Casino Industry Contributes to Record $1.39 Billion NFL Sponsorship Haul

Posted on: January 30, 2019, 09:03h. 

Last updated on: January 30, 2019, 09:03h.

The NFL generated a record $1.39 billion in sponsorship dollars during the 2018 season, representing a 5.1 percent growth spurt on the previous year, according to sports sponsorship consultant IEG.

The NFL’s deal with Caesars contributed to a record haul of sponsorship dollars in a year when the league relaxed rules around casino partnerships. (Image: NFL)

IEG attributes the spike in capital to several new league-wide partnerships, including big deals with McDonalds and Pizza Hut — but also to new opportunities within the gambling industry.

The most eye-catching of these was the league’s $30 million deal with Caesars Entertainment, which saw the casino giant become “official casino partner” to the NFL.

But while the NBA, NHL, and MLB have been busy signing sports betting deals with major operators like MGM since the repeal of PASPA, the NFL did does not include sports betting in its deal with Caesars — which is ironic, considering the NFL is by far the most bet-upon sport in America.

No Stomach for Sports Betting

While the league relaxed its approach to gambling sponsorship last year, sports betting remains beyond the pale, but the fact it’s doing business with casinos at all illustrates how far it has come in a very short space of time.

Until this year, promotional activities involving the casino industry were strictly off limits. In 2015, the league barred then Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, and others, from attending a fantasy football convention because it was to be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, despite there being no opportunity to gamble at the center.

In 2017, more than 30 players found themselves in hot water for attending the inaugural “Pro Football Arm Wrestling Championship” at the MGM Grand.

The NFL’s anti-sports betting stance is a hangover from the 1940s and 1950s, when the sport was plagued by match-fixing scandals. But attitudes were clearly already thawing by 2017, when it approved the Raiders’ proposed move to Las Vegas.

Changing the Rules

In September last year, it gave teams the green light to seek casino sponsorship, which led almost immediately to WinStar World’s sponsorship of the Dallas Cowboys.

According to IEG, the NFL’s greatest source of sponsorship revenues are still largely brands like Ticketmaster, Budweiser, Gatorade, Microsoft, and Bose.

But that could change if the league chooses to revise its half-in, half-out attitude to the casino industry and embrace sports betting. A study last year by Nielson Sport found that were it to do so, it could reap $573 million in “revenue paid directly from betting operators in the form of sponsorship, advertising, and product fees.”

And if it doesn’t, it’s still likely to see a huge return from newly liberalized sports betting laws. Nielson believes that “revenue not incurred directly from betting operators, but rather as a result of increased consumption and engagement with the league” will eventually generate $1.754 billion per year.