Daily fantasy sports operators have shifted marketing efforts in recent years
Legal Sports Report

FanDuel’s New Campaign With ESPN’s Adam Schefter Blurs Line Between Advertising And Content

FanDuel ESPN Schefter
In the wake of recent rake increases, some daily fantasy sports players called on operators to streamline their costs.

DraftKings meanwhile rolled out another celebrity apparel deal with Melvin Gordon. The “Flash Gordon” swag joins Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Mode” line in the DK Shop.

FanDuel is spending its own endorsement money, too. This week, the DFS site rolled out the first of four “A Day in the Life” features with ESPN reporter and personality Adam Schefter.

The new campaign highlights some continuing trends in DFS advertising.

A day in the life of Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter has been with ESPN since 2009. He is a walking, talking NFL encyclopedia, and the new video series is aimed to capture that persona.

In the first of four episodes, released Wednesday, Schefter let the film crews inside his New York home. The pilot features him receiving a package from a delivery guy, who recognizes Schefter as the fantasy sports wizard.

You can watch the episode here:

The final three episodes will be released on Wednesdays over the next three weeks. Each segment will be less than 60 seconds in length.

Advertising tactics adapt for DFS operators

The new campaign stands in contrast to some of FanDuel’s traditional marketing strategies.

For more than a year, the two largest DFS sites bombarded TV airwaves with a library of 30- and 60-second spots. It was spending up to $17 million per week on ads early in the 2015 NFL season.

During that stretch, DFS prize pools were at an all-time high, and huge numbers were plastered across most of the industry’s ads. DraftKings wanted you to win “a shipload of money,” and FanDuel promoted $2 billion in prize money awarded for the year. ESPN fantasy expert Matthew Berry was also a part of past ads from DraftKings.

Tactics changed pretty significantly in 2016, though. Both of the DFS “big two” scaled back the in-your-face efforts for a variety of reasons. There wasn’t as much money to go around, for starters, but customers were also tiring of the brand suffocation.

CEOs for both DraftKings and FanDuel indicated that the brand-awareness phase had mostly run its course.

New focus underscores larger industry shift

The shift is even more pronounced in 2017.

Both FanDuel and DraftKings are still rolling out some of their traditional, tongue-in-cheek ads in the mainstream. But they’ve moved on from the the persistence and the prize pool wars.

DraftKings created a series of dynamic, templated ads that can be updated from week to week, for example. And campaigns from both operators have started to center around the social and competitive aspects of daily fantasy sports rather than the numbers.

FanDuel’s new ads are framed around tailgating food in an attempt to make the messaging more memorable. The series carries the “FanDuel is better with friends” angle:

Sports personalities underpin FanDuel’s marketing efforts

FanDuel has a history of employing personalities from sports pop culture to expand its credibility and reach.

In 2015, it advertised a TNT basketball partnership for FanDuel Thursday. The 20-second spot featured the four faces of NBA on TNT: Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith.

In 2016, actor Pooch Hall appeared in at least three “Sports Rich” ads, like the “Two-Man Sled.” Hall plays the role of a football player on the BET show The Game.

It looks like Schefter is going to be the face of FanDuel for now. His campaign is noticeably more subtle in production and presentation than some of its predecessors.

The 42-second “A Day in the Life” segment never utters the word FanDuel. Schefter certainly doesn’t mention it. There’s no DFS-specific messaging whatsoever, in fact, other than the FanDuel logo at the end.

On its surface, it’s more of a short film than an advertisement. And with Schefter as the subject, it’s easily camouflaged within the surrounding sports content on ESPN.

Although Schefter’s services can’t come cheap, the spend is likely just a small part of FanDuel’s marketing budget. And these types of ads figure to be more palatable for potential daily fantasy football customers.

The FanDuel tweet with the segment went out to Schefter’s nearly seven million followers. And Schefter also gave a shout-out to another FanDuel property, numberFire.

Capturing the season-long audience is the main target of DFS advertising, and Schefter is an authority for that market. By injecting its own brand into a mainstream sports brand like ESPN, FanDuel gets some inherent street cred for the larger fantasy audience.

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Eric Ramsey
- Eric is a freelance reporter and writer primarily covering the DFS industry. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.