In a historic agreement, the National Football League (NFL) has named DraftKings as pro football’s “official daily fantasy sports (DFS) partner.”
Since its founding in 2011, the Boston-based DraftKings has allowed players to wager and win real money via DFS contests, the bulk of which center around NFL action.
Per a press release issued by the NFL issued on September 26, its union with DraftKings entails an exclusive DFS sponsorship which allows for cross-branding across both company’s respective media platforms.
Among the possibilities for this cross-branding campaign are the NFL Network including official DraftKings player prices in its DFS coverage, and DraftKings gaining access to proprietary NFL statistics, highlights, and logos.
The press release also notes that nearly 90 percent of all DraftKings players have participated in an NFL-based DFS contest.
The NFL has historically been opposed to gambling, sanctioned or otherwise, on its on-field product.
Back in 2015 – during the height of a national DFS craze fueled by an advertising war between DraftKings and chief rival FanDuel – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell drew a sharp distinction between season-long fantasy football leagues and daily fantasy wagers while answering a fan query:
“We see a big distinction between season-long fantasy and daily fantasy. Season-long fantasy is (what) many people probably play in this room and it’s fun, it’s social, it’s an opportunity to enjoy the game.
We encourage our kids to do it and they have clubs at school and it’s a way to connect people. And we think that’s a wonderful way.
Daily fantasy’s taken a little different approach, and it’s one that we have not been as active in that. We want to make sure that we understand how it’s going to be done.”
Nearly four years later, it appears as though Goodell and the NFL have come to that understanding.
In the aforementioned press release, Renie Anderson – who serves as chief revenue officer and executive vice president of NFL partnerships – praised DraftKings as the perfect partner for America’s most popular professional sports league:
“Daily fantasy football has been a tremendous vehicle for fans of all types to deepen their engagement with the NFL.
We’re thrilled to partner with DraftKings, a clear leader in the daily fantasy space, as they continue to innovate and provide our millions of fans additional ways to interact with and enjoy the NFL.”
In the company’s official statement, DraftKings’ chief executive officer Jason Robins positioned its NFL partnership as a watershed development for the DFS industry:
“This is a defining moment in the industry, and we are thrilled to become the first daily fantasy sports partner to enter into a formal relationship with the NFL.
Throughout our discussions with the League, it was evident we share a common vision around the future of fan engagement, and we are excited to continue on this unique journey with the NFL as our Official Daily Fantasy Partner.”
In the jointly issued press release, The NFL makes clear that its deal with DraftKings is limited to DFS only:
“The DraftKings-NFL partnership does not include any promotional rights for sports betting.”
But with DraftKings currently pivoting into the regulated sports betting sphere, following last year’s repeal of a federal ban on the industry outside of Nevada, an NFL / DraftKings sportsbook partnership could be in the works. DraftKings currently operates legal sportsbooks – in both the brick and mortar and online / mobile variety – in New Jersey, New York, Mississippi, and West Virginia.
In comments made to the Associated Press (AP) after the DFS deal was made public, Renie Anderson explained that the NFL is still assessing its plans for full-fledged sports betting partnerships.
“The focus is to make sure that we’re protecting the consumer and the integrity of the game.
We’re going to take our time, when we feel it’s ready and right to go into that space, that we’ve dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s.”
The other three major American professional sports leagues – the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), and National Hockey League (NHL) – have each signed up with MGM Resorts to collaborate on sports betting initiatives.
The NBA and NHL have also linked up with fellow DFS and sportsbook operator FanDuel, while DraftKings has thus far failed to form similar relationships.