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Gambling Advertisers Push More Chips Into Digital and Traditional Ads

The U.S. set a gambling record in 2022 with nearly $55b in revenue. Gambling revenue in N.J. alone topped $5b last year, matching the state’s all-time high in 2006.

We can attribute much of that growth to the rise of sports betting apps, like FanDuel and DraftKings, that make placing bets as easy as liking someone’s post on Instagram. 

Gambling advertisers—think everything from casinos to fantasy sports leagues—have responded, increasing their investments by 40% YoY to nearly $866mm; the average monthly investment was $72mm, up from $46mm in 2021. That growth comes despite the number of advertisers decreasing by 3% YoY to 475. 

But how exactly are gambling advertisers moving their chips around the advertising ecosystem? 

Let’s find out. 

Gambling Advertisers Gear Up for the Super Bowl

This year’s Super Bowl—Super Bowl LVII—attracted 113mm people, making it one of the most-watched games in recent memory. 

Advertisers from household names like Toyota and Mars took advantage of society’s fixation on the Super Bowl.

Many of the same advertisers also made an appearance in 2022. 

MediaRadar data shows gambling advertisers spent nearly $240mm in Q1 2022, representing a 61% increase YoY. Understandably, advertisers invested heavily in January and February, boosting their budgets by 134% and 109% YoY, respectively. 

Two of the biggest investments came from advertisers at Caesar’s and DraftKings.

Advertisers for DraftKings, who made their Super Bowl debut in 2021, took a different approach in 2022. Some would even call it daring

The commercial introduced a new company “spokescharacter.” Dubbed the Goddess of Fortune, the commercial featured a “leather-clad risk-taker” who takes physical gambles, from jumping out of a blimp to riding on the back of Evel Knievel’s motorcycle.

Advertisers also capitalized on the mayhem by allowing more than 10,000 users to place a free bet on the game. The campaign also included augmented reality Snapchat filters, a futuristic trend we saw during the Big Game in 2023 when PepsiCo brought its ad to the Metaverse.

Spending doesn’t stop 

While gambling advertisers decreased spending immediately after the Super Bowl—spending in March fell by 18% YoY—the rest of the year saw a steady stream of ad dollars. 

In Q2, advertisers increased spending by 39% YoY to $132.4mm. 

Meanwhile, spending in Q3 increased by 32% YoY to $200.5mm despite a 33% YoY decrease in July. Advertisers closed out 2022 with a 33% increase in Q4, making it clear that they don’t have tunnel vision on the Super Bowl. 

While those four hours every February will warrant significant ad dollars—up to $7mm for a 30-second T.V. spot—society’s fondness for gambling spans the other 364 days (or 365 during a leap year). 

We’ll likely see the same spending pattern throughout the rest of 2023, although rising inflation and tightening consumer budgets could limit the amount that gambling advertisers spend. 

The Slow Trek to Digital Continues

Until recently, gambling advertisers embraced the unexpected. 

Caesars, for example, made a fleet of Ubers look like chariots, while BetMGM received the first bet from space. Their strategies also came jam-packed with traditional ads—the oft-high price tag was worth it to make as much buzz as possible. 

Their fondness for traditional advertising isn’t ending, but the shift to digital continues as advertisers prioritize measurement and attribution over “grow at all costs.” 

In January 2023, advertisers from 14 companies spent $85.3mm on television ads, representing a 20% YoY increase. At the same time, advertisers for nearly 50 companies spent $2.3mm on print publications, down by 26% YoY. 

In contrast, advertisers increased their investment in digital ads by 10% YoY to $27.3mm. 

Where did those digital ad dollars go? Primarily to a mix of display, online video, and social media ads.

A level deeper, advertisers invested more than $10mm on digital display ads, which was up by 71% YoY thanks to pushes from Caesars Entertainment (Caesars Sportsbooks, William Hill Sportsbook, etc.), MGM Resorts (BetMGM), and VGM GP (Chumba Casino, LuckyLand Slots, etc.). 

Advertisers for these industry mainstays collectively spent nearly $7.4mm or 71% of display spend across premium networks, including CNN Money, ESPN, and CBS Sports Fantasy (43% of the digital display investment went to these networks).

Online video, mobile, native, and OTT surge ahead

A handful of other advertising ecosystems benefited from the gambling world’s embrace of digital. 

Online video advertising, for example, increased by 225% YoY to $4.5mm. Flutter Entertainment’s FanDuel, PrizePicks (from SidePrize), and National Council on Problem Gambling accounted for 90% of the video ad dollars; they leaned heavily into ESPN and YouTube

Meanwhile, mobile advertising increased by 45% YoY, while native and OTT advertising did so by 400% and 150% YoY, respectively, as advertisers fight to capture the attention of younger audiences with ads that don’t ruffle any feathers. 

That said, January’s investment in these channels failed to surpass $1.5mm. 

Social falls out of favor

Despite the industry’s shift to digital and a growing audience that skews toward younger generations, gambling advertisers shunned social media platforms in January 2023. 

Overall, social media platforms received $10.6mm in January, representing a 35% YoY drop—and every platform felt it. Advertisers for DraftKings, BetMGM (MGM Resorts International), and VGW GP Limited’s brands were some top spenders on social in January, accounting for 65% of the total investment. 

Spending on Instagram, for example, dropped by 16% YoY to $4.5mm despite touting more than 1.2b users, many of which fall into the ideal customer profile (ICP) of gambling advertisers. Meanwhile, 29% fewer ad dollars went Facebook’s way. 

Finally, the $2.1mm invested in Twitter ads represented a 61% YoY decrease, which is interesting considering the alignment between Twitter, Elon Musk, and gambling advertisers.  

Gambling Advertisers Put the Spotlight on Profitability 

In January 2023, 181 advertisers spent just shy of $115mm on ads, representing a 16% 

YoY increase. 

While a hefty portion of that investment went to traditional formats, the pressure to become profitable will force advertisers to embrace measurable ad formats—formats they can only find in the digital world.

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