With US major league sports all in action and sportsbooks vying for market share by increasing advertising, industry watchdogs and regulators are starting to warn of regulation. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Advertising war of attrition
With new seasons underway for all major professional sports leagues in the US, rival sportsbooks are waging an advertising war of attrition. This increased marketing focus has caught the concerned eye of some regulators and industry watchdogs.
Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings, and FanDuel each spent over $15m
Market tracker iSpot.tv has reported that between September 9 and October 17, rival operators Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings, and FanDuel each spent over $15m on national advertising. The fight for brand recognition has included legendary athletes in TV ads, billboards vying for attention, and even superimposed sportsbook logos on pitchers’ mounds.
This increase in sportsbook marketing has caused regulators and lawmakers to warn that they may intervene if operators take it too far.
Sportsbooks duke it out
In its Q3 2021 report, iSpot said it analyzed “every second” of TV advertising across hundreds of sources. iSpot analyst Sammi Scharninghausen reportedly noted: “Live sports dominated ad impressions and primetime broadcast spend was up 16% compared to 2019.”
The US’s leading betting firms are spending big on ads during live sports. According to iSpot, more than 80% of FanDuel’s 2021 TV ads took place during sports-related programming. DraftKings, meanwhile, reported revenue of almost $620m for the first half of 2021. During that period, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said DraftKings spent about two-thirds of that amount on sales and marketing.
As reported by WSJ, DraftKings has affirmed that its commercials promote its brand, while also highlighting “responsible gaming messaging that reminds customers of the resources they have to play safely.” In contrast, FanDuel declined to comment on its increased marketing efforts, while Caesars failed to respond at all.
Stark words of warning
The sports betting advertising onslaught has caught the attention of many, including David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement.
the government will step in”
Speaking during the regulator’s panel discussion in September, Rebuck warned: “If the industry does not control itself, the government will step in and certainly create standards they may not want.”
Elsewhere, Colorado’s legal sports betting market launched in May last year. The state now has 25 digital sports wagering operators all competing for market share across multiple channels. In the face of viewer complaints, Colorado House Speaker Alec Garnett has said he could introduce restrictions on advertising similar to limits on marijuana ads.
According to WSJ, Garnett asked whether the sports betting industry will “solve the problem for itself,” or if the advertising saturation is “here to stay.” He warned: “I think if it’s here to stay, then at some point, for sure, there’s going to be action.”
Many sports wagering executives contend that advertising, like sports, is seasonal, and that the ad spree will calm down as the war of attrition winnows out sports betting companies. This is because sportsbooks need a high volume of wagers to remain profitable.
US heading Europe’s way?
Could the attention sports betting advertising is getting from US regulators and lawmakers end up a national issue the world over?
Sports betting advertising has been in the firing line for some time across Europe. According to a report from Sportsmail last month, the UK government intends to ban front-of-shirt sponsorships in soccer. In Ireland, a new gambling law proposal has called for a ban on free bets in the country, along with the appointment of a regulator to set time and frequency limits on TV and radio ads.
In November 2020, Spain’s Council of State approved new gambling advertising laws. One of the most eye-catching new rules prohibits gambling operator sponsorship of sports teams.