DraftKings recently signed a deal to sponsor the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, and it’s the latest example of daily fantasy sports’ “Big Two” linking themselves to the biggest events in sports.
Belmont + DraftKings =
DraftKings attached itself to the “sport of kings” last week, becoming “the presenting sponsor of the 2015 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.” That, obviously, includes sponsorship of the truly important race — the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 6.
The race takes on added significance this year, with yet another horse — American Pharoah — trying to win the Triple Crown. No horse has accomplished the feat since Affirmed in 1978, although American Pharaoh is the 14th horse to enter the Belmont with a chance to win after previously topping the fields in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
As part of the deal, DraftKings put on a DFS contest (for Major League Baseball) where the winner got a VIP package to attend the race in New York. (For the record, the contest was won by poker and DFS pro Bryan Devonshire, who also won a contest to throw out a first pitch at an MLB game a few months ago.)
Like many of the sponsorship deals signed by DraftKings and FanDuel, the Belmont deal included a lot of marketing and advertising exposure:
DraftKings’ significant on-site activation will include branded apparel on all horses and gate crew, a branded cooler blanket on the winning horse of the Belmont Stakes at the conclusion of the race, a Belmont Stakes branded DraftKings Player Lounge and an exclusive hospitality area for VIP race fans. … DraftKings will also be visible to sports fans across the country with a number of advertisements and promotions for the brand airing during the in-race broadcast on NBC.
Whether or not there’s a direct DFS tie-in…
While DraftKings and FanDuel are clearly hammering away at sponsorships for the sports in which they both offer DFS contests — baseball, football, basketball and hockey — it’s not the only battleground:
- In non-event sponsorship news, DraftKings just announced a deal this morning with Madison Square Garden, giving it a “fantasy lounge” in the arena as well as partnerships with the New York Rangers and New York Knicks. DraftKings will also appear on the jerseys of the WNBA’s New York Liberty.
- FanDuel paid for a spot on Floyd Mayweather’s trunks for his May fight against Manny Pacquiao — a deal reported to be worth a million dollars. FanDuel offered a VIP experience — including a meet-and-greet with Mayweather — to accompany that announcement. DraftKings later awarded a last-minute VIP package to the fight, sans the Mayweather connection.
- DraftKings‘ presence at the World Series of Poker has been larger than anticipated. While it was known DK was sponsoring a tournament at the WSOP, the DraftKings logo is appearing nearly everywhere at the tournament series in Las Vegas. There’s a “DraftKings” lounge on site, the logo appears on the felt of every tournament table, and DraftKings is sponsoring/appearing on the live streams of every event.
- At the same time as the Belmont this Saturday, FanDuel will be hosting a $750,000 live baseball contest at the Playboy Mansion. DraftKings and FantasyAces are among the sites that also offer large live finals.
- DraftKings is awarding three VIP packages tied to golf, with the opportunity to play with a PGA Tour player at the Quicken Loans National Pro-Am in July. DraftKings offers fantasy golf contests, while FanDuel does not.
- DraftKings continues to offer chances to win prize packages to mixed martial arts contests in the UFC, including attending the recently held UFC 187 in Las Vegas and the upcoming UFC 189, also in Vegas. Again, DraftKings offers MMA contests, while FanDuel does not.
What could be next?
It’s not clear if some of these deals are a game of one-upmanship, or simply an area in which DraftKings’ and FanDuel’s marketing strategies overlap. Clearly, both sites are just targeting general sports fans, to some extent. The Mayweather-Pacquiao fight and the Belmont represent opportunities to get the attention of casual fans watching major sporting events.
So what’s on the sporting calendar that the two sites could think about sponsoring or creating VIP experiences around?
Golf (U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship)
Clearly, this one’s going to DraftKings, if it can hammer out a deal. We don’t see FanDuel offering a chance to go to a golf event and shining a spotlight on fantasy golf, which it doesn’t offer. There are three major tournaments still left this summer, including the U.S. Open in a few weeks. There’s also obvious speculation in the DFS industry of a potential overarching deal between DraftKings and the PGA Tour.
Tennis (Wimbledon, U.S. Open)
We’re pretty sure there’s not going to be daily fantasy sports for tennis anytime soon. But even casual sports fans can get into the last two major tournaments on the summer slate. However, we’re guessing the clamor for these tickets would likely pale in comparison the boxing and horse racing packages.
Soccer (Women’s World Cup)
While not a major draw in terms of generating contest entries, this would be a tangible way to drive up interest in DFS from women, which has generally lagged across the board in the short history of the space. The World Cup starts this weekend and continues through July. The American women, as always, are one of the favorites to win.
Olympics (Rio de Janeiro, 2016)
It seems like a stretch that a DFS site would sponsor the Olympics, or that the Olympics would accept a DFS sponsor. While DFS is not considered gambling in the U.S., it generally is in the rest of the world, even if it is considered a game of skill, at the same time. Clearly, though, it would appear to be within the power of either site to put together VIP packages to send contest winners to Rio.
After listing the possibilities, it’s certainly possible the Mayweather-Pacquiao and the Belmont sponsorships are one-off deals given the huge audiences generated by both. Or it’s possible that we’re seeing the first steps towards more event-by-event deals signed by DFS sites.