesars Club concierge and bar staff, there has not been any notable Caesars’ personnel on site or promotional activity in the club since its launch.
It was an interesting contrast to peek in on the other side of the Prudential Center concourse and see a fleet of William Hill reps. The reps were in branded polo shirts with clipboards in hand, moving in and out of the lounge space to engage with would-be and current mobile app account holders.
All the while, the video screens in the lounge promoted sports betting, e.g., in-play wagers, prices for other NHL games and the current Stanley Cup winners’ odds. The William Hill team was aggressively “working it” on its branded side of the concourse.
Caesars Club is all about low-level promotion
Perhaps this is the intended Caesars’ approach: Feature a high-end, upscale look with minimal and low-key subtle branding. It’s Caesars’ prerogative on how it chooses to merchandise the space.
Yet, the assumption is that the Caesars Club is promoting the sports betting app. It does promote it, albeit at a low-volume level with no mention of the Caesars’ online casino app or the Caesars’ casino properties in Atlantic City or Las Vegas.
The sports betting table in New Jersey is getting a bit crowded as the number of NJ mobile sports betting apps have now eclipsed 12, with forecasts of continued growth to as many as 20.
A season of football has passed, and we are in the home stretch of the basketball and hockey seasons.
While sports bettors may shop around and use multiple apps, there is a perceived limit as to how many apps someone will completely utilize, from downloading to registration to depositing money and ultimately placing sports bets.
What Caesars and the Caesars Club can do better
In closing, here are some of my suggestions on how Caesars could make the Caesars Club at Prudential Center more impactful:
- Identify/focus the messaging of the club. If it’s meant to be sports betting, then go all-in with that identity and create some visibility in the club. Screens featuring odds boards, scoring updates, player props can draw interest and attention. In short, create reasons to go check out the club and spend time there.
- Employ some reps to greet and interact with club ticket holders. Having a few racks of tent cards promoting a sports betting app is not nearly enough to convert a nonuser or nonsubscriber into action. It can come down to a one-to-one interaction, especially for a New Jersey resident who hasn’t signed up for any sports betting accounts yet.
- In-arena push/tie-in: Utilize other in-arena messaging assets to push people to the club by informing fans of its location and suggesting they go there to open up a new Caesars’ sports betting account.
- Promotions: Develop some unique promotional angles for those who already have the app, e.g., stop by the Caesars Club, display your mobile app and get a code for a free $5 bet.
- Use sponsorship position as the “official partner of the New Jersey Devils” to access former Devils’ players or others Devils’ assets during the season. Perhaps an offer in which everyone that downloads the app and makes a deposit, receives a photo/autograph with the player, courtesy of Caesars.
Clearly, Caesars has made a significant commitment to its club at the Prudential Center. All of the foundational pieces, including exterior branding and its available interior space.
Also, I can give Caesars some benefit of the doubt as it can be challenging to launch a new location amid the Devils’ NHL season.
It will be interesting to see how Caesars evolves and activates its club.