The majority of sports advertising targets a predominantly male audience despite a high percentage of women making up fan bases. For instance, 40 percent of NFL fans are women, and when it comes to watching the Super Bowl, women comprise almost half of that audience.
FanDuel has leaned heavily into advertising to women, whether it's a partnership with The Gist or reaching women in unconventional formats. Also, the online sports betting and fantasy sports brand has women holding the C-suite roles of CEO (Amy Howe), chief risk and compliance officer (Carolyn Barth Renzin), chief product officer (Sarah Butterfass) and chief people officer (Tricia Alcamo).
For our On Brand series, we spoke to Butterfass about the platform's focus on the fans and becoming more welcoming and inclusive for women.
To grow its female fan base and introduce them to the realm of sports betting and fantasy sports, FanDuel partnered with The Gist, a women-founded and operated sports media brand, last year during the NFL season.
"FanDuel is always looking for new and innovative ways to reach female customers, which we think is really a huge opportunity," says Butterfass. "If you look at sports fans, it's 50 percent female, but only about 10 percent are sports betters, and so clearly it's a huge untapped opportunity. And at the same time, The Gist had been looking for a partner to bring fantasy sports specifically to its audience in a more welcoming and accessible way. So we combined forces."
"We provided The Gist with an exclusive fantasy football contest," continues Butterfass. "The Gist created a newsletter. They had social, they had podcast content all about NFL football to really educate and inform and entertain its audience and really give them a push to try something new and participate in fantasy if they hadn't previously with other Gisters. The format of the contest was every week you could win $500, as well as a grand total of $5,000 in prizes given out at the end. We had over 4,000 entries, over 1,200 of which were new registrations. It got us the reach we were looking for. This was really step one. And so we see this as a potentially long-term partnership between The Gist and FanDuel."
The company also offers online tools and tutorials that explain sports betting for those who are unfamiliar or unsure about where to begin. It serves as another way to increase their audience and user base.
"How do you make it simpler and easier and just make people feel comfortable who are new to sports betting, which isn't just women?" Butterfass says. "Sports betting has only been legal a few years in the U.S., so there's a lot of people who don't know the ins and outs. So I think just education and accessibility is a huge opportunity. So we have a lot of educational content on the website, so you can go in and go to the sports betting side, learn what a parlay is, which is when you can bet that multiple outcomes will happen. We'll teach you about that.
"Or we have a lot of content around how to set up your lineup for, say, fantasy. We also own a company called NumberFire that provides a lot of content. We have some customers who know everything, know all the steps. They're doing all that research themselves. And then we have other research that says there's a lot of people who find it intimidating and want somewhere they can go. So we provide both options."
FanDuel launched at SXSW in 2009 as a fantasy company, with its first fantasy football championship debuting a year later. A major turning point for the company came in 2018, when the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which had outlawed sports betting. This opened the floodgates for businesses to launch sports betting outputs. FanDuel has four businesses: sports betting (available in 15 states), fantasy sports (in 44 states), horse racing (in 25 states) and casino (in five states). The most popular sport at FanDuel is football; the NFL is its largest season for both sports betting and fantasy teams.
"In July 2018, we launched our first retail location in the Meadowlands in New Jersey, which is still our largest retail location," Butterfass tells Muse. "And then in September 2018, we launched our first online sportsbook in New Jersey. So, fast forward to December 2020, and we were the first mobile operator to pass over $1 billion in gross gaming revenue. So we are the No. 1 mobile gaming operator in the U.S. And also, we're the No. 1 online sportsbook. We have a very diverse business, but we're very focused on engaging with our customers."
The secret sauce that makes them stand out, per Butterfass, is this genuine attention to consumer feedback, diversity among customers and in the C-suite, and ensuring that gaming is played responsibly.
"Everything really does start with the customer for us," adds Butterfass. "Through market research, user focus groups, putting our products and concepts in front of them, it allowed us to be the first to market with same game parlay, and we're one of the few operators that has same game parlay plus, where you can make multiple parlays together.
"We're very passionate about raising the bar when it comes to responsible gaming. We were the first mobile sportsbook operator to sign on to the American Gaming Association's national campaign to promote the fundamentals of responsible sports gaming, and we promote responsible play in app tools. And focusing on what matters to make sure our customers are having a fun and safe environment. So focusing on, how do you get a more diverse customer base?"
Having a credit card and internet connection makes online gambling uber convenient and a 24/7 activity. To keep those with a gambling problem in check, FanDuel has prompts and guidelines to encourage responsible gaming and also partnered with sports radio personality Craig Carton, who overcame a gambling disorder.
"There's a lot of different pieces," adds Butterfass. "We'll suggest time-outs to people. Another is we do require you, after you deposit a certain amount of money, to verify your source of funds. So you can't just go and say, 'I'm going to put $100,000 on my credit card.' You actually have to prove that you have the funds that you're putting in. Also just reminding people and encouraging them to set those limits for themselves. So we like to remind customers like, hey, you may have forgotten, you can go in and set this limit for yourself. That's one of the reasons we partnered with the American Gaming Association to really understand what we can be doing and learn because they're doing so much from a research perspective beyond what we can do. We also partnered with Craig Carton. He's a sports radio and TV personality and also a problem gambling advocate. He regularly meets with our Responsible Gaming Steering Committee, which I sit on."
As the year progresses, FanDuel is focused on streamlining the user experience and how it views customers throughout its varying businesses.
"How do we, in a really smart way, talk to, say, our DFS [daily fantasy sports] customers about sports betting, or sports betting customers about DFS?" concludes Butterfass. "We have four very robust businesses, and so how do we start to think more holistically about the consumer, not just, hey, you're a DFS customer or you're a sports betting customer. And then, how do we streamline the experience?"