DraftKings Launches CFL Contests, Signs Marketing Deal

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) leader DraftKings announced this week that it is launching new Canadian Football League (CFL) fantasy contests. The 2016 CFL season kicks off (pun COMPLETELY INTENDED) today.

There are currently a slew of CFL contests in the DraftKings lobby, highlighted by the CFL $50K Kickoff Special guaranteed prize pool (GPP) contest, which features a $50,000 guarantee and a $27 buy-in. As of about 4:00pm ET, there are 716 out of a maximum 2,140 entries, so there is significant overlay at the moment. First prize is $5,000, with payouts all the way down to 435th place.

CFL_2016_LogoAs one would expect, there are plenty of double-up and 50/50 contests as well. There are also several contests in which the top two finishers win CFL tickets. They are sorted by team, so for instance, Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans would be wise to enter the Winnipeg contest, as that’s where they could specifically win Blue Bombers tickets. All of those contests are free to enter, but odds of winning are quite long; each has over 2,000 entries so far and there is no maximum capacity.

In a press release, DraftKings also announced that it has also inked an advertising and promotional partnership with the Canadian Football League.

“Canada continues to be a key and growing market for DraftKings, and our partnership with the CFL is another way for us to attract passionate Canadian sports fans,” said DraftKings Chief International Officer Jeffrey Haas in said press release. “The CFL is a dynamic league that works perfectly for DFS players of all skill levels. Sports fans are going to love the challenge of setting their weekly CFL roster and taking a shot at winning some incredible prizes.”

Logic would dictate that this partnership should be a win/win. DraftKings, of course, gets to add more contests to its schedule. This is a good time to do it, as football fans can get their fantasy fix during what is generally regarded as the slowest time of the year for sports. Basketball and hockey just ended, football is still more than two months away, so all there is (not technically all there is, but you catch my drift) is baseball right now. Heck, I might throw a few bucks down and try to throw some darts at a list of players and teams of whom I know nothing about just so I can play a little fantasy football. Does that indicate that I have a problem?

This could be an even bigger boon for the CFL. The CFL undoubtedly has a following in Canada and has clearly done well enough to have been around for nearly 60 years, but I’d be surprised if most American NFL fans knew more than two team names. Gambling and fantasy sports (dating back decades before DFS existed) have boosted the interest in the NFL immensely, as they give fans a reason to pay attention to games even if their real-life rooting interest isn’t involved. One would think this deal with DraftKings could have a similar, if initially smaller, effect on the CFL. Get Americans to put together CFL fantasy teams and suddenly there are more people paying attention to the league. Get them researching the players and teams and maybe fantasy players start developing rooting interests. Then suddenly, the CFL gets bigger than the NFL and dominates the world. All because of daily fantasy sports.

CFL Senior Vice President of Marketing and Content Christina Litz knows what’s up. “We’re pleased to form an advertising and promotional partnership with DraftKings that will elevate both of our brands,” she said. “This new fantasy offering will give avid CFL fans and sports fans new to our league an opportunity to deepen their engagement with our game. It’s an important part of our strategy to serve our existing fan base better than ever before at the same time we attract new fans, including the next generation of fans.”

DraftKings is still struggling to gain acceptance from lawmakers in various states south of Canada, but it, along with rival FanDuel, did just have a major win in New York, where both chambers of the legislature approved a bill that would legalize and regulate DFS in the Empire State. New York Attorney General Eric Scheiderman belligerently declared DFS illegal last year, issuing cease-and-desist orders to the two market leaders, and after some legal back-and-forth, DraftKings and FanDuel agreed to pull out of the state. Should Governor Andrew Cuomo sign the DFS bill into law (and he likely will), the two sites will be able to re-launch in New York and avoid further legal struggles.


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