Sponsorship is highly beneficial for companies these days, generating brand awareness, increasing the brands’ sales and allowing brands to sell to potential new audiences. However, it’s not just beneficial for the sponsor.

It’s a two-way street and a sports team will benefit from the sponsorship, too. The sponsor helps generate revenue and will provide equipment for the team. The better the deal with the sponsor, the more revenue the team can generate.

Sponsorship in the NFL

Until more recent years, sponsorship by casinos and online betting operators was something that the NFL had shied away from. The practice of sponsorship deals has been going on for a while already and the NFL had named Caesars Entertainment as the league’s first official casino sponsor, but sports betting itself wasn’t part of the deal.

The NFL had felt sports betting sponsorship could damage the integrity of the league and had opposed it. This wasn’t the only league in American sport to have done so. The NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball had all felt just as strongly.

Then the US Supreme Court ruled that it was okay for states to legalise sports betting and the NFL started to warm to the idea. In November, the Philadelphia Eagles agreed a sponsorship deal with the operator Unibet.

They’re not the only team to have done so, however. In September, it was reported that the Dallas Cowboys had become the first team to do a sponsorship deal with a casino company.

Earlier this year, and after several months of study, the NFL’s Sports Betting Committee decided to loosen its rules. Now teams can enter into agreements with regulated sportsbooks and advertise with them directly.

Stadiums in states that have legalized sports betting will be allowed to have betting lounges and will be able to display sports betting signage. The stadiums won’t, however, be able to display the signs in the lower levels of the venue.

Sponsorship in the AFL

Betting in Oceania is a growing market. It has been for some time, with leagues such as the Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League offering opportunities to anyone in Oceania who fancies a wager.

In fact, earlier this year, the AFL signed a new five-year deal with BetEasy, which means the league will have an official sports betting partner until the end of 2025.

The deal is thought to be around $10 million, the same as last year. This time, there will be fewer sports betting ads shown during AFL games and less advertising in the stadium.

Gambling has become more normal than ever in Australia explaining why major sporting events are collaborating together. Sports betting is also popular in Aussie’s neighbours, New Zealand where an increasing number of legally operating sites allow people to place bets on a myriad of different sports matches and events. The most popular sports to bet on in New Zealand are similar to those in Australia like rugby matches, football events and horse racing.

Despite the existence of sports betting on the AFL and of the league’s own dealings with sports betting operators, the league, has been slightly uneasy about such a relationship.

This has especially become the case in more recent times. In June 2019, the league dished out a 22-match ban (with 12 matches suspended) to Collingwood player Jaidyn Stephenson for betting on matches he’d been playing in. Under AFL rules, no player, coach or league official may bet on the league in any form.

The question is whether the league will follow the NFL’s lead and become more comfortable with partnerships between leagues and casino operators. There’s no mistaking the revenue such a partnership can generate, not to mention the levels of engagement it can encourage with the fans.

The power of online casinos

Just how powerful is the online gambling world, however?

With the closure of land-based casinos, and other gambling establishments closing because of the pandemic, there’s no doubt that interest in online gambling has surged. According to the International Association of Gaming Regulators, in the 30 March to 5 April period, online gambling increased by 67% in Australia.

Right now, however, igaming is against the law in Australia. The prohibition has persuaded some Australians to seek illegal gambling kicks and turn to sites offshore. The endings have been far from happy, however, as some have been illegal and the players have had trouble collecting their winnings from the sites. The Australian authorities have taken action, asking ISPs to block access to (suspected) illegal offshore gambling sites.

Way over in the US, online gambling operators have had a similar experience, with the handful of states where playing at online casinos is legal witnessing a surge in numbers. The cancellation of sports events has seen sportsbooks take a significant hit and gamblers have been looking for the next best thing.

The shutting down of the NBA triggered a major shift, with more people turning to the online sphere. The general hope, amongst online casinos who also run brick-and-mortar establishments, is that the online operations will offset some of the losses their real-world casinos have suffered. One thing of note is the potential for the online operations to stay popular when life reverts to “normal”.

Even before the pandemic, though, legal online casinos in some states were doing big business. Take New Jersey. In 2019, Atlantic City casinos won a little short of $483 million online, which was a 62% increase on 2018 levels.

Sponsorship from casinos and sportsbooks is growing in the NFL. Whether the AFL will take to it more keenly like the NFL has done is a different story, but it’s certainly possible. Australians have demonstrated an appetite for gambling and measures to legalize it would certainly raise a cheer from some quarters.