With a federal ruling in 2018 allowing states to lift restrictions on sports betting and gaining more control over bookmaking, the fantasy sports and gambling industries, professional sports leagues and state and federal legislators and regulators are still searching to find their respective roles. 

Dave Finn is Taylor’s Account Director overseeing the agency’s business with industry leader DraftKings. In this Q&A, he provides his insights on a variety of topics across this evolving landscape and how marketers can navigate the sometimes bumpy terrain of legalized sports betting.  

DraftKings began as a fantasy sports platform. How were they set up for success when sports wagering began to be legalized across more and more states?  

From its inception as a daily fantasy provider, DraftKings offered its consumers an inviting and innovative platform. As a result, it quickly became one of the world’s leading daily fantasy providers. I would say that this initial success in the fantasy sports industry established a credible foundation for the company as sports betting became legal in the United States. As its offerings expanded, DraftKings had to ensure that its technology was both user friendly and safe for the consumer. Given that money and other proprietary information were involved, the platform had to be absolutely rock solid and watertight – especially as DraftKings was building relationships with legislators and lawmakers. This provided for a smooth transition when sports betting became a legal entity. 

What challenges did DraftKings and others face during the legalization process? 

The biggest challenge was determining when the decision from the Supreme Court would be finalized and then being able to quickly react and, consequently, grab consumers’ interest. This was especially difficult for the brand because there was no clear indication on which way the court would sway. With that said, soon after the ruling was favorably delivered, DraftKings debuted its mobile sports betting app in New Jersey and became the first sportsbook app in the state. What’s important to note is that while being first in is important, the product still had to deliver … and it did. DraftKings and the state of New Jersey were pioneers. 

What brands are you seeing effectively activating in the sports betting industry besides platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel? 

With the global sports betting industry valued at more than $100 billion, numerous brands and media platforms actively create content tailored to sports fans interested in gambling. 

Traditional media outlets, such as Sports Illustrated and ESPN, regularly publish columns that share betting tips for their readers; major television networks dedicate on-air time to discussing picks; and even the four major professional sports leagues in the United States themselves promote content around sports betting. 

For example, Draft Kings is the official partner of Major League Baseball. Ahead of each of MLB Network’s game of the night, the talent on MLB Tonight, the network’s signature show, participates in a segment discussing which players they recommend picking from that night’s featured matchup. 

While these platforms aren’t sports betting providers themselves, they have done a great job initiating the conversation around sports betting being a part of what it's like to be a sports fan today. Companies and media outlets have embraced that sports betting is here to stay and are embracing it as something their audiences want to consume. 

Are brands just scratching the surface?  

What we’re seeing from brands and media outlets in this space is only the beginning. Industry studies project the global sports betting market to exceed $150 billion by 2024, and with legal gambling set to become more mainstream among sports fans in the United States, it’s safe to expect increased engagement in the coming years.

In an era of streaming and binge consumption of media, sports remain one of the very few live shared experiences in today’s culture. With fantasy sports — especially fantasy football, which sees more than 12 million fans participate every year — continuing to grow in popularity, we view daily fantasy sports and legal sports betting as the next steps in the natural evolution of sports consumption for fans. As it becomes increasingly popular, we expect more and more brands to focus on sports betting and related content as a way to connect with consumers. 

Beyond the editorial side, how can brands and marketers leverage the real-time sports data to their advantage? 

It is more than beneficial to incorporate targeted social media into marketing efforts. The number of consumers who primarily use social media to watch/follow sports events is increasing dramatically year over year. And, with the advent of fantasy sports and now mobile sports betting, social media related to sports platforms will continue to grow. Given the real-time and unpredictable nature of sports and sports betting, brands can be in the position to generate content that reacts to some of those unpredictable moments; whether it is working with influencers or internally creating meaningful and interesting content. The key is to think like the sports betting fan and to answer this question: What is the most important and exciting moment to create buzz?  

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What are the different types of fan segments when it comes to sports betting? How do they vary? 

At the end of the day, there are two primary segments within the 15 million active US sports bettors. The first is the casual sports betting fan. This person dabbles with sports betting amongst his or her peers for the social aspect and/or just to make things more interesting with friends. This segment of bettors has fun but is not interested in putting in the time, thought and effort to be more serious and, potentially, successful. 

Then, there is the active sports bettor who enjoys betting as much as the game or games they are watching. This segment looks at their wagers as investments, uses strategic processes and puts an immense amount of energy and data into their bets. Net net: if the motivation is to consistently win money, you are going to approach sports betting much differently than someone who is merely looking for the entertainment value. 

Data reveals that sports betting is male dominated … so how should brands approach female fans and bettors? 

Sports betting is no different than any other entity trying to capture the female consumer. Brands and marketers must recognize that there are plenty of female fans, and marketing doesn’t need to push the stereotypical “macho man.” 

I think brands need to take a look in the mirror (as well as take a page from those who do it well), and consider the similarities of all sports fans, and deliver products that are real and resonate across audiences – whether it is commercial, content or other mediums.  On a side note, I think both the NFL and NASCAR have done and continue to do a great job reaching the female consumer, which is vitally important as women comprise almost 50% of their respective fan base. 

The landscape of sports betting will be significantly different as Gen Z begin to come of age for gambling as a whole. What will the industry look like as this generation gets older? 

GenZers have grown up in the digital world. They are technology savvy and connected in every sense of the word.  Technology has actually blurred the lines between their respective public and private lives. To that end, mobile sports betting must be as inviting and interesting as any other digital touchpoint in their lives. This is especially important given the increased amount of time GenZers are on smartphones, and their attraction to products and experiences that are cool and meaningful. 

With that as backdrop, as more states come online, legal sports betting is estimated to reach $6 billion by 2023. This is and will remain a massive industry. It is imperative to reach the GenZ market now and keep it engaged and participatory as revenues significantly grow over the next several years. 

How do brands navigate the different national, state, and local legislation and regulation? 

Like any other form of stakeholder relations, companies and their brands must keep an open dialogue with legislative and regulatory bodies. It is vitally important to inform and educate on an ongoing basis. There is significant interest in gambling, and as more states become involved, there will be a substantial amount of outreach that will need to be conducted. 

This is part of a multi-part series on sports marketing in partnership with The Holmes Report. The full series can be found here