Sports betting operators are looking to bring back users in droves with expansive promo packages as MLB, the NBA, and NHL all start playing live games.
Since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States and effectively shut down sports, those operators have looked for ways to keep bettors engaged. While some products – like table tennis – were able to draw bets, the past several months have seen a fraction of what normally comes in during the spring and early summer alongside the NBA and NHL playoffs, not to mention the millions bet on the NCAA tournament.
Operators have spent the hiatus from live games in the U.S. largely focused on the back end of their products and building out content and marketing, while hoping fringe sports like Belarussian soccer and darts could keep driving some revenue.
Now that strategy has shifted to heavy promos, aiming to hook the bettors who kept money in their pockets or haven’t yet found a preferred betting platform.
“Not having sports action for over two months was certainly a challenge for the industry and fans,” FanDuel CEO Matt King said. “There is certainly pent up demand for the top U.S. sports. It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to be creative and provide fans with unique offerings they can’t find elsewhere.”
FanDuel, in turn, is distributing $80 million – $10 to each registered user – that can be used to enter daily fantasy sports contests or place legal bets.
Other major betting platforms like BetMGM and DraftKings are also offering significant promos. DraftKings pushed a promo of up to $1,000 for MLB Opening Day. BetMGM has an up to $500 risk-free bet promo in New Jersey.
Up-and-coming DFS company Monkey Knife Fight is relying on data to offer promotions to users rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
“Even though reactivating users from a sports shutdown is not something any of us have experienced before, we are banking on the data to drive our promotional plans,” Monkey Knife Fight President Nic Sulsky said. “We will also launch an array of fun and unique social media contests to give our dedicated community even more ways to have MKF’ing fun.”
As FanDuel rolls out a major promotional package, theScore is making its most significant investment in a promo, offering 5% cash back up to $2,500 in a 60-day window.
“We’re excited to roll it out,” said Aubrey Levy, theScore vice president of content and marketing. “We were ready to go with something for this for March Madness, so we’ve been sitting anxiously ready for it.”
The promotions should help draw bettors who have been waiting for the major U.S. traditional stick and ball sports to return and spend more and fill handles that were missed the past several months.
Still, the hiatus has also helped bring other sports to the forefront.
“We noticed our customers are much more engaged in events like the NFL Draft, golf, and UFC than they would normally have been,” King said. “Our customers have a growing interest in these sports, and such sporting events act as a bridge back to reality and normality around the core U.S. sports. We can continue to play into that.”
Sulsky said Monkey Knife Fights demand for ‘secondary’ sports were unparalleled, with overall handle for non-Big Four sports up 180% year-over-year.
“Each week, we see more unique active users try their hand at UFC, NASCAR, and soccer, and we have seen more unique active users play golf contests than we have ever had on our platform,” Sulsky said.
While sports like golf and UFC are likely to dip a bit with MLB, NBA, and the NHL back in action, they’re still likely to get more attention than before, said Patrick Eichner, director of communications for PointsBet.
Eichner said a good indicator of the pent up demand to bet for those major U.S. leagues was the Bundeliga’s return – for two weeks, the German soccer league did numbers comparable to the NBA regular season.
“A good example is table tennis; as soccer, golf, and UFC started coming back, clients were still enjoying it and often still was in the top three,” Eichner said. “If that proves to play out, the betting habits that people started to develop during this COVID time might have lasting power – particularly with golf, because there’s so much value.”
This glut of sports activity could cause some cannibalization of bets, but many in the industry feel like it will sort itself out. More than anything, the increase in activity will also push the integrated content forward; an aspect theScore has built its platform around.
Levy said most users stayed engaged reading content – albeit less frequently – and he expects a significant increase as baseball box scores start filling up, then basketball, then hockey. TheScore announced its quarterly earnings on July 28, noting its media platforms retained 2.9 million users, 75% of the users in the same period last year. The company’s quarterly revenue was $2.4 million, down compared to last year’s $8.5 million.
With so many leagues and sports back at one time, Levy said both content and betting engagement should return quickly.
“It’s unprecedented to have the NFL overlapped with the NBA playoffs,” he said. “We’re excited for it because there’s such a pent up demand, not for betting but just to consume sports.”
FanDuel entered the pandemic’s shutdown already a dominant force in the DFS and sports betting landscape – along with competitor DraftKings – but King hopes an active few months will help continue to separate it from the pack. The company pushed out DFS contests around esports, reality TV shows, the Drone Racing League, and sim sports.
On the marketing side, FanDuel entered a content and distribution deal with the 24-hour channel SportsGrid and partnerships with former NFL player and sports media personality Pat McAfee and The Ringer.
“We’re proud of our growth as a media and entertainment company,” King said. “Content is king, and consumers today are consuming content on more platforms than ever before. We have entered exciting partnerships that will keep the brand top of mind across social, digital, television, streaming, podcasts, radio, and more.”