FanDuel, DraftKings Lead Ad Spending Surge Among Online Sportsbooks


FanDuel and DraftKings accounted for a significant percentage of the $154 million spent in the first quarter by online sportsbook operators on local television advertising.

DraftKings CommercialDraftKings Commercial
A man celebrates his winnings in an old DraftKings daily fantasy sports commercial. The company and its rivals are spending big on local TV ads for sports betting. (Image: YouTube)

The two largest mobile sportsbook companies by market share combined for $101 million in local TV ad spending in the first three months of the year, according to Nielsen data.

The $154 million gaming companies spent on TV advertising in the January through March period is a massive increase from the $10.7 million spent in the comparable period in 2019 — just months after the 2018 Supreme Court ruling on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). More growth could be coming.

According to BIA Advisory Services, online gambling has the potential to drive more than $587 million into the local spot TV market by 2024,” says Nielsen.

FanDuel, a unit of Flutter Entertainment, allocated $57 million to local TV ads in the first three months of this year, while rival DraftKings plunked down $44 million. BetMGM, a 50/50 joint venture between MGM Resorts International and Entain Plc, was in the third spot with a $25 million spend.

For DraftKings, Rivals, It Takes Money to Make Money

Marketing is essential in any consumer-facing industry, and that’s particularly true in the hyper-competitive iGaming and online sportsbook segments.

The rub for operators is that analysts and investors are increasingly scrutinizing marketing spends and gaming companies’ pathways to profitability. DraftKings is proof positive of that trend. As one of a small amount of pure-play internet casino and online sports betting companies on the market today, DraftKings doesn’t have the luxury of being a unit of a larger firm, like FanDuel, or a partnership, such as BetMGM.

Shares of DraftKings shed more than 40 percent from the March highs due, in part, to investor concerns about marketing spending, customer acquisition and retention costs, and the timeline for the company to turn profitable.

Conversely, rival Barstool Sportsbook, a unit of Penn National Gaming, isn’t among the top five spenders in the Nielsen report. That’s because the operator is actively leveraging the Barstool brand rather than allocating large amounts of capital to gaining customers. Something Barstool personalities brag about.

The Winner is Local TV

The surge in spending by gaming companies is benefiting local TV stations, providing a needed boost at a precarious time for broader advertising allocations.

Forecasts aside, the increase in online gambling ads has been a boon for local TV stations, particularly as many traditional advertisers pulled back or paused in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” adds Nielsen.

The research firm points out ad spending by automotive companies, retailers, and restaurant chains declined last year. Another interesting point is the type of programming where a DraftKings or FanDuel ad is most likely to appear. Hint: It’s not sports.

“Surprisingly, the largest share of online sports betting ads is currently allocated to news programming,” said Nielsen. “One reason attributable to this fact is that local news stations have much more control over their total ad inventory (versus sports programming, which typically occurs in primetime), and as a result, there is more flexibility to place ads in news.”

Following local TV, gaming companies allocated nearly $25 million to national digital spots and almost $6 million to network TV ads in the first three months of the year. Outdoor (billboards and related ads) and local radio combined for about $9.5 million.

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