Despite their rhetoric, professional sports leagues don’t seem to have much problem hitching their wagons to gambling. Sponsorships and partnerships that bridge the two industries have become the new norm in the US.
If that seems at odds with the majority of the leagues’ public comments, it is.
After fighting unsuccessfully against legal sports betting, they are quickly altering course. Most leagues now support legislation that includes some form of kickback via the malleably termed integrity/royalty/data fees. Thus far, they’ve been unsuccessful in those attempts, too.
At the same time, their public stance hasn’t stopped them from cozying up alongside casinos and gambling companies.
Since the US Supreme Court overturned the federal sports betting ban in Murphy vs. NCAA:
The majority of these partnerships have fallen into place over the last few weeks.
Partnerships between sports and gambling are common in Europe. Fans are bombarded with advertising across all forms of media, and betting companies pay to display their logos on uniforms in some leagues.
The US hasn’t quite reached that point. Not yet, at least.
Even though these deals may seem new for American sports, it’s far from the first such arrangement between casinos and franchises/stadiums. It’s not even the first partnership between a legal online gambling company and a US professional sports team.
Shortly after NJ online gambling launched in 2013, partypoker NJ inked a marketing deal with the 76ers, plus the Devils and their home arena, Prudential Center. The result was in-stadium kiosks, “Dream Seat Series” contests at partypoker, and signage on the basketball stanchions and hockey dasherboards.
By most accounts, it was a marketing dud for partypoker. The deal ended in October 2015. Apart from that expired agreement, though, numerous stadiums advertise casinos today.
MGM Springfield runs ads throughout the Boston sports stadiums, and similar deals are in place elsewhere in the US. Both the Baltimore Ravens and the New Orleans Saints have branding deals with regional Caesars properties. And San Manuel Casino was on display at Dodger Stadium during the 2018 World Series, too.
This new era of US sports-gambling partnerships manifests in several ways — from straight marketing agreements, to acquisition efforts, to official partnerships and semi-exclusive data rights. Partypoker established the use of these alliances as an acquisition tool, deploying kiosks at Devils and 76ers games to register new customers.
It was daily fantasy sports companies, however, that really lit the runway. A long string of DFS partnerships demonstrated how these agreements can prove beneficial to both parties.
During their peak marketing wars, the DraftKings and FanDuel brands appeared seemingly everywhere, including in lounges and other designated areas inside stadiums and arenas. These lounges were designed not only to increase brand awareness, but as remote registration tools.
In 2016, DraftKings constructed a VIP lounge at TPC Boston. In addition to bars, food options and elevated seating, company reps roamed the grounds for sign-ups. The site still maintains a branded DFS lounge inside of Madison Square Garden near its New York headquarters.
If precedent holds, any future agreement that includes a physical presence will almost certainly focus on registering customers and increasing marketing databases.