This weekend the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins will play the latest NFL London game while just a few miles away Rugby World Cup will fill one stadium and Barclays Premier League soccer will fill another, making it one of the most diverse sports weekends in the UK in some time. While some may see it as competition, in a market where legal betting is taking place, having all three events is nirvana, especially since yes, in the UK you can bet on NFL games legally. It is an interesting precursor to what may be down the road, especially given the ongoing growth that football is having with daily fantasy providers, which depending on who you talk to, continues to be the precursor to legal wagering in the United States at some time. How far the NFL has evolved in the DFS space in just the last six months is pretty amazing.
Less than six months ago, any mention of the NFL and official partnerships with any DFS company was brought with a deafening silence. Little to no official capacity existed with the bigger players, DraftKings and FanDuel, and no teams were actively engaged (albeit Kraft Sports Group did have a stake in Boston-based DK). The response from the NFL continued to be wait and see.
Now as we head toward the fourth week of the NFL season, the field has changed, with big dollars flowing for all NFL properties, from teams and broadcast, now to players. As reported on numerous sites Tuesday, NFL Players Inc., the NFLPA’s marketing and licensing arm, has signed a group licensing partnership with DraftKings, which will allow some high-profile players to participate in the daily fantasy site’s marketing efforts. The agreement will allow DraftKings the right to employ active NFL players for in-product and promotional campaigns across print, social media, digital and mobile.
DraftKings VP/Business Development Jeremy Elbaum in a statement said, “To feature NFL players as part of our marketing efforts adds a level of excitement and connectivity to the game that is a huge win for us and our community.”
While neither side could point to an exact dollar amount, the deal is a landmark change in stance, another one, that will put added revenue directly to players who can be in uniform and be referenced in the promotions. The Patriots Rob Gronkowski is the first player on board, and certainly won’t be the last. The deal also shows the larger marketing spend now available to the NFLPA, as they left their previous partnership with smaller service DailyMVP to join DraftKings.
The deal also represents a continued football yin and yang, as a majority of the teams in the NFL have one year marketing deals with FanDuel, something which will may create even more confusion in the consumer marketplace as teams can be marketing one deal while players engage in a competitors product. It also will be an interesting test to see if the other Player’s Associations will also come on board, although at this point the NBAPA does not yet control player licensing rights like the NFLPA and the MLBPA has.
Then on Friday came the announcement that DraftKings, now with a UK gaming license in place, signed a multi-year deal with the NFL for promoting its London games.
According to the a press release, Draft Kings will host events outside of Wembley Stadium prior to all three games, with additional events at Trafalgar Square on Saturday, October 3 and on Regent Street on Saturday, October 24. At these events, fans can take part in a series of American football skills challenges to win merchandise, prizes and money-can’t-buy experiences.
And of course, DraftKings advertising will also appear during the broadcast of NFL games on Sky Sports TV in the United Kingdom.
This latest series of announcements again shows the changing landscape, especially with the massive marketing dollars being spent right now by DFS. As of this weekend, 28 of the league’s 32 teams are partnered with either DraftKings or FanDuel and FanDuel sponsors a regular segment at NFL.com. Is the NFL mow more aligned because of the dollars and the increasing fan interest? Or are we still in the originally proposed one year review period, with deals and investments now going well beyond what seems like a trial period?
What is clear is that DFS and the NFL is front and center, and those one year” look and see” deals the NFL have imposed will be escalating as long as the dollars remain flowing. Rugby, soccer or NFL this weekend in London? Safe bet all will have wagering, and that’s no fantasy.