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PENN’s Partnership With ESPN Highlights Sports Betting Sponsorship Growth

August 15, 2023

As legalized sports betting steadily spread across the US over the last few years, companies like DraftKings and FanDuel swiftly recognized the potential of strategic sponsorships to gain a competitive edge in the battle for market share. DraftKings’ sponsorship deal volume grew 150% from 2020-2021–the same period many states legalized sports betting–while FanDuel expanded its endorsement stable 127% between 2020 and 2022, as these two major players paved the way for new partnerships within the fledgling sports betting arena.

The recently announced 10-year, $1.5B deal between ESPN and PENN National Gaming to launch online sports betting brand, ESPN BET, marks a watershed moment in this emerging industry, highlighting the increasing convergence of sports media and sports betting platforms–and compelling brands like DraftKings and FanDuel to further ramp up their marketing efforts in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Case in point: DraftKings latest campaign, launching August 21 ahead of the new NFL season, which leverages fantasy football enthusiasm and sports betting fervor on the heels of a $93.2B betting year in 2022, according to the American Gaming Association. Starring Kevin Hart–who appeared in its Super Bowl campaign earlier this year–and retired NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, it features DraftKings’ new tagline, “the crown is yours,” which aims to create more consumer-centric messaging while building on existing brand equity. 

Celebrity endorsers offer a tried-and-true way to engage potential customers and cultivate virtually instant brand loyalty–as seen in FanDuel's own 2023 Super Bowl commercial, which featured retired New England Patriots powerhouse Rob Gronkowski attempting a live field goal attempt, and offered $10M in free bets for customers who wagered on the game with FanDuel Sportsbook. Such campaigns not only build buzz and make news, but also make platforms more approachable and appealing to a broader audience. 

When PENN National Gaming purchased Barstool Sports in 2020 to create Barstool Sportsbook, the company set out to utilize the red-hot brand’s personalities and massive following to gain market share in the burgeoning industry. In their new venture, ESPN and PENN will decide whether to use the power of sponsorships to try to poach bettors from other platforms, or to showcase ESPN’s own internal influencers–or both. Another intriguing option? To integrate betting into ESPN sports broadcasts and promote a potential ESPN+ betting channel, akin to Monday Night Football’s ManningCast on ESPN 2. Time will tell how this high-powered alliance’s strategy will ultimately unfold. 

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