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The Ascendance of Legal Betting Is the Best (and Worst) Thing to Happen to Sports Marketers

There is no doubt that the continued adoption of legalized sports gambling across the U.S. will be a boon to the sports industry, including the many businesses and brands aligned with leagues, teams, events and players to market their products and services.


As every sponsor knows, more betting will bring in more fans, increase their engagement, and offer new and compelling activation opportunities. Not to mention it will financially strengthen properties, putting them in position to be better partners, or at least be somewhat less dependent on the revenues they receive from their corporate sponsors and ticket buyers.


Additionally, and critically, betting—along with new ways to consume sports content—is key to attracting the Millennial and Gen Z fans sports desperately need to secure their future.


So what could be wrong? In truth, it’s a problem that most in our business will gladly accept as the price for having an influx of fans and dollars flood the sports industry.


As betting becomes even more integral to sports, and as it becomes the primary reason for many people’s interest in games, matches, tournaments, etc., marketers will find themselves reaching two very different consumer segments—and needing to increase activation spending to develop distinct messaging and promotions for each group if they are to deliver relevant engagement that will help them achieve objectives.


On one hand, brands and rights holders will need to tap into the passions of conventional fans who prioritize winning, tradition, the live experience, merchandise, storytelling, player personalities, etc.


On the other, they will need to speak to gamblers, who are as much or more engaged with leagues, teams or games, but from a completely different perspective. Access to data, information and community, with a focus on technology, speed and insights will rule the day.


Although not an issue for brands with products or services targeted to only one of those segments—nor much of a problem for B2B marketers interested primarily in hospitality and entertainment—companies in most B2C categories will want to reach both groups, meaning they will need to redouble their sponsorship efforts.


This sets up a negotiating scenario where a property points to its increased numbers of fans and followers and seeks a fee commensurate with the added value being delivered, while the partner counters with an explanation that its increased activation costs prevent it from spending too much on the rights fee alone.


Far from an intractable problem, but the issue of a new, bifurcated sports audience does present challenges for brands and properties alike.

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