Playmaker’s David Woodley talks Super Bowl on-site activations

Image of the Super Bowl Lombardi trophy on a white flag
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We know quite a bit about the national impact of the Super Bowl on betting, but there has not been much about what it was like on the ground in Arizona for the first-ever Big Game in a legal sports betting state. David Woodley, CRO of Playmaker, spoke with SBC Americas about what it was like on the ground in the Phoenix area for the game and how the industry came out for the event.

Woodley’s experiences extended just beyond State Farm Stadium and game day. Like many other sports fans, Woodley dropped by the PGA’s WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. While the DraftKings retail sportsbook is still under construction, the operator had a strong hospitality presence on the course with a bar set up around the 17th hole. With live betting as an option, it created an interesting environment.

I thought it was really neat because it instantly led itself to people sitting at [Hole] 16 live betting closest to the pin,” Woodley recalled. “Every time there’d be three new golfers there and instead of people betting each other $2 bills, you could see the live odds and all that as well.”

Woodley and his friends did not run into any latency issues, though those generally don’t crop up given golf’s leisurely pace.

Spectators could also see a very old-school marketing tactic for DraftKings’ digital competitors as multiple operators chartered planes to fly banners over the golf course.

This year operators shelled out some serious money on marketing, including two high-profile commercials from FanDuel and DraftKings. The Big Game will remain a major activation, but Woodley is less convinced $7 million commercials will be a part of the marketing plan.

“I think they’re gonna pull back from TV because I don’t think that stuff really does well for them,” he said. Like many others, he also lamented that the ballyhooed Rob Gronkowski kick was done in the stadium during a commercial to maximize the interest in the activation. The format of an in-game commercial is something he thinks doesn’t work in sportsbooks’ favor either.

“People tune in for commercials, but it has to be like a really good funny Commercial, and I don’t know how you make that with a sportsbook. And part of that is regulation and what you can say and can’t say. So I do feel like the sports books will do stuff leading into the Super Bowl, it’s just going to be more beforehand because during the game what is the percentage of betting an audience that’s actually going to place the bets during the game and if they are going to place the bets during the game, you probably already have [the apps].”

Where Woodley didn’t see many sportsbooks spending this Super Bowl was on parties and other events around the weekend leading up to the game. That could change next year given the Big Game is headed to Las Vegas. However, with many major operators lacking land-based casinos in Sin City, that could cause problems.

“It’ll be interesting to see how DraftKings and FanDuel and Barstool and Fanatics can even get in,” he said.

It will be interesting in general to see how the Vegas location impacts the Super Bowl, but another storyline to keep tabs on is the scale at which operators approach the event as budgets tighten.

If more analog approaches like blimps and TV commercials are not converting users, a bigger investment in content that is not so overtly betting oriented could be an option. Woodley noted that Playmaker finds its most successful content on their betting channels was less about points spreads and more about the emotions tied up in the event.

“I think the content we did really well on was is covering this stuff in real-time, covering it from that casual new bettor. You know, the feeling notes, like we would do something on the feeling of being a Philly bettor at halftime versus a KC bettor.”

The group also expanded beyond the game itself to take part in the discussion around more pop culture elements of the event like the halftime show and what color Rihanna’s outfit would be. While this was not a betting market in the US, it was still something that was part of the Super Bowl experience that resonated with the betting community.

Be it Rihanna, the golf course, or the parties surrounding the event, it appears the marketing value of the Big Game for sportsbooks might be found off the field rather than on it from now on.