With the Help of Former Stars, FanDuel’s NFL Campaign Makes Betting Look Easy

The brand saw bets placed jump 200% after the first week of the season

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Miraculously, football is back.

With it comes the return of sports betting, which has become a multi-billion dollar industry since a 2018 Supreme Court decision allowed states the ability to legalize sports gambling. The NFL’s arrival has meant companies like FanDuel, one of the largest sports betting and daily fantasy brands in the world, have a new opportunity to flex their advertising muscle.

In a new campaign, the brand is welcoming fans back to the sports they love, while reminding—with the help of the former stars like James Harrison, Orlando Pace and former coach Jeff Fisher—how easy it is to place a bet.

The campaign, created with creative agency BBH NY, first launched in August and is expected to run through the entirety of the NFL’s regular season. Although FanDuel declined to provide financial information, according to iSpot, the brand has spent more than $24 million since Aug. 23 to reach 1.8 billion impressions.

So far, it’s worked. The first week of NFL action saw FanDuel nab its biggest week of new registrations across the brand’s daily fantasy platform and sports betting products since 2015, with bets placed up 200% year-over-year.

Between March and July, sports fans were left dry as the pandemic swiftly paused all professional and amateur athletics. FanDuel responded by grabbing the streaming rights to what sports were still available, such as Belarusian Soccer, table tennis matches and Esports competitions on Madden. The brand even let its audience bet—without a charge—on events like the Democratic primary debates and episodes of The Bachelor.

When sports finally did ramp back up again with professional hockey, baseball and basketball, FanDuel celebrated by dropping more than $80 million in its audience’s bank accounts in the form of a $10 credit. Now, there’s more content than ever as NBA Finals are slated to run in several weeks alongside the NFL—by far the most important time for FanDuel to acquire new fans.

“For our business, the NFL is Black Friday plus Christmas plus the Fourth of July all in one,” said Mike Raffensperger, FanDuel’s CMO.

Those new fans, who Ratffensperger calls converted “sideline spectators,” are those who are interested and understand sports but don’t bet consistently. They’re considered crucial in the ever-expanding world of sports gambling. After a failed attempt at a merger in 2017, DraftKings and FanDuel have duked it out for the top spot across the U.S., both now household names after a marketing blitz half a decade ago saw each of them spend more than $500 million in television ads, predominantly during NFL games. Now there’s increased competition coming from newcomer Barstool Sportsbook, which launched this month with the help of Barstool’s considerable built-in audience.

While FanDuel won’t need to invest as heavily in traditional television as it had in the past, the spending has at least diversified.

“There is a material difference between the major investment of daily fantasy sports betting back in 2015,” said Raffensperger. “There’s more sophistication in the media mix we use today,” he said, pointing towards integrated podcasting partnerships with Bill Simmons and former NFL punter turned media personality Pat McAfee.

“For us, not everything is going to be a major television campaign,” said Raffensperger. “But we’ve had marketing communications about darts, we’ve had marketing communications about table tennis, it goes down the list.”

He added: “You can expect us to be relevant pretty much across the world of sports.”


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@RyanBarwick ryan.barwick@adweek.com Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.
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