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Much has been made of DraftKings’ big investment in its golf vertical in the form of a series of Millionaire Maker contests for the PGA Tour’s major championships.
And rightfully so. After all, DraftKings’ Millionaire Maker golf contests have so far presented some of the largest guarantees in a sport other than baseball, football or basketball.
Judging by the growth in guarantees, from $2.2 million in April for the Masters to $3.3 million for the PGA Championship in August, the Millionaire Maker approach has been a successful one for DraftKings.
But those Millionaire Maker contests were developed, in part, to draw attention to all of DraftKings’ fantasy golf products, and to DFS for golf during the rest of the golf season.
Has it worked? According to DraftKings, yes.
For one, the success of the Millionaire Maker has helped DraftKings develop a more diverse set of games around the major championships. And second, major championships have spurred interest in the contests set around the PGA Tour’s regular weekly events, said DraftKings co-founder Matt Kalish.
“I think the growth is a testament to the quality of the product and marketing teams we have here working at DraftKings,” Kalish told Legal Sports Report. “There was fundamentally no volume in fantasy golf two years ago and the team here really built it up from scratch.”
Even rival sites like Victiv, which is also invested heavily in golf, has credited the Millionaire Makers for drawing attention to all of DFS golf.
“I think DFS in general, and PGA DFS in particular, is closer to a rising tide that lifts all ships than a winner-take-all scenario,” said Earl Mitchell, the chief information officer at Victiv. “Anything that brings PGA DFS into the limelight and brings new users to the game ultimately benefits a site like Victiv.”
Despite receiving the lion’s share of attention in the golf vertical, the Millionaire Maker is but one offering in DraftKings’ portfolio.
For the British Open, DraftKings offered a $400,000 guarantee Thousandaire contest in which $100,000 went to the winner, and a $100,000 PGA Birdie contest in which the winner won $10,000 among an endless list of alternatives to the Millionaire Maker.
DraftKings has not announced its full list of games for the PGA Championship yet, but it seems a lock that the alternative contests will be just as much or more rich and diverse as for the British Open. And much of the growth in alternative games for the majors can be attributed to interest in the Millionaire Maker.
“We definitely have been satisfied with the success of the Millionaire Makers, and once we had that game solidly established, we had the opportunity to start building up more and more quality games around it,” Kalish said. “We have always been very focused on having the most diverse set of contest offerings and experiences.
“We were very happy with the reception to those events and will continue the momentum into the final major of the year.”
Of course, interest in professional golf always spikes during the four major championships. So perhaps a growth in attention at DraftKings is not surprising.
Relative to the major championships, DraftKings’ contests for weekly PGA Tour events are small potatoes. But those have grown significantly, too.
DraftKings offered a prize pool of $45,000 in a contest for April’s Shell Houston Open, the last Tour event on the schedule before the Masters and the first-ever golf Millionaire Maker. For this week’s Quicken Loans National, a smaller event on the PGA Tour calendar, DraftKings is offering a $350,000 Drive the Green contest and limited the contest to 134,000 entries. And DraftKings’ $20 weekly golf contests have doubled in size this year with a guarantee of $200,000.
All told, more than three-quarters of a million dollars is guaranteed across DraftKings’ six biggest golf contests this week. That doesn’t include satellites, smaller guaranteed contests and cash games.
In addition, the site has developed games such as the qualifier-only $600,000 Fantasy Golf World Championship and qualifiers in which winners are entered into PGA Tour pro-am events and a weekly King of the Hill contest.
“We have definitely seen some strong growth in the week-to-week games,” Kalish said. “The majors certainly drove a lot of engagement and we have seen a pretty strong stickiness after the major events conclude.”
Whether or not the golf vertical can keep growing is another story. But DraftKings and its smaller rivals that offer golf seem to tell a similar story.
“Most people we talk to tell us that DraftKings leagues have completely reinvigorated their interest in following professional golf,” Kalish said.
Such feedback should be music to the ears of DFS golf sites everywhere, not to mention golf itself.