Daily fantasy sports partnerships have become somewhat less glamorous in 2019, but Thursday’s news out of Boston put the industry back in the limelight.
The NFL and DraftKings issued a joint press release this morning announcing a “landmark” multi-year DFS deal. DraftKings is now the Official daily fantasy partner for the king of the US leagues.
Sports and daily fantasy sports have long been bedfellows, but this marks the NFL’s first league-level alliance in the space.
While DraftKings continues to advance its plans for US sports betting, this relationship is strictly confined to the fantasy realm. The NFL is not formally aligned with DraftKings Sportsbook, though the line between the two segments has grown increasingly undefined.
DraftKings and NFL link up
For DraftKings, the deal involves:
- Exclusive NFL sponsorship in the DFS category.
- Access to NFL branding across gaming and content platforms.
The NFL will also collaborate on DraftKings content and integrate the brand into its own media footprint. That may, for example, spawn DraftKings’ fantasy programming on the NFL Network and other league outlets.
DraftKings CEO Jason Robins called the partnership “a defining moment” for the industry.
“Throughout our discussions with the League, it was evident we share a common vision around the future of fan engagement, and we are excited to continue on this unique journey with the NFL as our ‘Official Daily Fantasy Partner.’”
The DFS giant previously entered into similar deals with the NHL and MLB, while the NBA has an official partnership with DraftKings’ primary competitor, FanDuel.
The timid pro football league held out as the last remaining free agent until now.
NFL embraces sports gambling, cautiously
Perhaps as much as any pro league, the NFL has historically worked to distance itself from gambling — at least sports gambling. While the progressive NBA warmed to the idea of legalization and regulation early, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed concerns through last year’s Supreme Court decision.
Whether the commissioner likes it or not, the future of the NFL is inextricably tied to gambling.
For now, though, fantasy sports remain a less-controversial format for the league to embrace. And the benefits are similar to the NFL, serving to strengthen the interest of the average consumer.
Here’s CRO Renie Anderson, who oversees league partnerships:
“Daily fantasy football has been a tremendous vehicle for fans of all types to deepen their engagement with the NFL. We’re thrilled to partner with DraftKings, a clear leader in the daily fantasy space, as they continue to innovate and provide our millions of fans additional ways to interact with and enjoy the NFL.”
The NFL now has a DFS partner (DraftKings), a casino partner (Caesars), and a sports betting data partner (Sportradar). It does not yet have a direct partnership with a sportsbook, however, other than nonexclusive deals involving the use of official league data.
The other three competing US sports leagues all have at least one US betting partner:
- MLB: MGM
- NBA: MGM, FanDuel, Fox Bet
- NHL: MGM, FanDuel, William Hill
DraftKings gets in touch with its roots
DraftKings has long relied on such partnerships with leagues and teams to advance its brand, a marketing endeavor that legalized sports betting only magnifies.
In addition to its new role with the NFL, the company has a long list of active and dormant deals with teams across multiple sports — and several stadiums and arenas, too.
While fantasy sports has taken a backseat to sports betting, the segment is still the foundation of DraftKings’ emerging empire. Football will always be the primary driver for sports gaming and gambling in the US.
According to the press release, nearly 90% of DraftKings’ 11 million customers have played an NFL contest. Converting fans to fantasy customers now makes the next conversion to sports bettors that much easier.