The Premier Lacrosse League was riding high after its inaugural season in 2019. The league sold out its championship game at just under 14,000 people and provided NBC with well above the predicted number of subscribers for the new Premier Lacrosse League Pass on NBC Sports Gold.
The coronavirus pandemic then prompted the league to postpone its 2020 campaign in April, while leaving PLL staff to assess several sponsorship agreements with brands that were also facing unexpected headwinds.
“Some sponsors had to reevaluate what our relationship would look like in 2020,” Mike Rabil, PLL CEO and co-founder said. “All of them have stuck by us, and none of them have actually pulled out completely.”
Other multi-year sponsorship partners were able to stay the course, according to Rabil. Beginning on March 13, the PLL set up bi-weekly calls with brands to share updates on respective business performance without live sporting events taking place.
The PLL is now getting set to begin its second season on NBC’s networks on July 25 with the PLL Championship Series – a condensed two-week tournament spanning 20 games.
“As soon as we had a clear path forward, we talked about updated assets and how we can bring to life their brands on the field, off the field, and throughout the calendar year,” Rabil said. “Partners have told us they are still getting four-to-five times the value of the deal they struck with us in 2019, even with our consolidated season.”
Rabil did not specifically cite any sponsors. But the PLL’s existing partners include the likes of Adidas, Gatorade, and Capital One. The league has also used the pause in play to bring a handful of new sponsors onboard ahead of the PLL Championship Series this summer.
Progressive, Sun Chlorella, and CBD company Mendi have all signed on in recent months. DraftKings will additionally serve as the official sports betting partner of the PLL for the 2020 season.
“The ability for us to bring in new dollars into the platform and a pandemic while not playing, I think, just shows the strength of what we’ve been building,” Rabil said.
Lacrosse fans will now be able to wager on professional lacrosse for the first time in the U.S., thanks to the DraftKings deal announced on July 16. Betting odds will also be integrated into broadcasts of PLL matches on NBC, NBCSN, and NBC Sports Gold.
“Following in line with our innovative broadcasts during the inaugural season of the PLL, including mic’d up players and in-game player and commentator interviews, we are excited for the integration of sports betting into our broadcasts for viewers to engage with,” Dan Steir, senior vice president of production and senior coordinating producer of NBC Sports Group, said in an email.
In December 2018, NBC Sports also launched a sports predictor app with single-game contests that allow fans of the NFL, NASCAR, the PGA Tour, and the English Premier League to win cash prizes by correctly predicting results during live broadcasts. Much to sponsors’ delight, a higher percentage of the PLL’s 20-match season will be available to fans on linear television – 70%, compared to 50% of the 40 total games in 2019.
Four games, including the championship match on August 9, will be available nationally on NBC. Ten others will be found on NBCSN, with the last six exclusively on NBC Sports Gold. Premier Lacrosse League Pass on the sports-focused OTT service will also be available internationally to fans in 13 countries for the first time.
Steir said this will be “the most-ever professional lacrosse games on broadcast television over a two-week span.”
Both the PLL and NBC note that deciding whether upcoming matches will feature artificial fan noise has not been made as of July 21. Like other sports, Rabil says the league’s intention is not to fabricate the live experience too much.
“If we do it, it’s going to be sort of subdued like white noise,” he said. “We’re evaluating it, and it will be one of those decisions we make right at the goal line.”