Now a household name, DraftKings unlikely to repeat ad blitz
If you couldn’t possibly watch another fantasy sports commercial, take heart. Come fall, DraftKings Inc. may not repeat the marketing blitz that made it one of TV’s biggest advertisers during the opening weeks of the NFL season, a company official said.
“We had some goals for last year that we achieved, one of which was making sure that DraftKings was a household name,” said Janet Holian, global marketing chief. “We may look at it and say that we’re going to invest a little bit differently this year. We probably don’t need to be quite as heavy out there in the market. I think that’s a positive thing.”
Holian, who formerly headed marketing for Vistaprint USA — where DraftKings’ founders worked before starting their own company — and who served as chief executive of the online jewelry startup Gemvara Inc., is taking on broad new responsibilities for Boston-based DraftKings, the company will announce Monday.
She will now oversee revenue, game operations, events, and DraftKings’ international expansion, in addition to marketing. DraftKings said she has been advising the company and its founders since 2011.
After repeated delays, Holian said DraftKings will probably begin offering its contests in the United Kingdom by mid-February.
DraftKings spent about $156 million on TV commercials last year, airing 25 different ads more than 46,000 times, according to the advertising tracker iSpot.tv. From late August to mid-September, it ran more TV commercials than any other advertiser, iSpot.tv said.
Consumers took to social media to complain about the ad onslaught in that period, a phenomenon known as “wear-out” in the marketing world, Boston University professor Christopher Cakebread said.
“It was ridiculous. It was almost like, you’ve got all this venture capital money, you’d better spend it before they take it back,” he said. “I’m sure they generated many, many new users. But did they need to go to the extent that they did?”
In advertising so heavily around the NFL season’s kickoff, DraftKings may have been taking a calculated risk that it would bother people who were unlikely to use its products, said Stephen A. Greyser, a sports marketing specialist at Harvard Business School.
“They want to remind the people that are medium and heavy users — we’re in play every day, you should be too,” Greyser said. “They’ll take the risk that the people that are non-users can be annoyed and maybe even offended by the amount of advertising.”
DraftKings executives have acknowledged their heavy marketing spending helped draw more scrutiny from regulators. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called out the heavy advertising from DraftKings and rival FanDuel Inc. in his lawsuits seeking to have the companies banned from that state.
In Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey wants to require DraftKings and other fantasy sports companies to disclose in their local ads how much money the average player wins or loses. She also want to ban ads aimed at minors and college campuses.
Holian said DraftKings was happy with the results of its advertising in 2015, despite “some noise” from viewers who were tired of seeing the brand pop up on their screens. The company attracted 10 times more users in the NFL’s first week than it had in 2014, she noted.
“We also were very satisfied with the results from the NFL season,” Holian said. “So there will be adjustments, but I wouldn’t say there will be major changes in the way we go to market.”