One of the biggest marketing campaigns by a licensed online gambling company in New Jersey suffered a serious blow last week when it was announced the relationship between the Philadelphia 76ers and partypoker would be coming to a close. The deal between the 76ers and partypoker was one part of a larger marketing arrangement signed in January of 2014 – the remainder of the deal appears to still be in place.
Speaking to Philly.com, 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil confirmed the partnership had ended. O’Neil declined to discuss what caused the deal to be terminated, other than telling Philly.com that multi-year deals often have “triggers” that allow for “adjustments based on market opportunity.”
In fact, we don’t even know which side terminated the agreement. And there are plenty of potential explanations (the so-called “triggers”) for the deal coming to an end:
- bwin.party is in the midst of being sold to GVC Holdings. Amaya Gaming is rumored to be interested in purchasing bwin.party’s U.S. assets from GVC. bwin.party divested itself of the World Poker Tour earlier this year, so a breakup of the company isn’t out of the question.
- Pennsylvania is inching closer to legalizing online gambling (a market opportunity for the 76ers).
- Advertising in the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border market may not have been profitable for bwin.party, which may have triggered the early termination clause.
- DraftKings and the 76ers have a marketing relationship, which may have impacted the partypoker deal for a couple of reasons, including DraftKings paying more money for the same signage. Or, less likely, the rumored sale of partypoker assets to Amaya which owns a rival DFS site, StarsDraft. Or, less even likely, DraftKings’ desire to distance itself from gambling websites.
Of note, the 76ers deal with beleaguered daily fantasy sports site DraftKings remains in place.
Deal was first of its kind for NJ online gambling
With the New Jersey online gambling industry in its infancy, partypoker inked a first of its kind sponsorship deal with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the Prudential Center – all of which are owned by Josh Harris – in January of 2014.
Partnerships between legal gambling sites and sports franchises are run of the mill in Europe. But in the United States this was a very big deal, and was expected to usher in a new, more aggressive age of online gambling marketing in the U.S. – these expectations were never realized.
As part of the deal, partypoker signage was displayed in the arena and along the boards of Devils’ home games and on the backboard stanchion and announcer’s table bib at 76ers’ home games. There were also kiosks located around the arena where attendees could register an account at partypoker’s New Jersey online gambling site.
On its end, partypoker created a special promotion dubbed Dream Seat Series, in which qualifiers could win tickets to Devils or 76ers games or to special events at the Prudential Center such as concerts.
The agreement between partypoker and Harris’s sports franchises and arena was rumored to be a multi-year deal with a cost that ran well into the seven-figures. And while it’s difficult to put a price tag on branding efforts in a new, untapped market, the deal has never really reaped the dividends many anticipated when it was announced.
The Dream Seat Series promotions at NJ.partypoker.com fizzled out, and the signage did little to bring players to the online poker tables of partypoker, or even solve the low consumer awareness the industry has suffered from in New Jersey.
Still, the deal demonstrated what was possible in a legalized online gambling environment, and as more states add online gambling, these types of agreements could multiply.