Brace Yourself: Here Come The Sports Betting Ads As NFL Ramps Up

Posted on September 8, 2020

The number of FanDuel and DraftKings ads across the US has exploded in the second half of the year alongside the return of pro sports and the approaching NFL kickoff.

According to data provided to LSR by ad tracking firm iSpot, FanDuel and DraftKings have generated more than 4.1 billion impressions from TV ads in 2020.

Interestingly, of FanDuel‘s 1.88 billion impressions, nearly half (935 million) have come since July 15. It’s a similar story for DraftKings: of the firm’s 2.26 billion impressions for 2020, 1.9 billion have come since June 1

“Those impressions have steadily increased since the restart of sports,” noted iSpot.

The two companies have a combined 3.56 billion impressions since June, which would make them one of the top 100 brands advertising on TV.

Of course, it’s not surprising the two companies are spending more with the resumption of sports. But the level of spend before the return of NFL betting season raises some red flags. Indeed, the advertising blitz is only going up from here.

Who is spending what on ads in NFL season?

  • FanDuel Group estimated last week it will spend around $185 million on marketing in H2 alone. The company said US players were proving more valuable and stickier than other markets and it made economic sense to spend big to acquire them. That marketing figure also covers Fox Bet.
  • DraftKings spent almost exactly $100 million on marketing in H1. It did not give exact guidance for H2 but CEO Jason Robins echoed FanDuel in saying the economics were favorable for heavy investment. “We have $1.2 billion on the balance sheet and feel well equipped to play the long game here,” Robins said.
  • MGM and GVC recently upped their investment in Roar Digital, giving the company some $370 million of investable capital. Numbers from iSpot and reports from Colorado suggest that money is already being spent.
  • PointsBet is raising $220 million and has committed to spend $393 million in marketing across NBC properties over the next five years. That spend will increase in each year of the deal.
  • William Hill has not given concrete numbers about planned ad spend. But of course, the bookmaker has a wide-ranging deal with CBS.

Taken altogether, it’s likely that well over $1 billion will be spent on sports betting ads around NFL this year. And the major US TV networks all have some sort of gambling presence. 

Beware the backlash

It’s all a little bit DFS circa 2015.  And this is without considering the deals with specific teams. Last week alone, the Chicago Cubs and Detroit Lions announced new betting partners.

“I think there is potential for pushback,” said Keith Whyte, executive director at the National Council on Problem Gambling.

In the UK and Australia, the flood of advertising led to various bans on gambling ads during live sport.

“Ironically, this is exactly where the US operators are focusing their efforts – striking betting and branding partnerships, shirt sponsorships, etc with our leagues and teams,” Whyte said. “In some ways, it almost looks like some of the big internationals are simply taking the money they would have spent on banned ads and sponsorships in the UK and shifting it to the exact same thing in the US.”

And it’s not like advertising saturation is an exclusively non-US problem. The DFS ad blitz in 2015 played a key role in the regulatory backlash on that industry too.

Operator and trade groups promise they’ve learned from previous mistakes in Europe. But it remains to be seen whether the reality of this NFL season will match that responsible rhetoric.

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Brad Allen

Brad has been covering the online gambling industry in Europe and the US for more than four years, most recently as the news editor at EGR Global.

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