Since NJ sports betting became legal this summer, casino-parent companies and sportsbook operators are in attack-mode to define their consumer footprint within New Jersey.
From opening brick-and-mortar sportsbook locations, launching apps, and establishing marketing partnerships, there are constant updates on the launch of new services or new relationships.
The sports betting companies have been active with the pool of three NJ-based professional sports teams.
While there are no deals as of yet with the New York Giants, 888 Casino struck a promotional deal with the New York Jets.
The NHL’s New Jersey Devils, in rapid-fire fashion, announced three sponsorship deals over a two-week period:
- Oct. 25: William Hill NJ sports lounge on Prudential Center’s main concourse.
- Oct. 30: Caesars restaurant/bar on Prudential Center’s main concourse.
- Nov. 6: FanDuel Sportsbook social, digital, and Devils’ in-game activations.
A closer look at the Devils’ deals
Let’s dig deeper into the recent Devils’ agreements.
These deals are an incredible run of interest, considering the franchise lost in the first round in 2017-18 after not making the playoffs the previous five seasons.
The Devils team finds itself in a perfect sponsorship storm of sorts. The team — whose current nine players are projected to grow to as many as 20 — can maximize revenues in a sports betting category.
Unlike other fragmented traditional categories (like, for example, the brewing industry), where beyond the top few companies, there remains limited marketing muscle, sports betting companies are new entries to New Jersey with the financial backing of parent companies.
The Devils also will benefit from the synergy of common ownership of the Philadelphia 76ers (Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment), which will be in a position to leverage sponsorship deals across both teams in Pennsylvania.
While the Devils are set to benefit from an active NJ sports betting marketplace, what about the companies?
Sometimes, in a highly competitive marketplace, the race to get the deal first can cause a rush to judgment in which not every component has been thoroughly vetted.
Having spent 20-plus years in the media buying and local sponsorship business for several national brands, here are some essential questions the sportsbook companies should ask as part of their overall approach to a new NJ Devils sponsorship association.
What’s the future of on-site betting windows?
Current NJ laws do not allow the William Hill/Caesar’s Prudential Center lounges to have betting windows.
With the long-range view that live betting could someday be permitted, it’s a smart strategy to secure an attractive piece of real estate at the arena.
This buy-and-hold strategy paid off for William Hill because the 2013 investment in a sports bar at Monmouth Park Racetrack became a sportsbook in the summer of 2018.
What about exclusivity versus non-exclusive arena partners?
The press releases note that both William Hill/Caesar’s concourse lounge agreements are “non-exclusive,” which leaves the door open for additional locations and/or marketing agreements by others in the sports betting industry.
Could there be more lounges or smaller betting kiosks in the future?
Ideally, a brand would desire to be exclusive, or the sole-marketing partner in its category. A sponsorship premium is associated with marketing or advertising exclusivity; in a potential playing field of up to 20 sports-betting companies, exclusivity is cost-prohibitive.
Within a non-exclusive arrangement, it’s unclear if Caesars or William Hill have outlined how they might define future activity.
The basic “share-of-voice” premise is that a property will be more impactful if it is one of two or one of three in the category. However, as the number of category sponsors increases, the level of individual brand awareness diminishes.
Point of differentiation among NJ sports betting fans
It will be interesting to see how the current three sports betting sponsors (William Hill, Caesars, and FanDuel) will differentiate themselves to the Devils’ fan base.
What are the fans’ incentives to go to either of the sports lounges? Especially if FanDuel is promoting its app on the scoreboard during live action, informing fans to stay at their seats to wager versus walking through concourse crowds to visit one of the lounges during intermission?
Hockey’s lower tier position in the sports betting landscape
While individual NJ betting handle figures are evolving for 2018, historical Las Vegas data shows the NHL significantly trailing NFL, NBA and college basketball in comparative dollars wagered.
The half-full outlook suggests there is an opportunity to grow NHL betting, especially through promoting in-play wagering, unique game and player props, and enhanced data via direct association with the league.
Still, it’s an interesting approach to use the NHL as a base for fueling sports betting growth.
Measuring what success looks like
It’s essential to have an on-going baseline for measuring success for each of the sponsorship agreements.
They will differ by each company, but it’s critical that Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) be established, tracked and monitored throughout the year. The KPIs can be as straightforward as the number of new mobile app downloads or as complex as an increase in brand awareness.
The KPIs can provide the necessary data to dial-up or -down activities and assist with developing a Return on Investment (ROI) for a renewal/extension discussion.
Audience reach for college events and more
As referenced, the NHL Devils are the primary tenant at the Prudential Center. The Devils will play about 50 games per year, counting pre-season and hopefully a few decent playoff runs.
The other tenant, the college basketball team the Seton Hall Pirates, will play an average of 10 to 15 games per year.
New Jersey sports betting laws prevent wagering on any college games involving New Jersey-based schools. How will this work regarding lounges being open during Seton Hall games? Is messaging about sports betting allowed during these games? We will see how this unfolds.
Additionally, we assume that Caesars, William Hill, and FanDuel conducted due diligence to understand the relative audience composition at the other events held at Prudential Center. Since players must be 21 years or older to make sports bets in New Jersey, events such as Disney on Ice, Monster Trucks, and WWE wrestling are likely out of the question.
The future is today, but what will tomorrow bring?
These are indeed heady days for the NJ sports betting industry.
While the associations and marketing activity are coming at a fast-and-furious pace, it’s a critical time for sports-betting companies. They need to establish a foothold and build brand loyalty with consumers.
With up to 20 sports-betting companies entering the market — along with a small number of sports franchises — it will be fascinating to see how each of the companies market themselves to build a presence in New Jersey.