Former Entain CMO trades punting for wellness

By Ruby Derrick | 20 October 2023

After 10 years at Entain and almost five years as CMO, James Burnett was burnt out and decided it was time for a change.  

Burnett stepped down from the sports betting company because he had “run his race”.  

He started off as the 34th employee at a little business in Chermside, he said, and ten years later there were 1100 employees.  

“I had worked really hard almost every day for 10 years and I was just tired, to be honest. I love the place and I love the people, but it was time for a change,” he said.  

Burnett has now stepped into the wellness space, becoming the co-founder and CEO of FMCG startup, Castra Brands.  

The company’s first brand launch, Cassius, is a men’s meal replacement with adaptogens and nootropics.  

“Cassius gives people a better sense of wellbeing and helps manage stress. We want to help men become better versions of themselves,” said Burnett.  

In helping other men improve their lives, Burnett himself has decided to stop drinking.

I’m trying to be a better version of myself, help other men do the same and scale this business,” he said.  

The wellness space is a $5.6 billion dollar industry, said Burnett, who notes it’s also ripe for some disruption.  

Our team brings together a group of people who are both very strong at building brands and are incredibly strong in the digital and ecommerce sphere,” said Burnett.  

Cassius has launched its protein, advanced meal replacements and supplements and is working on the launch of its collagen range, with influencers on board to promote it.  

“With people struggling to sleep nowadays because of both the pressures of work and more hours spent on our mobile phones, we’ve got a range of sleep aids that we're also going to bring out,” he said.  

Burnett said the biggest challenge throughout his decade-long tenure at the sports betting company was having such a strong and dominant competitor in Sportsbet, which seemed to have both endless budgets and was incredibly well run, he noted.  

“It’s one of those categories that attracts really driven, highly competitive individuals - particularly at a management level,” he said.  

“The numbers on our performance and against our competitors is apparent every day. Having that competitor who I was always being measured against, who was a fantastic operator with endless budgets – that was my biggest challenge.” 

What this taught Burnett, he said, was to look for those competitive advantages in spaces he could find them.  

A big breakthrough for Entain was its content strategy, he said.  

“Across YouTube, we have more than 400,000 subscribers – about the third biggest Australian sports site on the platform,” he said.  

“Leaning into video content and its creation was a real competitive advantage. Sportsbet bought out the best in us.” 

 In June of this year, broadcasters called "extreme" a recommendation by a parliamentary inquiry to ban gambling advertising which in Australia amounts to $300 million a year, more than half of it on television. 

The federal parliamentary committee released the findings of its inquiry into the harm posed by online gambling, including a recommended of a phased ban over three years on advertising urging gamblers to place bets.

Analysts estimate gambling ads make up around 6%, or $180 million, of TV ad revenues of $3.2 billion. 

Advertising on gambling in Australia has grown by around 13% compound a year over the last 15 years, going to $300 million in 2022 from $53 million in 2007, according to analysis by investment bank Morgan Stanley. 

For Burnett, gambling advertising has become a little bit too pervasive.

“Some sensible regulation would be good for both the category, the media partners and also consumers,” he said.  

He hopes the federal government makes sensible changes and doesn't overcorrect. 

“People need to bear in mind that racing is the fifth biggest employer in the country. There needs to be a balance.” 

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