FanDuel Boxes Out DraftKings in NBA, Locks Up Deals With 13 Teams

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NBA FanDuel Sportsbook

Daily fantasy sports heavyweight FanDuel has announced partnerships with 13 NBA teams, nearly half of the league. The move represents FanDuel’s latest push in a campaign to edge out DraftKings for command of the growing basketball market.

FanDuel gets deeper into NBA

For FanDuel, the round of announcements mark a deepening of an NBA partnership first forged in 2014, when the DFS standout first announced a four-year deal with the league and inked partnerships with several of its teams, including the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic.

FanDuel released the information yesterday on its blog. From CEO Nigel Eccles:

“Partnering with these NBA organizations has been an incredible asset to FanDuel’s growth and business. NBA fans comprise a younger, mobile-centric demographic, looking for new ways to engage with their favorite sport, teams and athletes throughout the duration of the season, which is exactly what they get on FanDuel.” Eccles added “We’re going to keep partnering with franchises that recognize FanDuel’s ability to keep fans in their seat with their eyes glued to every game because they have a player on their fantasy team that night.”

Here are the team deals announced:

FanDuel previously had deals with the Mavs, Bulls, Nets, Cavs and Magic. The L.A. Lakers signed a deal with FanDuel last year. You can track all of the known sponsorship deals in DFS here.

Having reportedly received an equity stake in FanDuel from the deal, the league appears poised to heavily support the venture. Yesterday, the Detroit Pistons announced the FanDuel Club 300, a new suite at The Palace of Auburn Hills. FanDuel players will be eligible to win access to the suite, the team said. Elsewhere in the arena, FanDuel’s presence will be expanded, in part, through theme nights and promotional code giveaways.

Other teams have announced similar arrangements at home games, and the NBA itself will continue to promote FanDuel heavily via its media platforms.

Good timing, bad timing for NBA DFS?

The move comes at a crucial time for FanDuel, which has felt increasing pressure from DraftKings in recent months. FanDuel once boasted a daily fantasy sports market share of 80 percent, but the claim was removed from its investors page in May.

Perhaps complicating things, however, is a deal cemented today between DraftKings and ESPN/ABC, which makes DK the “official daily fantasy sports offering” of the family of networks. Both show NBA games, so how that conflict will be resolved will be interesting to see. It seems safe to guess the NBA probably wouldn’t be very excited to see DraftKings on NBA broadcasts.

The Nets deal also comes as another DFS site — Draft Ops — signed a deal with the New York Islanders and Barclays Center today. This will reportedly limit FanDuel’s presence at Nets games.

Latest acquisitions in an increasingly heated arms race

According to Google Trends data, other metrics and subjective observations, DraftKings recently pulled ahead of FanDuel for No. 1 in the DFS space — at least in this snapshot in time — for the first time.

The partnership announcements represent a significant move for FanDuel, which has struggled to keep pace with DraftKings heading into the summer. Spurred by warm relationships with Major League Baseball and many of its teams, DraftKings currently holds a lead in baseball traffic and has closed a once-huge gap in market share with FanDuel.

DraftKings also offers several verticals — including fantasy golf, NASCAR and MMA — while FanDuel is only offering baseball contests, currently.

MLB, which holds equity in DraftKings as a result of the partnership, has aggressively pushed the site. For instance, DraftKings is an official sponsor of MLB’s upcoming All-Star Week. An exclusivity clause between the two precludes other daily fantasy operations from partnering with individual MLB teams.

Still, FanDuel trumped DraftKings in terms of football-based revenue — at least last year — and the NFL exerts an outsized impact on traffic and revenue for both sites. In April, FanDuel announced it had deals in place with half of the NFL franchises.

So as the two sites continue to push for market dominance, their marketing strategies are seemingly diverging, at least slightly. DraftKings is pushing into new realms, while FanDuel fortifies its strongest markets. Which strategy is right? We probably won’t know that answer for a while.

Photo by Erik Drost used under license CC BY 2.0.