Former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson is lounging on a throne in a fitted suit, spitting snippets of capitalist slang:
“It’s Mount Cashmore.”
“Dolla dolla bills y’all.”
“Protect your crown like a dentist.”
Behind him is a green screen that, we’re told, will show a giant sportsbook filled with the betting lines for the NFL’s Conference Playoffs, all part of a commercial for DraftKings‘ new postseason campaign.
It all would have seemed unthinkable just a decade ago: combining the prestigious and closely guarded NFL brand with the world of sports betting. But this season, DraftKings became the official daily fantasy partner of the NFL.
That’s not all DraftKings does. There are two separate products under the DraftKings brand. The first, daily fantasy sports, lets fans pick a different set of athletes every week to compete for a payout. It’s legal in most states.
The other is sports betting, only recently legalized in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Indiana. Even though DraftKings has paid out $7 billion in winnings, according to CMO Tom Goedde, legal sports betting in the U.S. could be worth as much as $7.9 billion by 2024.
DraftKings will advertise locally in markets where sports betting is legal, while focusing its national campaign on the daily fantasy sports product with ads running on Fox, the NFL Network and across DraftKings’ digital channels.
They’ll be seen starting Jan. 18 and will run right up until the pregame of Super Bowl 54 on Feb. 2. The ads are segmented into five 30-second clips as well as one 60-second clip and one 15-second clip.
The campaign, called “Made in America,” will feature Burleson touting DraftKings’ latest promotions and calling on players to “be brave in the land of the free.”
While “Made in America” isn’t exactly an original tagline, it makes sense considering that most of DraftKings’ competition comes from the murkier world of offshore gambling websites. Even its professional competition, FanDuel, is owned by an Irish company.
“The concept harkens back to the fact that DraftKings is a made-in-the-USA brand,” Goedde said. “In America, royalty isn’t inherited; it’s earned.” Being an American company also means a regulated market that ensures users “we’re safe and secure,” he continued.
While Goedde declined to discuss figures, he did say DraftKings’ advertising spend this year was nowhere near the same as in previous years, like when the company reportedly splashed out $131.4 million on television ads between Jan. 1 and Oct. 5 in 2015.
“Those days were definitely the wild, Wild West; everyone was grabbing territory,” Goedde said. “We don’t need to just carpet bomb the entire landscape. We’ve built a brand over the last seven years, and we’re a household name now. … We’ll never need that kind of spend.”
Still, broadcasting a commercial during the NFL Playoffs guarantees an audience.
Last year’s NFC championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints pulled in 44 million viewers. The AFC championship matchup between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs garnered over 52.9 million viewers. While the season’s not over, each of those four teams remains in the hunt for glory once again.
“The NFL is the lifeblood of fantasy sports. Talk to the people in Vegas—it’s the lifeblood of everything that goes on in legalized and illegal gambling,” said Joe Favorito, a sports marketing professor at Columbia University.
When Goedde joined DraftKings in the summer of 2018, one of his first projects was crafting the voice of the brand. Using the late ESPN legend Stuart Scott as the brand’s north star, Goedde and his team ended up picking Burelson, a renaissance man who juggles his own clothing line, an amateur rap career, and hosting duties on the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football and CBS’ Sunday pregame show. This is the second campaign Burelson has worked on for DraftKings, voicing the brand’s opening season campaign this fall.
“He really represented the diverse community of DraftKings. We have people from all kinds of walks of life, and Nate can connect with so many of them just because of his vast background,” Goedde said.
For DraftKings, the NFL season’s kickoff is the most important time to grow brand awareness, followed by the Super Bowl, during which nearly 23 million Americans are expected to place a bet. There’s a bit of a lag in audiences during the end of the season. (There aren’t too many Arizona Cardinals fans watching in January.)
“The Super Bowl is much less about the acquisition. It’s more about reactivating people that may have slowed down,” Goedde said.
Of course, as the saying goes, any game is instantly thrilling if you’re willing to put money on the line.
“I see DraftKings as a destination,” Goedde said. “Our job is to build an arcade.”