Major professional sports franchises and select college programs have already jumped head first into sponsorship deals with sportsbooks.
This past week, the Kalamazoo Wings became the first ECHL franchise to do so, entering a strategic partnership with FireKeepers Casino Hotel.
Though you can’t currently bet on ECHL games in Michigan, the K-Wings are making their venue a bet-friendly environment.
What the deal between FireKeepers and the K-Wings entails
The partnership has been in the works for many months, as the K-Wings wanted to get ahead of the growing trend.
“I want to give credit where it is due, Derek Arnold handles about 80% of the corporate partnerships and he spearheaded this partnership with FireKeepers,” K-Wings General Manager Toni Will said. “Really what spurred it on was the emergence of sports betting and gambling and how much more available it is now because of technology. We wanted to get out in front of it and broker our own local deal.”
As part of the partnership, the K-Wings will have app downloading stations in the concourse of their venue, Wings Event Center. This will be to help new users download the app properly if they are unfamiliar with the technology. FireKeepers signage and branding will also be featured throughout the venue.
“The K-Wings sponsorship gives sports fans awareness of our iGaming sportsbook and online casino,” Jim Wise, Vice President of Marketing & Sports/Online Gaming at FireKeepers Casino Hotel, said. “Ticketholders are encouraged to check out our daily lines, our popular Fire Odds Boosts, plus our casino with a wide array of popular slots. The K-Wings do a great job engaging with their fan base and we have March Madness and both hockey and basketball playoffs coming soon.”
The K-Wings are one of 27 teams in the ECHL (28 next season), but have the second-smallest market in the league. Being the first to strike a deal with a sportsbook helps the franchise, which was founded in 1974, become an innovator in its league.
“When you look at our market size, a partnership like this is really important to help our growth. It also helps us become more modern as a franchise,” Will said. “We’ve been around for a long time, but it’s important to keep up with growing trends and give fans a unique experience each time they come to our events.”
League-wide sponsorship next for ECHL?
The partnership between the K-Wings and FireKeepers could just be the first of many to come for the ECHL.
Will, who is also part of the ECHL Board of Governors’ Executive Committee, says the ECHL is looking for further expansion when it comes to sportsbook sponsorship.
“The ECHL itself is looking to broker a league-wide partnership,” Will said. “(Our deal) is great for all the teams in the ECHL. It gives us more exposure and a chance to differentiate ourselves from other sports teams in the community.”
Will believes that the surface is just being scratched when it comes to sportsbooks joining up with professional or collegiate programs.
“As we’ve seen the expansion of sports betting and gambling in the last year, I think you will see a similar expansion when it comes to sports teams partnering up with casinos and sports betting apps,” Will said. “The amount of money that these casinos and sportsbooks are investing in advertising and marketing, it’s only going to keep growing.
MSU one of few colleges with sportsbook deal
This past January, Michigan State became the fourth college program to reach a sponsorship agreement with a sportsbook. MSU announced a multi-year deal with Caesars Sportsbook to make it the official and exclusive sports betting and iGaming partner of MSU athletics.
The MSU-Caesars partnership gives the sportsbook significant exposure throughout Michigan State’s athletic properties. That includes:
- Broadcast and digital content across MSU athletics
- TV-visible signage across basketball, football and hockey
- Naming entitlement for a new premium seating area inside Spartan Stadium
- Outdoor tailgating area
- Access to unique alumni and fan engagement opportunities surrounding varsity sports seasons
MSU fans will also get special promotional offers from Caesars on mobile sports betting, iGaming and World Series of Poker product offerings.
At that time, MSU joined Colorado, Maryland and LSU as other college programs to agree to sponsorships with sportsbooks.
Sportsbooks being built in pro stadiums
Just this past week the Cleveland Cavaliers named Caesars Sportsbook as the franchise’s official sports betting and casino partner.
Plans call for the Cavs to open a sportsbook inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
This is already after the Cavaliers agreed to a marketing partnership with Fubo Sportsbook to promote Fubo’s gaming brand throughout the arena.
These moves were all in preparation for sports betting to become legalized in Ohio starting Jan. 1, 2023.
Along with the Cavs, we’ve seen the Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington sports teams (Wizards, Capitals, Mystics) add a Caesars sportsbook to their respective venues. The Washington Nationals have opened a BetMGM Sportsbook in their park.