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NFL Partnership With FanDuel Extended To Canada

James Murphy
by in NFL on
This billboard would be just as effective without the NFL logo and 'official partner' blurb
  • The National Football League (NFL) has extended their ‘official sportsbook’ partnership with FanDuel into Canada.
  • FanDuel is one of the NFL’s three ‘top tier’ sportsbook partners along with DraftKings and Caesars Sportsbook.
  • FanDuel launched in the red hot Ontario market in early April.

The NFL is doing everything imaginable to monetize sports betting. In April 2021, they announced DraftKings, FanDuel and Caesars Sportsbook as ‘tri-exclusive sportsbook partners’. It’s unclear if ‘tri-exclusive’ is a legitimate concept (ie: there are three of them meaning that by definition they’re not exclusive) but the three books no doubt paid a heavy price for the multi-year agreement. Here’s the description of the ‘Official Sports Betting Partner’ perks from the press release announcing the deal:

The National Football League today announced its first-ever U.S. sportsbook partnerships as Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings and FanDuel have reached agreements to become Official Sports Betting Partners of the NFL. As part of these multi-year agreements, all three partners will have the exclusive ability to leverage NFL marks within the sports betting category and activate around retail and online sports betting. They will also engage with fans through NFL-themed free-to-play games.

Additionally, Caesars, DraftKings and FanDuel will have the right to integrate relevant sports betting content directly into NFL Media properties including NFL.com and the NFL App. DraftKings and FanDuel will enhance their fan experiences with NFL highlights, footage and Next Gen Stats content. Caesars and the NFL will collaborate on integrating NFL content into Caesars platforms as well. Caesars, DraftKings and FanDuel will all use the NFL’s official League data feed.

A few months later, the NFL announced that PointsBet had been named an ‘official approved sportsbook’. At the time, we were left scratching our heads as to a) what this meant for the tri-exclusive sportsbooks and b) what was different about the presumably subordinate status of an ‘approved sportsbook’:

The NFL doesn’t miss a trick when it comes to revenue generation and that definitely applies to sports betting. They monetized their data rights in a deal with Genius Sports worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion USD. They’ve also signed on several ‘Official Sports Betting Partners’ including Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings and FanDuel. It looks as if PointsBet is part of a secondary tier of sportsbooks that are essentially paying the league directly for official data and advertising access to a variety of NFL properties. The usual caveat with all deals of this sort–there’s no firm data on the cost/benefit relationship of being an ‘Approved Sportsbook Operator’ versus being an ‘Official Sports Betting Partner’ versus not having any type of official league status at all. There may be some type of ‘seal of approval’ in the eyes of recreational bettors but there’s yet to be any proof of that. There are a variety of reasons that bettors patronize certain sportsbooks–favorable odds, ease of use, sign up bonuses, brand recognition, etc.–but few are likely to consider a book’s promotional relationship with a league, team or player.

It only took a couple of days before the league announced that FoxBet was also an ‘approved sportsbook’, with BetMGM and WynnBET in the pipeline. By that point, we had something of an explanation of the ‘approved sportsbook’ status:

The relationship provides PointsBet with sponsorship opportunities and brand visibility via unique integrations across various television and digital assets, including NFL owned networks as well as their full suite of media partners. PointsBet also gains use of official NFL data, ultimately enhancing the customer experience.

But wait! Didn’t Genius Sports pay for the exclusive right to distribute official data?

By contrast, it doesn’t look like ‘Approved Sportsbook Operators’ get much. Official league data is of questionable worth relative to data from one of the many first rate companies specializing in betting data such as Sportradar and Genius Sports. A few jurisdictions require the use of ‘official league data’ but that can be obtained without being an ‘approved sportsbook operator’. Genius Sports is dropping $1 billion USD to disseminate official league data so if a book is required to use it they can just buy it ‘a la carte’. In fact, were I running Genius Sports and expecting to get some return on my ten figure investment by packaging official league data for sportsbooks I’m not sure that I’d appreciate the NFL for all intents and purposes selling it through other channels to some of the biggest names in the betting biz.

Ontario launched the first competitive mobile gaming market in Canada on April 4. It has quickly become arguably the hottest sports betting market in the world with all of the major US players getting involved. You might think that FanDuel’s ‘official sportsbook partner’ status would extend to Canada, but you’d be wrong. More specifically, the status didn’t extend to Canada until FanDuel scratched out another check:

FanDuel Group, North America’s premier online gaming company, has entered into a multi-year partnership with the National Football League (NFL) as an Official Sportsbook Partner in Canada, expanding the brands’ existing U.S. partnership across North America. The announcement comes as FanDuel continues their growth in the Ontario market and will allow Canadian football fans deeper engagement with their favourite sport.

As part of the expanded North American partnership, FanDuel will have rights to use official NFL and member club IP in a variety of ways to engage fans in an authentic way. The brand will also have rights to create NFL-themed free-to-play games and run NFL-themed campaigns, including exciting opportunities for FanDuel users to win trips to NFL games—including the Super Bowl. FanDuel’s advertising will feature prominently on NFL-operated digital platforms, including nfl.com.

Nice touch using the British English spelling of ‘favourite’, which is also common in Canada. That’s no doubt a perk of FanDuel’s partnership with the NFL. FanDuel already has some other high profile partnerships in Canada including sports network TSN (the exclusive broadcast partner of the NFL in Canada) and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. They also signed a clever deal with the NHL Buffalo Sabres–Buffalo is just two hours from Toronto, so they get exposure in New York State and Ontario for one low, low price.

Gavin Kemp, Director of Corporate Partnerships, NFL Canada dropped the press release quote on behalf of the league:

“With the FanDuel partnership in Canada we are able to provide fans with unique and entertaining experiences that will continue to drive high engagement for both organizations. FanDuel is an established global leader in the gaming space and we are excited to bring Canadian NFL fans even closer to the game.”

Dale Hooper, General Manager, FanDuel Canada, did the honors for his company:

“With the FanDuel partnership in Canada we are able to provide fans with unique and entertaining experiences that will continue to drive high engagement for both organizations. FanDuel is an established global leader in the gaming space and we are excited to bring Canadian NFL fans even closer to the game.”

I’ve yet to see any empirical evidence that there’s a clear return on investment from this type of ‘official partnership’ with a sports league. Sports betting existed for many years despite the outright contempt of the professional sports industry and the disdain of the mainstream media. If someone wants to bet on a NFL game, they can do so just as easily and effectively at a sportsbook that lists only the team names than at an ‘official’ sportsbook that can use the team logos.

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