ALT Sports Data: bringing bettors to ‘underserved’ non-traditional sports

surfer competing
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The proliferation of sports betting in the U.S. since 2018 has arguably ushered in the largest mass engagement of sports fans of all time. NFL games are hugely popular amongst bettors, as are fixtures across NBA, MLB, NHL, which draw in millions of dollars in betting handle each month. 

But, beneath the visible surface are a plethora of leagues drawing in millions of viewers each week that are virtually inaccessible to mainstream bettors on the biggest operator’s apps. 

Enter ALT Sports Data. As the name suggests, ALT Sports Data seeks to be the leading provider of official sports data and odds for betting purposes for alternative and non-traditional sports, which still boast millions of fans. 

“There’s a generation of fans from 1999 when the X Games started that are not represented in sports betting and that’s what we’re bringing,” Joe Dunnigan, founder and CEO of ALT Sports Data, told SBC Americas. 

“We’re doing it because we saw there was an inability for operators to cost effectively stand up new, differentiated, relevant products and at the same time we saw them overspending on customer acquisition.” 

Dunnigan launched the company with business partner Todd Ballard in 2021 and since then has signed up over 20 leagues to the company’s roster of partners including World Surf League, Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship and NHRA

These alternative, action sports have active and engaged audiences, Dunnigan explained, as the fans often participate in the sport as well as watch them. This leads him to label them as ‘lifestyle sports’, as those fans often let the sport influence other aspects of their lives such as the clothes they wear and the music they listen to in ways that the major leagues do not. 

“We have this massive audience and we’ve been driving demand for 20 plus years,” he explained. “These are participatory sports more so than just passively consumed sports so the engagement is much deeper. 

“Some people define themselves as skateboarders or surfers or snowboarders. They’re wearing the gear, they’re frequenting the events and they’re actual participants and we feel there’s a real distinction between those sorts of passive sports spectators.” 

ALT Sports Data was born out of a desire to bring these alternative sports to bettors much more easily by partnering with both the league and sportsbook. This enables the firm to share data and odds to bettors on some of the U.S.’ biggest operators.

Over the last six years, operators have been hellbent on acquiring bettors from those major leagues. Given the sheer amount of NFL fans across the country, this is understandable, yet there is a whole host of sports fans who are underserved in the post-PASPA repeal era. 

ALT Sports Data has conducted research which notes that there are around 81 million fans within the alternative sports category in the U.S., 42% of which do not cross over to be fans of any of the major sports leagues. That is 19.4 million potential bettors who sportsbooks are not reaching currently. 

Dunnigan and his company seeks to bridge this gap between these highly engaged sports fans and the mainstream sportsbook operators. 

He elaborated: “What we found the most compelling was the idea that already those who are interested in big four/five sports are betting with greater frequency and volume then than the traditional big five passive fan with significantly higher volume and frequency.” 

This venture is not necessarily about making millions of dollars from alt sports fans placing bets running into the hundreds of dollars. Rather, from Dunnigan’s perspective, it is about expanding the TAM for sports betting operators and the leagues. 

In fact, Dunnigan noted that bettors in this space will largely be recreational, at least to begin with, because of the fact that these fans are highly engaged with and actively participating in these sports. 

The company founder noted that people want to bet because “these sports are inaccessible to a lot of people because of physical barriers or economic barriers or regional barriers. But they are so aspirational, and they’re so lifestyle focused and there’s so much content that is generated and shared around them that everyone wants a point of access to them.” 

In turn, offering betting can make players even more engaged, creating a circle of positivity and opportunity around these sports. As Dunnigan put it: “It was quoted that you’re 20x more likely to watch an event if you have two bucks or five bucks on. 

“This conversation around the value of the $2 bettor has existed in horse racing throughout history. You’re never going to become a serious player if you don’t have anywhere to start. This is their starting point.” 

Collectively, the total number of fans that these smaller leagues boast is roughly comparable to that of most of the ‘big five’ sports, which Dunnigan says opens up a huge opportunity. But of these, there are some leagues that are particularly exciting from a commercial perspective. 

“Supercross we believe has a ton of upside. They fill 50,000 capacity stadiums every weekend for six months. We’ve only recently been offering it and there’s a lot of handle being generated, so we’re very bullish on Supercross.

“For different reasons, perhaps, the World Surf League is globally popular, largely from a cultural relevance and aspirational lifestyle appeal.  There are millions of passionate fans and participants, globally, who drive lots of engagement and shareable content.”