What Pullback? US Sports Betting TV Ads Rise During Early NFL Season

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US sports betting

While some US sports betting brands were public in their intentions to scale back marketing, advertising during NFL games is still growing.

US sportsbooks spent $22.9 million on TV advertising during NFL games through the first two weeks of the season this year, according to Kevin Krim, CEO of advertising analytics company EDO. That total is up from $18.3 million in the same time period last season, though it does not account for the cost of ads.

The jump in TV spending comes after reports, including The Wall Street Journal, this summer that brands are pulling back marketing efforts as they work toward profitability. But with the NFL acting as “king of TV,” Krim said the rise in advertising makes sense.

“Even if reducing overall marketing spend, it’s not surprising to see the NFL growing its share,” Krim said. ‘The national brands, basically FanDuel and DraftKings, are in a winner-take-most race. They’re thinking bigger and longer than the here and now.

“Not only is football the most popular sports in audience size, it has more search engagement, a great metric for value, per person than anything else.”

Where the cuts come for marketing

With sports betting operators under pressure to turn profitable, they are beginning to scale back and redistribute their overall marketing budgets. That means cutting back on advertising and promotional offers. However, some operators are still shelling out cash in endorsement partnerships to appeal to the broader public, like BetMGM signing actress Vanessa Hudgens.

Likewise, companies came into the NFL betting season knowing TV advertising would grow since football betting is the best opportunity for customer acquisition. Operators planned to spend $1.8 billion on advertising this year, up from $1 billion last year, per BIA Advisory Services in the WSJ.

That spending includes $300 million for New York sports betting. The growth is expected to plateau next year at $1.9 billion as more legal markets mature and there is less of a market-share grab at stake.

Sportsbook2021 Spend2022 Spend2021 Impressions2022 Impressions
FanDuel$8.2 million$12.1 million303.1 million457 million
DraftKings$4.3 million$5.6 million155.2 million184.2 million
BetMGM$2.2 million$2.7 million83.2 million96.8 million
Caesars$3.4 million$2.3 million123.1 million73.2 million

FanDuel dominating airwaves

Through the first two weeks of the season, FanDuel is the second-most seen brand with 2.46% ad impressions, according to iSpot.TV. That is behind only insurance giant Geico with 3.01%.

“FanDuel rising to the top this year could be adjustments coming out of a big last year for sports betting brands overall,” said John Cassillo, an analyst with TVREV. “So while some may be pulling back, others could see the early weeks of the NFL season as their best chance to attract potential bettors for the rest of the fall.”

FanDuel has been public in its intentions to keep customer acquisition spending high as it continues to grow its market dominance. FanDuel has 39% US market share, according to LSR estimates. Despite its uptick in marketing, FanDuel did report a profit in its most recent quarter.

Caesars pulling back

Last year, Caesars came into the NFL season announcing it would invest $1 billion into its interactive division. By February 2022, the operator announced its intentions to pull back.

This year, its presence is notably less pronounced. Krim did not want to speak specifically to Caesars but said brands exiting TV is often a negative sign.

“Stopping advertising will show up later in the business as shrinking market share and revenue,” he said. “Marketing works and if you stop, you’ll retreat. The question we don’t know with Caesars is, are they putting that money to work elsewhere?”

PointsBet drops NBC

In an even more drastic dropoff than Caesars, PointsBet appears to have fully shifted its attention to regional marketing efforts. PointsBet is no longer an authorized sportsbook operator with the NFL, meaning it has exited its position as the official sports betting partner of Sunday Night Football.

As BetMGM continues its push into the top tier of the market share with DraftKings and FanDuel, it picked up the Sunday night football game deal. That can potentially help it maintain a strong brand presence without spending more on top for ads.

Engagement up in US sports betting

EDO tracks internet search engagement in the minutes following a brand’s advertisement. That includes terms like “FanDuel odds” and “BetMGM app downloads.”

For sports betting, there is an 8% year-over-year increase in search engagement. However, that increase comes with a 25% increase in ad spend.

“They are losing efficacy as they further saturate the airwaves,” Krim said.

Crypto absence is sports betting gain?

Krim said the cratering of cryptocurrency value has opened up an opportunity for sports betting advertising. The two industries have plenty of target demographic crossover.

Through the first two NFL weeks last year, there were 40 ads during games. That peaked at 51 this year, which Krim said shows the crypto exchange advertising absence.

“The crypto winter is here and you’re getting those young men trading crypto shifting back to more legitimate gambling,” he said. “Crypto’s pain is a sports betting gain.”