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More than a money game: Understanding the rapid convergence of sports and betting in the US

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

It’s not just about the revenue, said Genius SportsMatt Ryter, who explains why the rapid convergence of sports and betting in the US is also driven by the desire to increase fan engagement and reach new audiences.

In an interview with SBC Americas, Ryter – Head of Fan Engagement, Americas at Genius Sports – looks at how sportsbooks can differentiate themselves and create a complete betting experience for fans across key US leagues.

Ryter is speaking on a ‘fan experience’ panel at the SBC Summit North America conference in New Jersey later today.

SBCA: Firstly, if we look at it from a fan’s perspective, how does betting enhance the game-day experience?

MR: Over the last three years, each of the major leagues and multiple other sports rights holders have integrated betting as a central part of their fan engagement strategies.

While the revenue and integrity benefits are clear, a rapid convergence with betting by US sports is also being driven by the leagues’ desires to engage fans during every second of a game and reach new audiences.

For fans, betting provides a new competitive outlet to test their knowledge on all aspects of a game. From predicting the final score to the number of touchdowns in an NFL game or head-to-head NASCAR race markets, sports betting can help bring fans closer to the action, ensuring they watch more of the live action and for longer.

Fans who bet on the game are also typically more active on social media with Twitter recently reporting a 22% increase in the number of posts on football betting.

SBCA: So, how are leagues and teams trying to unlock this engagement and how do you expect this to evolve?

MR: It’s not just the major leagues trying to capitalise on the sports betting boom across the US and more recently Canada. Leagues and teams at all levels of North American sports are proactively engaging with the betting industry for the first time.

To date, this has centred on signing direct partnerships with the sportsbooks, providing access to their official data and video feeds, advertising inventory and sponsorship assets. But in terms of direct betting content for fans, the leagues are currently treading carefully, mindful that while Gen Z and millennial viewers may be comfortable with real-time live odds being embedded into live broadcasts, other audiences may not.

However, as the market matures and the sports, betting and media industries continue to converge, I would expect leagues to facilitate more direct betting integrations for fans. This could be through launching a live streaming product with integrated odds and personalised bet prompts, allowing fans to place in-game bets without having to operate across multiple screens.

Increasingly, sports will also provide their sponsors and brands with betting-related content such as win probabilities and predictions to integrate within their direct fan content and advertising.

SBCA: More specifically, then, how is Genius Sports helping NFL teams to activate around sports betting?

MR: A core part of our exclusive partnership with the NFL is providing platforms and content for teams to benefit from sports betting. Regardless of whether they are located within a state that has legalised sports betting or not, we can equip each team with the core components they need.

This includes fast and reliable official NFL data feeds, an in-depth understanding of their fans and the content they consume, and partnerships with the largest sportsbooks in the US and globally.

This means that as the teams agree their own sportsbook deals, we can help them activate these partnerships with live content widgets that display real-time odds and win probabilities as well as push messaging technology to direct fans to personalised offers.

For the Philadelphia Eagles, our partnership is centred on driving in-stadia engagement within Lincoln Financial Field, delivering live odds, league-wide scores and player statistics to their sports betting lounges.

SBCA: And finally, how do digital and in-stadia activation partnerships with leagues and clubs benefit sportsbooks?

MR: Partnerships with sports leagues and teams, rather directly or through companies like Genius Sports, provide several key benefits to sportsbooks. For example, access to advertising inventory across official league platforms is a highly effective way to reach and acquire new players. With official data and unique marketing capabilities, we enable operators to deliver personalised messages and odds to every fan.

Sportsbooks are increasingly becoming major media and entertainment businesses. And these marketing activations – coupled with leagues and teams’ other IP assets such as logos, branding rights and official data and streaming content – allow sportsbooks to differentiate and create a complete betting experience for fans on key U.S. leagues.

From the days and hours leading up to kick-off to the live game window, sportsbooks can extract huge value from partnerships with leagues and teams whether that’s in-stadia or across digital.

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