The four major American professional sports leagues along with the NCAA College sports forum fought for almost 30 years to hold the ban on sports betting in America. When the ban was overturned by a May 2018 Supreme Court decision, the leagues were forced to decide between ignoring sports betting all together and joining the bandwagon.
Within a few months, the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL had begun to sign partnership deals with sports betting operators and the results have been overwhelmingly positive all around. It’s only been 3 ½ years since the leagues started to create partnerships with various partners and the pace hasn’t slowed. The leagues receive money and an increase in fan engagement while the operators enjoy affiliations that bring larger numbers of sports fans to make wagers.
Both sides seem to have come to the conclusion that it’s easier and more beneficial to work together than to work apart. In addition to the one-on-one partnerships there are also numerous additional portfolios of extensive relationships that merge and benefit the entire sports betting, online gaming and the entire online casino industry.
DraftKings is an example of a sports betting operator that has maximized the concept of partnerships. DraftKings started out as a sports betting operator but in recent years it has become heavily involved in the sports betting market. It has signed on a wide range of deals that strengthen its presence in numerous states.
Director of Development Michael Hermalyn said that “Currently, DraftKings is the official daily fantasy sports partner of the NFL, MLB, NASCAR, PGA Tour and UFC as well as an authorized gaming operator of the NBA and MLB, an official betting operator of the PGA TOUR, an official sports betting partner of the UFC and NFL…..DraftKings also holds official relationships with the Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs, Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Madison Square Garden (New York Knicks and New York Ranger), New England Patriots, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Nashville Predators, American Cornhole League, Major League Eating and professional golfer Bryson DeChambeau.”
While it may seem, from that list, that DraftKings has covered all bases, other operators have similar lists of league partners. And partnerships with leagues, teams and athletes is only the beginning.
Adi Dhandhania of Bally’s Corporation said “Our entry into the sports betting and igaming space was marked by our November 2020 acquisition of Bet.Works’ proprietary technology stack, which will serve as the anchor asset of our interactive division…..We then acquired top-funnel assets, including Monkey Knife Fight, the third-largest daily fantasy sports platform in North America, and Sport Caller, an award-winning global free-to-play game provider. Most recently, we announced an agreement to purchase Gamesys Group plc, a London-based, leading global online gaming operator.”
Ballys also has its own ties with NBA, MLB and NHL teams.
There are more elements to the operator/league partnerships than meet the eye. They demand a significant investment in resources to make them work. Scott Warfield of PGA Tour Gaming said that the Tour has partnered with Action Network, worked with PointsBet and put odds
integration into its website in order to be more proactive about entertaining fans and upping their participation. “We have five official betting operators – DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, BetMGM and theScore. They’re some of the leaders in this space and we’ve taken a pretty exhaustive approach to our partnerships. “
The NFL also announced that it would be partnering with FanDuel and Caesars in addition to DraftKing as Caesars acquired William Hill as part of its plan to rebrand as Caesars Sports to the sportsbooks. The ultimate goal of all of these partnerships, says Dhandhania of Bally’s, is to “align on a common vision and equip one another with complementary components.”
Michael Hermalyn of DraftKings says that partnerships start with engineering a partnership from a fan-first outlook on up. “Anyone can put together a sponsorship or negotiate for the best signage or hospitality but that is simply getting a deal done and does not touch on the truest elements of a partnership.”
Hermalyn says that the partners must center on the fan and build from there to optimize fan engagement. After that, shared goals and aligned incentives allow the partners to identify how to create wins for both the club and the operator by finding the middle ground.
Warfield gives an example of the influence that huge platforms have with audiences. “They promote players. They offer an array of fun prop bets. That’s great for the brand, it’s great for our partners and it’s great for our sport. We’re all in growth mode, getting more people involved.
Partnerships are an engagement play so aligning with big companies in the sector is undeniably helpful.
Heightened engagement with fans includes better engagement, better brand visibility and opportunities to educate new bettors. Sports fans are hungry for new content and the sports ecosystem is eager to comply. The multi-pronged partnerships allow fans to enjoy different elements of different platforms – free-to-play, real money, app betting, fantasy sports contests and more.
DraftKings’ Hermalyn notes that the diversified partnerships give all sides the opportunity to benefit from season developments and the most up-to-date statistics which results in comprehensive coverage.
New betting types and formulas mean that the betting apps can appeal to an increasing number of bettors. This is especially true of in-play bets which are, says Warfield, the “secret ingredient. It’s where the industry is trending.”
Teaming up with an operator allows the team/league to tailor the sports betting with more content, better stats, more accurate commentary and a higher level of real-time data. With everyone thinking about engagement, the real winners are the fans.