A Daily Fantasy Sports Site Is The Dominant Sponsor at the World Series of Poker

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The top sponsor at this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event final table is, for the first time in recent memory, not an online poker site.

Instead, that distinction for the 2014 WSOP goes to a daily fantasy sports site – DraftKings.com.

DraftKings edges out 888 by a nose at 2014 WSOP final table

Technically, DraftKings and 888 had the same number of patched players – three, which is still the maximum allowed per WSOP rules.

But I give the overall nod to DraftKings due to their additional signage around the final table. The company was one of the lead sponsors for the 2014 WSOP at large.

Draft Kings’ sponsored player roster was made up of:

Meanwhile, 888 also patched Pappas, along with Mark Newhouse and Bruno Politano.

NJ online player reps DFS over poker

One of the interesting sponsorship subplots of the 2014 WSOP Main Event final table is Will Tonking.

Tonking hails from New Jersey and is an active player on NJ’s legal online poker sites.

Yet despite that clear, logical tie to an industry that has been struggling to generate consumer awareness, Tonking arrived at the WSOP final table wearing only a DraftKings logo.

Sources told OPR on background that Tonking’s ability to represent a NJ poker site at the final table was hampered by regulatory restrictions.

The WSOP payoff for DraftKings

So what does DraftKings get from the undisclosed amount it shelled out for the WSOP sponsorship?

I’d suspect the patch costs pale in comparison to the larger sponsorship bill. So there’s no reason not to max out patches if for no other reason than to protect your primary investment.

In terms of the impact of that primary investment on DraftKings’ lobby, it’s tough to say. There aren’t any public traffic data figures available for DFS traffic.

Even if there were, it would be tough to tease out the impact of the WSOP sponsorship from (i) the massive surge generated by the start of football season and; (ii) the multi-million dollar ad buy DraftKings is running on ESPN.

It’s worth noting that the WSOP broadcasts don’t seem to have driven any material spike in search interest for DraftKings, as this comparison from Google Trends shows:

DFS Google search trends

But much as the final table patches protect DraftKings’ larger investment in the WSOP, that larger investment in the WSOP protects the even larger investment in the ESPN ad buy. 

And all of that is rolled up in part of a larger, arguably existential, gamble DraftKings is taking on this year’s football season.

- Chris is the publisher of OnlinePokerReport.com. Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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