It’s the type of deal that seemed impossible just a few years ago, but Michigan State athletics has partnered with a sports betting brand.
On Thursday, Michigan State became the latest university to form a partnership with a sportsbook. MSU announced a multi-year deal with Caesars Sportsbook, making it the official and exclusive sports betting and iGaming partner of MSU athletics.
MSU joins the likes of Colorado, LSU and Maryland as college programs to reach sponsorship agreements with sportsbooks in the last couple of years. Michigan State is the first Great Lakes State university to make such a plunge, fitting in with the cutting-edge style of the Spartans’ brand.
Caesar, meet Sparty.
What comes from the Michigan State-Caesars partnership
The partnership gives Caesars significant exposure throughout Michigan State’s athletic properties.
Assets included in the deal are:
- 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
Spartan fans will also be able to get in on the act with special promotional offers on mobile sports betting, iGaming and World Series of Poker product offerings.
“Michigan State has a proud tradition of excellence and partnering with an internationally recognized brand in college athletics is a great opportunity for us,” Eric Hession, co-president of Caesars Digital, said in a press release. “The Spartan fan base and alumni network is passionate and well-established across the country. We look forward to building upon our connection with them while strengthening the legacy we hold in the state of Michigan and advancing scholarship opportunities through this partnership.”
WSOP Michigan has not launched yet, but is expected to be the third live Michigan online poker brand soon.
Sports betting deals a new trend growing in athletics
MSU’s partnership with Caesars is another in the growing landscape of sports betting and college athletics.
Colorado was the first to make a deal, partnering with PointsBet Sportsbook in September 2020.
LSU announced a deal with Caesars in September, a similar deal that Michigan State agreed upon. Last month, Maryland joined Colorado in partnering with PointsBet, the first of its kind in the Big Ten.
As part of the deal with MSU, Caesars Sportsbook will provide annual funds toward:
- Student-athlete responsible gaming education
- Student scholarships
- Internship and professional development opportunities for MSU students pursuing a career in the sports industry.
“The opportunity to partner with Caesars, a leading force in the sports and entertainment industry, will help enhance gameday experiences for Spartan fans and provide significant resources to support the growing needs of each of our varsity programs,” Alan Haller, Michigan State vice president and director of athletics said in the release. “We are excited to be on the cutting edge of this innovative opportunity, while recognizing the importance of Caesars’ commitment to responsible sports gaming education both for the student-athletes and the University community as a whole.”
The partnership was facilitated by MSU’s third-party multi-media rights holder, Playfly Sports.
Since this deal was struck, the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL reached a partnership with FireKeepers Casino Hotel. Also, Detroit City FC of the USL Championship League reached a deal with Golden Nugget Sportsbook.
Caesars a top-five online sportsbook in Michigan
Legalized Michigan sports betting launched on Jan. 22, 2021. Caesars is one of 14 sports betting brands available now in the state.
With December numbers expected next week, 2021 was a staggering start for the market. Through November, $3.17 billion was wagered through online sports betting operators.
Caesars Sportsbook ranks fifth among the 14 online options with $154.2 million in online handle, according to sports betting revenue totals reported by the Michigan Gaming Control Board.
In November, Caesars had $37.85 million in online handle, creeping toward fourth-place Barstool Sportsbook.
MSU remains innovative with athletics
While not the first, Michigan State was quick to jump on a partnership with a sportsbook.
As we’ve seen in the past, MSU athletics has been a pioneer in thinking outside the box. That especially applies when it comes to trying new things.
MSU men’s basketball joined North Carolina as the first to play in the Carrier Classic. The two played on Veterans Day of 2011 in front of 8,111 fans (including military and Barack Obama) on the USS Carl Vinson.
In 2001, the MSU hockey team hosted Michigan in the Cold War. The game between the two rivals was played inside Spartan Stadium in front of 74,544 fans and was a nationally-televised event.
The question remains now, will Michigan be compelled to strike a deal with a sportsbook soon to not let MSU get the upper hand?