Gender Roles In DFS: In DraftKings, FanDuel Commercials, Women Almost Never Win

Posted on September 10, 2015

Commercials from daily fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel demonstrate that women are underrepresented and are almost never portrayed as a winning player, according to a survey of ads from the top two DFS sites.

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Setting the stage: Is a lack of women in DFS ads a surprise?

This isn’t a shocking revelation, as DraftKings and FanDuel are generally focusing on the 18-49 male demographic, a mainstay for TV and for DFS as well. At the same time, the industry has lamented a lack of participation by women in DFS.

A recent Ipsos research report for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association noted that participation by women in all forms of fantasy sports stood at about a 34 percent-66 percent split with men.

Meanwhile, somewhat recent data from FanDuel put the male-female split in daily fantasy sports at 95-5, and a player survey from Eilers Research had 98 percent male respondents. (This was a self-selecting survey that was pointed mostly at regular DFS players.)

Key takeaways on women in DFS commercials

Legal Sports Report surveyed television commercials released by DraftKings and FanDuel that were available via YouTube (including the DK and FD channels), commercial tracking site iSpot.tv and an internet search; in all 24 somewhat unique commercials were surveyed. (For more on the methodology and the data, see below).

The survey is meant to be temperature-taking in nature, rather than to pull out hard numbers and percentages (although some will be provided).

Here are the key takeaways from the survey:

  • Women were depicted as a “main character”(see below for a definition) who is either winning or celebrating in just one commercial (DraftKings).
  • Men did the voice-overs and narration of every commercial.
  • About four-fifths of all characters in commercials were men.
  • Less than 10 percent of all “main characters” (speaking role or focal point) were women.

Women aren’t winners and don’t celebrate?

So why aren’t women depicted as main characters, or as winners, in DFS commercials? Part of it stems from FanDuel and DraftKings showing “real winners” in their ads. People are often included in DFS commercials because they won money either online at one of the sites or in a live final. FanDuel’s campaigns generally focus on the former, while DraftKings has an ongoing campaign that focuses on the latter.

One could argue that there isn’t selection bias, as there might not be that many female “winners” out there. Live finals, with the excitement DraftKings captures on camera, are won almost exclusively by men. And since estimates put women at under 10 percent of the DFS universe, there are certain to be fewer female winners, in general.

Even so, it’s hard to believe that FanDuel couldn’t have found a few women, if it really wanted to. After all, “Bradley C.” makes multiple appearances in FanDuel ads with winnings totaling $349:

FanDuel ad

The only woman that appeared in a FanDuel commercial surveyed was in support of her significant other, who won at the site.

DraftKings’ new campaign, and how it fits in

It seems that DraftKings is attempting to become less male-centric with its commercials, based on the roll-out of its newest television campaign, “Welcome to the Big Time.”

In the above commercial, there is nearly an equal split between total male and female characters. Still, our coding for the commercial put male “main characters” outpacing females at three to one, and males and females who were portrayed as a winning or a celebrating main character at a four to one margin.

For instance, this scene depicts a woman celebrating something exciting:

DraftKings woman

It’s pretty clear DraftKings is at least attempting to change its approach to women in ads. More than half of all appearances by women in all commercials that were coded appeared in the commercial above.

Sexualized references to women?

One way in which DraftKings and FanDuel generally excelled is by not sexualizing or objectifying women.

The only outright example of this was part of an older DraftKings ad campaign, in which a woman in a toga is featured twerking. There are others that are less overt and likely not nearly as objectionable to women (i.e. a woman dancing at a Christmas party next to a man playing fantasy sports in the recent DK campaign).

Lambasting DraftKings for this would be a bit overboard, however, as it’s a staple marketing ploy of lots of advertisers (whether you agree with it or not). Suffice it to say, it’s not a key portion of either site’s advertising campaigns.

FanDuel’s commercials come off as generally gender neutral, despite the lack of female spokespeople/characters.

What’s next for DFS commercials and women?

We’re not going to pretend to be advertising gurus here at Legal Sports Report, and perhaps putting women front and center in commercials isn’t the key to solving the gender issue in DFS (although we’re guessing it couldn’t hurt). We’re assuming, of course, that DraftKings and FanDuel are interested in attracting more women to play in their contests.

If that assumption is true, we would expect to see more ads that follow the DraftKings model of its newest campaign. Or perhaps even commercials that are targeted specifically at women.

Methodology of surveying DFS commercials

Some notes about the commercial study:

  • This is likely not an exhaustive survey of all commercials ever aired by the “big two” in fantasy sports. It should be fairly representative of ads from FanDuel and DraftKings over the past couple of years.
  • Every instance of a commercial was not included (i.e., 30-second versions vs. one-minute versions, or commercials that were tweaked slightly for different contests and sports).
  • Commercials were not selected just to fit an end conclusion.

Here is how we coded appearances by people/characters in a commercial:

  • A “main character” was defined as a person who was the focal point of a scene, or someone who had a speaking role.
  • A “supporting character” was defined as someone who was not the focal point of scene, but was somehow involved or in the forefront of the action. Qualifying as a supporting character is a somewhat subjective metric.
  • “Total characters” was arrived at by adding the previous two categories.
  • Wide camera shots with many people appearing were generally not coded, especially if they were out of focus or static. It’s not likely the viewer would identify these characters as more than background.
  • “Characters” who appeared more than once in a single commercial were included only once for coding purposes.

You can view the raw data here.

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Dustin Gouker

Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.

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