How Will the Fantasy Football Fiasco Affect NFL Teams’ Sponsorship Deals?

28 clubs are on the hook

To help keep stadium seats filled this season, teams like the New York Jets are offering sponsored fantasy football scores and TV highlights on their video boards to replicate the second-screen experience that fans enjoy at home.

Over the last year, leading daily fantasy sports (DFS) sites FanDuel and DraftKings struck sweeping deals with NFL teams, blitzing stadiums with sponsored signage, stats and lounges. FanDuel signed 16 clubs while rival DraftKings partnered with a dozen (including the New York Giants). In all, 28 of the NFL's 32 clubs have deals with one of the two DFS leaders.

But with New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman last week launching an inquiry into allegations of insider trading at FanDuel and DraftKings, it remains to be seen what the long-term impact will be on their estimated $500 million in advertising this year. Nomura entertainment analyst Anthony DiClemente predicts the two companies could spend $150 million on ads in the third quarter alone.

At press time, NFL teams contacted said they have no plans to remove fantasy stadium lounges, signage or streams of sponsored stats and scores but will keep an eye on the unfolding scandal. "We are aware of the New York attorney general's investigation and are actively monitoring the situation," said Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon.

As the first franchise to sign with FanDuel last season, the Washington Redskins opened a FanDuel fantasy lounge at FedExField. The Redskins will continue to operate the lounge as well as keep FanDuel signage, svp and team spokesman Tony Wyllie told Adweek.

Jets's president Neil Glat, meanwhile, kicked off a deal in January to have FanDuel sponsor new fantasy stats on two of the team's four giant video boards at MetLife Stadium this season. A Jets spokeswoman declined to comment on the future of the FanDuel relationship, but sources said no changes are expected unless the NFL cuts ties with FanDuel and DraftKings.

That's not happening any time soon, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during a press conference Oct. 7 following an owners meeting in New York. Goodell said clubs can continue to accept FanDuel and DraftKings ad dollars unless they misrepresent themselves as official NFL or team sponsors or illegally use league or team trademarks in their ads. "We have allowed … advertising," said Goodell. "There are sponsorship opportunities in the stadium, but not with our logos and marks."

Goodell pointed out the NFL has not invested in either company, unlike MLB and the NHL, each of which hold an equity stake in DraftKings, or the NBA, which, along with NBC Sports, owns a piece of FanDuel. "We feel that a cautious approach is the right way," he said.

NFL teams with DFS deals are largely letting the league address the issue. The New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars all declined to comment for this story.

FanDuel spokeswoman Justine Sacco said that in-stadium sponsorship commitments would continue. DraftKings declined to comment, save for its joint statement with FanDuel defending their integrity and stating that employees could no longer play daily fantasy sports for money.

Sports marketing analyst Bob Gold of Bob Gold & Associates believes the league is hurting its brand by doing business with sites that "clearly promote" betting on their players and games. "The NFL and its teams have been silent on this issue of gambling on the game, but I'm sorry, this is plain wrong," he said. "The NFL has an obligation to protect their fans—and their brand—and they are not doing it."

This story first appeared in the Oct. 12 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.