The sports betting boom: How advertisers are handling its legalization

Brands like FanDuel and DraftKings are spending millions on marketing, but restrictions on gambing advertising make things tricky.
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Illustration: Dianna “Mick” McDougall, Photo: Getty Images

· 4 min read

There are few chances New Yorkers escaped January without hearing or seeing an ad for a sportsbook, whether pitched by J.B. Smoove as the Roman dictator Julius Caesar or Jamie Foxx as…Jamie Foxx.

Why? Online sports betting is legal in New York as of last month—and boy, oh boy, did they let us hear about it.

  • Nationally, FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, MGM, and Wynn spent a combined $25.6 million on display, OTT, and social advertising in January, according to Pathmatics.
  • Six of the major sportsbooks spent a combined $86.4 million on national TV advertising from December ’21 through January ’22, according to Over the same time the previous year, FanDuel and DraftKings spent $1.4 million and $12.5 million respectively, per iSpot. This time around, FanDuel spent $10.7 million, while DraftKings spent $10.8 million.

In sum, yes, the money machine went brrr for betting as sportsbooks jockeyed for the highest share of bettors, amplified by the fact that the NFL started allowing sportsbook ads during games last year.

“We’ve seen a major uptick in sportsbook advertising on TV since the start of 2021—but especially at the start of the NFL regular season, considering how popular betting on those games can be every weekend,” said Tyler Bobin, a senior brand analyst at iSpot. “New York’s addition to the growing list of US states with legalized sports betting has only added more fuel to a growing market.”

Why the onslaught? To convert as many people as possible, as early as possible, explained Heather Gundry, SVP and director of local investment for Dentsu, who buys media for a sportsbook client, though she declined to name the company.

“You want to get the largest share of voice and you want to get the most first-time depositors. Research has shown that once a customer signs on with one of the sportsbooks, they tend to stay with that sportsbook,” Gundry told Marketing Brew.

It isn’t so easy. The NFL, whose playoffs started January 15, allocates six 15–30 second spots per broadcast—one for the pregame, each quarter, and halftime—for only seven of the league’s approved partners. Broadcasters are then left to decide how they’ll divvy up those spots.

  • Most opt for a mix of six national and local spots before and during the game (a seventh typically runs during postgame), explained Julie Goldstein, SVP and investment lead at Dentsu, who’s focused on national media buying.
  • That means there are seven advertisers fighting for seven spots.
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“Clients were buying both, because while they wanted that national presence, they could change their messaging in the local states where they were legal. It was definitely a balance,” said Goldstein, who declined to talk about pricing besides noting that the ads were “on the higher end of pricing categories.”

Though she admitted that the wagering category is unlike any other, Dentsu (and other media agencies) were prepared to roll out their marketing-blitz campaigns in New York, having recently done the same in West Virginia in 2018, as well as Louisiana, which legalized sports gambling this fall. That meant ensuring local station partners were ready to go when the green light was given.

“This category, in general, is very last-minute as far as placing the inventory, and the stations are prepared for that,” she told Marketing Brew.

But, a thousand New Yorkers want to know, what about burnout? It was considered, said Gundry, who noted that the agency takes reach and frequency into account. “We did have concerns about burnout. That's why you see multiple commercials per sportsbook.”

Just remember, football season is over this Sunday.

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