FanDuel Bids For First-Party Data And Audiences With New Content Play

FanDuel isn’t waiting for US states to move the ball forward on sports betting regulations. Last year, the company launched a fantasy sports property, The Duel, that reaches search audiences, despite the search platforms’ anti-gaming policies, and has become a powerful data source.

FanDuel has been developing The Duel with Minute Media, a hybrid sports news and software company that makes more than a third of its revenue selling ad tech services.

Minute Media President Rich Routman said the company has its own network of sites, including The Big Lead, Mental Floss and 90min, a global soccer media company, that could generate traffic and leads for FanDuel. But he said it’s more effective to help a brand build its own content site, where they can convert users directly instead of relying on click-through campaigns.

“The Duel” is a strategic initiative for FanDuel, said Adam Kaplan, head of digital content. The company prioritizes leads it can generate without paid search, since

search campaigns are hamstrung by Google’s sports betting policies.

Google loosened its rules for a sports advertising beta program last week so that companies like FanDuel and DraftKings can promote campaigns in two states with legal sports betting, Nevada and West Virginia. Content aggregators can promote sports and fantasy gambling campaigns in states with legal sports betting licenses, like New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

FanDuel can’t afford to limit its audience engagement to states with active betting. But editorial content created by Minute Media and with the publishing tech vendor’s SEO services can get their brand to the top of search pages regardless, Kaplan said.

There’s an incremental advertising boost as well, since endemic brands like beer companies or CPGs that are heavy football sponsors buy placements. But Kaplan said the primary goal is data and a prospecting funnel, as FanDuel converts The Duel site visitors into registered players.

“We own the domain and the servers. We own the tracking infrastructure,” he said. Brand content marketing executives are accustomed to dealing with third-party audience data, so owning the first-party publisher cookies with The Duel is a major step up, he said.

The Duel doesn’t need the kind of audience scale that an independent sports media company would to be viable, since it isn’t relying on ad revenue or subscriptions. But the site had 20 million video views in August, a year after launching, Kaplan said.

FanDuel has a very strong internal data set of its more than six million players, since people need to provide financial and credit information and social security numbers to register for gambling sites. Kaplan said this data never leaves FanDuel, but since The Duel is its own property, the company can very effectively parse new leads from the audience data.

The idea of branded media ownership isn’t new. Companies like L’Oreal have stood up editorial sites that lure traffic from Facebook and Instagram, and generate first-party cookies for the brand.

Routman said social media-based sites are less effective in fantasy sports and gaming. Social traffic is “in and out,” he said, not going back to the bookmaker to register or place bets.

Search traffic drives long site sessions that FanDuel needs to drive actual bettors to the site, he said.

FanDuel isn’t pushing the envelope with Google, though. Kaplan said the company hasn’t been running search campaigns to promote The Duel, but is relying on organic traffic, which is how it can end up at the top of response pages despite gambling policies that block paid promotions.

Common fantasy and sports betting Google queries like “fantasy football team names” or “best NFL survivor picks” will surface content from The Duel, Kaplan said, often in its own Featured Snippet, a Google tool that displays relevant quotes from a site directly in its search feed.

“We’re the only operator showing up on the first page of Google pages,” he said. “We’re valuing opportunities like this ahead of paid media.”

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