Unlike their counterparts in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania’s professional sports teams lack the option to have an on-property sportsbook. But that doesn’t mean the teams aren’t taking advantage of some of the biggest names in sports betting.
In fact, the Philadelphia Eagles chose to partner with three sportsbook operators. When Lincoln Financial Field welcomes fans again, DraftKings, FoxBet, and Unibet will have a prominent presence at the stadium, including lounges where bettors can sign up for mobile sports wagering accounts, take breaks from sitting in the stands, or grab a bite to eat.
Looking in from the outside, it seems redundant to have multiple partners in the same space. But it turns out, that strategy is anything but.
“Why don’t [we] go exclusive? Well, we’re very thoughtful in maintaining a meaningful share of voice, and how we execute that is by providing very different opportunities and very different platforms for each partner,” Catherine Carlson, the Eagles’ senior vice president for revenue and strategy, shared during a G2E webinar in late February.
Partnerships abound around the state
Since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned in 2018, legal sports betting has become a states’ rights issue. Pennsylvania was at the very forefront of that wave, legalizing sports betting as a future possibility in October 2017, though the first operator didn’t go live until November 2018. The state’s law allows for retail and statewide digital betting, but sports betting platforms must be tied to an existing casino property.
In several other U.S. jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., Illinois, and Virginia, professional sports franchises can have retail sportsbooks in their stadiums. In May 2020, Washington’s Capital One Arena became the first in the nation to open a sportsbook. Partner William Hill is operating a temporary space while the permanent book is being built out.
In Pennsylvania, the Eagles are one of five pro sports teams have announced partnerships with digital gaming operators. Here’s a look at the others:
NBA Philadelphia 76ers: BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings
NHL Philadelphia Flyers: SugarHouse (now BetRivers)
NFL Pittsburgh Steelers: BetMGM
NHL Pittsburgh Penguins: Rush Street Interactive/BetRivers
Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates have not announced deals with sportsbook operators.
Three partners, three strategies
The Eagles, so far, have been the most aggressive in the state when it comes to leveraging partnerships. Carlson said the team partnered with Unibet to create an online casino game using the Eagles IP and marks, which has been “tremendously successful” for their business.
Fly Eagles Fly…
Unibet launches first ever professional sports themed casino games in the UShttps://t.co/R1ZSn7YR7k
— Alfonso Straffon ???????????????????????? (@astraffon) October 26, 2020
“Their focus was on building brand awareness and credibility in the marketplace, because people weren’t familiar with their brands in the U.S.,” Carlson said. “So that involved a lot of brand-building assets, like stadium signage, digital media assets, and use of IP and marks.”
Both DraftKings and FOX Bet will have lounges at Lincoln Financial Field. DraftKings will host a VIP Lounge for the operator’s top customers, and FOX Bet’s 4,000-square-foot-space will contain a broadcast studio, an area dedicated to “activating” customers, and a lounge area. The similarities end there.
“FOX Bet already had high brand recognition through the Fox parent brand,” Carlson said, “but they were relatively new to the legalized sports betting market here in the U.S., so we were really able to tap into their strength of media content using Fox on-air talent and Fox-branded content, and pushing it out via Eagles channels.”
DraftKings, which is among the most well-known brands in the sports betting business, had different goals for its partnership.
“We’re focused with fan engagement and customer acquisition through their free-to-play games, and during the season, working with media assets and tapping into some of our fan-favorite assets, such as our livestream of practice.”
On balance, the Eagles are benefiting the same way through three very different deals — the team is getting its name in front of fans on a daily basis and is creating new reasons for patrons to visit Lincoln Financial Field.
“So, it’s three very distinct partners, and it’s a property’s choice if they go exclusive or go with multiple partners,” Carlson said. “But I feel like we’ve had a very successful model here at the Eagles in creating truly meaningful value with partners in the space.”