DraftKings, NFLPA Sign Licensing Agreement
DAILY FANTASY SPORTS! Tired of it yet? Yeah, me neither (well, I could do without all the commercials, but hey, DFS is fun). Though it has been force fed, daily fantasy has become ubiquitous enough that when I explained to my wife last night that this past NFL weekend was one of the highest scoring fantasy weekends of all time, she actually raised an eyebrow to indicate partial interest. Jenny from “The League” she is not, but it’s a start.
Yesterday, daily fantasy sports inched closer to being fully integrated into the NFL Borg when leading DFS site DraftKings and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) announced a licensing agreement that will allow for NFL players to appear in DraftKings marketing campaigns.
“The NFL season is one of the important times of the year for DraftKings and the DFS industry, so to be able to feature NFL players as part of our marketing efforts adds a level of excitement and connectivity to the game that is a huge win for us and our community,” said DraftKings VP of Business Development Jeremy Elbaum in a press release. “The NFLPA represents some of the most celebrated athletes in the world and we’re looking forward to collaborating with them throughout the season.”
“One of the most important” times of year is an understatement. Anyone who has even a remote understanding of gambling or fantasy sports knows that the American football season (college football included) is the most important time of year for the industry. And this season is the most important in DFS’s short history as well. Though DFS has been gaining popularity over the last few years, it has still really been just a niche hobby. All those guaranteed prizes the DFS sites promise? They’ve been paying out overlay after overlay after overlay. But this season, with the massive marketing campaigns leading up to football season and increased cash injections by investors, the sites are hoping this is finally the year that participation is great enough to pay for the guaranteed prize pools and push their books into the black.
To give an example of how much the sites are banking on this football season, for weeks, DraftKings has been the top spender on television advertising. Out of all companies, not just DFS. Over the past seven days, FanDuel has reached the top spot, spending nearly $17 million on TV commercials. DraftKings is sixth at $13.1 million. In between them are such obscure names as AT&T, Verizon, GEICO, and Nissan.
New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski has endorsed DraftKings, but this marketing deal will now open things up for more players to get involved more easily. “Adding players into the marketing of DraftKings makes daily fantasy gaming more real,” said Gronkowski. “Fans get to see more of our personality and not just our stats.”
NFL Players Inc. President Ahmad Nassar shared in the excitement:
We’re excited that more and more players are going to benefit from the rising growth of fantasy sports and are especially excited to partner with DraftKings, a leader that has helped fuel the growth of Daily Fantasy Sports. DraftKings and NFL players share an important trait as both have intense, dedicated fan bases. By featuring more NFL players in marketing endeavors, DraftKings will offer a new level of authenticity to the daily fantasy experience.
One interesting aspect of the deal is that it is with the NFLPA and not the NFL proper. Despite knowing that gambling and fantasy football contributes to a gigantic chunk of interest in its league, it still has not just admitted that it loves all this stuff. The semantics the NFL uses when discussing DFS is amazing. All but four teams have some sort of advertising in their stadiums from one of the top two sites and some have gone so far as to have full-blown fantasy lounges. The NFL, though, insists that the teams are not “sponsored” by the sites, but just have advertising deals with them.
I mean, listen to this explanation NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy recently gave to USA Today:
A team sponsor is a company that can use the team logo or say, “We are the official (company) of the team.” That is not the case here. These companies are not team sponsors. Officially or unofficially. They do not have any designations. Teams have advertising arrangements from a variety of companies, but that doesn’t make every one of them a team sponsor.
It could all be just a clever business strategy by the NFL, though. As Marc Edelman of Forbes.com points out, by not inking a deal with either DraftKings or FanDuel (or another site, but really, those would be the two), the NFL can pit them against each other to raise the marketing stakes and the ad dollars.