How FanDuel Kept Fans Entertained During the Great Live Sports Shutdown of 2020

CMO Mike Raffensperger talks pivots at Adweek's Sports Marketing summit

fanduel cmo mike raffensperger
FanDuel CMO Mike Raffensperger explained why September was a great month to be a sports fan. Adweek

For fantasy sports betting app FanDuel, a company whose model relies heavily on live sports, the pandemic-induced pause of every major league’s activities created a unique challenge.

When all the major sports’ seasons came to a standstill in mid-March, fans not only missed out on the experience of watching and rooting for their favorite sports teams—fantasy sports enthusiasts also saw their leagues take an indefinite hiatus. Suddenly, a huge portion of FanDuel’s 6 million active users were looking for new ways to entertain themselves and new events to bet on, CMO Mike Raffensperger said at the virtual Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit today, in conversation with Adweek CEO Jeff Litvack.

FanDuel met those users with a variety of new innovations over the course of the next several months, including introducing betting on esports and reality television shows, plus in-app streaming for sports like tennis, horse racing and table tennis. And when football eventually resumed in the fall, the app spent $80 million on a giveaway to lure back users.

Those innovations were born out of the fact that FanDuel sees itself as an entertainment company rather than a gaming company, Raffensperger said. “We deliver entertainment through technology,” he explained.

During hard times—like, say, when a months-long pandemic, wildfire and hurricane season, along with a historically contentious presidential election, all occur simultaneously—people need entertainment more than ever.

FanDuel‘s goal from the first lockdowns in March was to continue to provide more ways for users to entertain themselves through the platform, Raffensperger said, whether that was through free-to-play games a fantasy league for The Bachelorette, or betting on ping-pong tournaments in Russia.

“The long-term opportunity and the long-term responsibility we had to our player base and, certainly, to grow the business, was what we had our eye on,” Raffensperger said. “We committed very early that we were going to maintain investment in staff, and we were going to keep moving forward.”

Watch the full panel here:


@klundster kathryn.lundstrom@adweek.com Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.
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