AffilateFEST focussed on helping affiliates growth hack their businesses


Lee-Ann Johnstone, Founder of AffilateFEST and CEO of

I think we would all like to know who Lee-Ann is and how you got started in the industry.

I’ve been involved in the iGaming space for almost two decades and have worked across a number of verticals from skill games to traditional gambling : Bingo, Casino, Poker and Sports betting growing revenue via all digital acquisition channels. I started out as a junior media buyer for Forwardslash in Cape Town before moving to the UK to an acquisition marketing role at PartyGaming back when the US was still a growing market and we had big acquisition budgets to spend. It was a fantastic time to be in the industry and I learnt a lot during that period and again when the US closed and we had to refocus efforts to acquire volume globally in other regions. It’s been a great journey and one that continues to teach me new things as the digital market around us changes constantly with new innovation. I have recently launched my own iGaming consultancy

Tuesday 10th October 2017 is a date affiliates should keep free. Why is that?

It’s the one day that can make a real difference to their affiliate business and help them grow their revenue by double digits, like previous delegates have attested to who have been lucky enough to get a seat in the past events.

AffiliateFEST is FREE to attend for affiliates who register to apply for their seat via the website.  One lucky delegate could win a ticket to this year’s event without applying in the Golden Ticket competition that is hosted by IGB Affiliate (so look out for that in August and enter). In short affiliates in the room access the brightest digital minds in an exclusive classroom environment to get tangible insights that will help them growth hack their acquisition strategies and increase revenue.

What’s the idea behind AffiliateFEST?

I wanted to create an event that was designed specifically to help affiliates get detailed insight around digital innovation that is taking place outside of their business. Having a day out of working IN their businesses to work ON them and with a strict NO SALES policy means the event is 100% focussed on content. We work with some of the brightest digital minds who come in and share real expertise with the audience in the room. So far – this is our 3rd year running in this format and the testimonials from affiliates who have attended speak for themselves.

Everyone that comes through the day not only improves their business activity (Revenue Growth)  but they also have the opportunity to build lasting personalised relationships throughout the course of the day’s events.

How does AffiliateFEST differ from other iGaming seminars and conferences?

The main difference is that this is a small and exclusive event run classroom style. The content is packed heavily into the course of one day. It is also highly curated against trends and requirements I see are necessary for affiliates to get insights to. The speakers who present literally are gifting their knowledge to the audience under NDA. The people in the room are literally getting the unfair advantage to growth hack their business using the cutting edge knowledge that these experts share. We have an expert Google Squared digital insights lecturer and expert Social and Search speakers who are innovating in these channels on a daily basis.

What can participants expect on the 10th October 2017, the day AffiliateFEST takes place for the third time?

They can expect to get the latest digital marketing insights that they can apply next day in their own business to grow. Great networking and a secure networking environment where they can learn with their peers and build lasting relationships that help their business grow. The beauty of this event is that the previous year’s delegates really sell it for the next select group that secure themselves a seat. I don’t need to sell this event, It sells itself. The delegates who have been through the previous years sell it themselves, as they know it really works – as they are the living proof of it.  This year we have a strong focus on content curation for conversion in social and the latest search developments including how AI is changing the way search operates.

AffiliateFEST isn’t the only gambling project your working on, is it? What’s the other project you’re so busy with, at least when not running around to make sure everything runs as smooth as possible on the 10th October?

I’ve just recently launched my own consultancy : Best Odds Marketing ( doing more of the work that I love (and am extremely good at) which is planning marketing strategies for a variety of clients in the iGaming space harnessing the most relevant digital channels and focussed on driving revenue growth. I work with affiliates, and operators alike to growth hack their businesses and improve digital marketing activity from traffic generation techniques I’ve learned in my time as an acquisition marketing expert to business mentoring and digital training (bootcamps). My team and I focus on the client’s goal and how best to achieve them in the most cost effective manner. From launching a new affiliate program to growth hacking the entire digital strategy to deliver more at less cost. It’s an end to end support solution which clients can tap into at any stage of their business growth journey.

How do you feel you have made a difference to the industry with your company Best Odds Marketing and AffilateFEST?

It’s still very early days, and I think to make a difference you need to give a little every day. I think my contribution to the industry lies in the daily content I share via the thought leadership pieces I do regularly for various magazines and the fact that I care about the affiliate community passionately. I understand how important relationships are to this industry having worked most sides of the ecosystem over my career span. I’m making it my personal mission to give affiliates the business support they need to grow and offering my depth of expertise to clients who are starting out in the online game, as well as those that want to take their business to the next level. By sharing the unique marketing techniques I’ve learned over time, that have grown multi-million dollar acquisition programs at many of the previous brands I’ve worked with – I’m contributing to changing the way my clients market to consumers and to their affiliate partners alike.

There is an old African proverb that I carry close with me: If you want to go fast – go alone, If you want to go far – go together. I’ve spent a lot of time investing to teach others, and developing my craft over the years and mentoring to support start up business growth (I mentor for the London Accelerator Academy and at Virgin Business) so that I can learn to be better at what I do.

The learning never ends as the market is constantly evolving but there is no substitute for experience and that’s why I take the time to give back to the community around me by creating FREE events like AffiliateFEST to ensure others benefit from these learnings too.

I read you’ve entered the world of iGaming even before the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) passed Congress on September 30, 2006? Do you believe the UIGEA affected the iGaming market in Europe? If so, in what way do you think the UIGEA affected the online gambling market in Europe? 

That’s correct. I often refer to it as the gold old “Wild Wild West”. Things were easier back then as this industry was so unregulated, but we were also learning on the fly. Buying media and managing affiliate programs have changed dramatically since then due to how fast technology is developing to improve online marketing techniques.

Budgets back then were huge, we are talking millions of dollars being spent in a month (not a year) and there was literally an open book of online opportunities to determine what worked to convert and what didn’t. We had full reign to try, test, innovate and it is because of this that I learnt so much in a short space of time. Since the markets became more regulated budgets for innovation slimmed down. You had to be more intelligent about where you spent, what message you portrayed and how you represented your brand to acquire new customers. There was no depth of data and analytics as you see today. You went with your gut and optimised the heck out of it when it worked.

I think marketers have had to get a lot smarter in terms of how they engage consumers online – this isn’t a bad thing as it’s forced the community to clean up and regulate to the benefit of the customer. Understanding localisation was a big change in terms of how online marketing was affected after the UIGEA came into force. This was a massive learning curve compared to the changes that happen today and it was a mad scramble to find alternative sources of traffic that delivered value.

The market has also became more competitive and this also enforced many of the digital tactics we see in operation today. Value driven marketing using data, content and platform unique selling points to entice new consumers is now the focus point for any acquisition marketer. Customers are way more discerning about what they see and read online and what they react to so it’s a constant learning curve to win the race.