Since Ontario’s regulated online betting and gaming market opened on April 4 — and even before, in the lead-up to that launch — the province’s betting and gaming sector has been characterized by partnerships between brands, leagues, teams, broadcasters, and players alike.
That is unlikely to slow down any time soon. In fact, as we hurtle towards another sports season, it may well only gather pace and momentum. The NFL regular season starts on September 8, while the NBA regular season gets going on October 18.
At a Sponsorship Marketing Council Canada Breakfast Forum on August 24, this topic was the subject of a panel discussion moderated by Kindred Group’s Amanda Brewer and featuring NBA executive Kuljeet Sindhar, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s Caspar Yue, PointsBet Canada’s Keesje Kort, and Parleh Media Group’s Noor Zainab.
“You’re going to see more partnerships and sponsorships,” said Yue. “It’s forced us to be more creative.”
Indeed, the OLG, which held a provincial monopoly on online sports betting until the market opened up, has looked to retain its market leadership amid the influx of private operators by striking deals to become an official sportsbook of all four major leagues in North America: the NFL, the NHL, the MLB, and the NBA.
Several private operators have also looked to partner with those leagues as a way of establishing greater brand recognition and visibility in Ontario.
Another partnership struck by FanDuel is with the giant of Toronto sports, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. MLSE, the owner of the Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto FC, and Toronto Argonauts franchises, has also united with fellow Flutter brand PokerStars, as well as Kort’s PointsBet Canada.
It’s not just leagues that have appealed to sportsbooks as a way of boosting their appeal and allure in the market.
One of the most notable and visible deals struck in the market so far has been theScore Bet’s 10-year contract to become the exclusive official gaming and betting partner of the Toronto Blue Jays, Canada’s only MLB franchise. That has seen theScore Bet signage and betting offerings integrated into the Rogers Centre and the Jays’ digital media.
Even before the market opened, PointsBet had come to a similar arrangement with the CFL franchise Ottawa Redblacks which saw the PointsBet Canada logo featured on all Redblacks jerseys this season, along with prominent branding throughout their TD Place stadium.
Then, there are the media hook-ups. Brands including NorthStar Gaming and BetRivers have signed notable Canadian sports broadcasters to be ambassadors for their sportsbook and other offerings, while FanDuel went one further by partnering with the entire TSN sports network.
Brands may also see great potential in partnering with players themselves. The precedent has been set by BetMGM, who have not only signed up Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky as a brand ambassador but also made Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid the first active NHLer to partner with an approved regulated sportsbook back in March.
And, in March, the new rectified MLB collective bargaining agreement left room for active players to endorse approved private sportsbooks in the Ontario market.
Given this development, plus the fact the 2022-23 NFL and NBA seasons are the first to take place after the opening of Ontario’s regulated betting market, the opportunities offered by such partnerships — not least the chance to convert sports fans into sports bettors — seem only likely to increase.
“When we take a step back and look at the assets that sports betting operators have and are accruing, they are uniquely and centrally positioned to play a leading role in supporting media companies, sports leagues, teams, federations, and national sport organizations operating at the confluence of technology, data, media, content and the next generation of customer, providing opportunities for both greater breadth and depth of engagement,” added Jeff Harris of Deloitte at the panel session.