DraftKings finally announced a much anticipated sponsorship deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship that signals a commitment by the daily fantasy sports site to entering the mixed martial arts market.
The details of the deal
The fact that the deal has been in the works has been known for weeks; the partnership was actually termed as “imminent” by one source about two weeks ago.
Here is what is known about how the UFC-DraftKings partnership will work, from the official press release:
- DraftKings is now the Official Daily Fantasy Sports Partner of the UFC. With that status comes “prominent stadium and PPV brand placement for all major events, as well as joint promotion across all UFC web properties and social channels.”
- The partnership gives DraftKings the ability to award special UFC-themed experiences via MMA contests, such as “The Dana White Experience,” in which winners receive travel and accommodation to attend a major event as the guest of the president of the UFC.
- DraftKings will also be offering contests with a prize package for UFC International Fight Week, held in Las Vegas this July, as well as VIP tickets to other UFC events.
What the deal means
When the initial reports and rumors surfaced earlier this month, it was obvious that this was a major offensive by DraftKings to lock down a market that industry leader FanDuel hasn’t even touched yet.
Jeremy Elbaum, Vice President of Business Development at DraftKings, had this to say in the press release:
“The UFC is the fastest growing sports organization in the world, driven by the millions of fans who passionately follow MMA. We’re excited to partner with the UFC to provide its fans with games that provide tremendous payouts and amazing, unique prizes. This partnership reflects DraftKings’ deep commitment to MMA and its fans.”
The financials of the deal aren’t known. Clearly, DraftKings is banking on a few things with this deal:
- UFC fans will be interested in playing fantasy MMA contests in droves. There is definitely some crossover between MMA fans and the average daily fantasy sports player, but it’s also fair to assume DFS will be a new concept to a lot of MMA fans. We already took a look at why MMA fantasy sports is poised for growth soon after DraftKings started offering MMA contests.
- DraftKings’ financial investment in the UFC will pay off in the long run. Partering with the UFC should give DraftKings better name recognition and penetration among sports fans. The UFC has several major events every month, including pay-per-view fights and cards broadcast via Fox or Fox Sports 1.
What to watch for
Now that the deal is done, it will be interesting to see what happens in the MMA-DFS market and beyond:
- First up is the next fight card on the schedule, UFC 184 on February 28 in Los Angeles, headlined by the women’s bantamweight championship bout between Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano. Did the deal happen in time so that we see the DraftKings logo in the Octagon this weekend?
- It may seem like a small thing, but we’ll looking for a tweet about the deal from Dana White. Why is that a big deal? He has three million followers.
- Kountermove — which was the first fantasy sports site that had MMA contests — is the other major player in the market. It has had record contests in terms of entries for its past two events. Will the DFS site counter the DraftKings move in anyway, and will it benefit from increased visibility for MMA fantasy contests?
- Will FanDuel challenge DraftKings in MMA? DraftKings now has a huge head start in the market, and the backing of the only MMA organization that really matters. One could still see FanDuel entering the fray, as well.
- DraftKings was on a tear with making sponsorship deals in January and early February, but presumably the focus has been on the UFC deal in recent weeks. Will DraftKings continue to its trend of investing money in sponsorship deals with individual clubs?
- Will other dominoes fall in terms of leagues? FanDuel has the NBA, DraftKings has the NHL and a partnership for free games with the MLB. The biggest prize left is obviously the NFL. Will a deal will be struck with the league by either fantasy property this year?
- DFS has been looking for other verticals to tap into outside of the major North American team sports. Other sports — auto racing, soccer, etc. — could be the new battleground in competing for marketshare and for increasing player pools.