Last week, the market for online sports betting in Ontario saw the first salvo fired, with the signing of Connor McDavid as a brand ambassador for BetMGM. While there is no official confirmation from the Ontario government that BetMGM will be amongst the operations given a green light when non-Proline options become available next month, the Connor McDavid – BetMGM partnership shows the operator is confident they’ll receive their license.
The signing of the reigning NHL MVP and the consensus best player in Canada’s national sport is a shot across the bow to the competition, starting an arms race amongst operators to get the remaining true stars on their team. Yes, McDavid plays in Alberta, but the Ontario born-and-raised star is one of Canada’s true national stars, and his endorsement is the highest profile of those signed by any operator so far.
As of now, no other player in the ‘Big Four’ North American pro sports leagues have signed such a deal, and amongst those people who have signed deals for Canadian exposure, the list is rather underwhelming. Turn on any professional sporting game now and it will be a mix of sportscasters, retired athletes, and D-List celebrities, but now, McDavid’s signing is the start of the next phase.
With sports betting coming to Ontario soon, the rush will be on for other major players like DraftKings, FanDuel, and Penn National Gaming to sign their big names, and with only five others really even approaching McDavid’s value as endorsers, the race will heat up fast.
The race for the Big Five left – Nathan MacKinnon, Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews – will likely be fierce, with MacKinnon and Crosby being lead pitchmen in Canada in addition to on-ice stars, and the Tavares-Marner-Matthews trio the stars of the Toronto Maple Leafs – will presumably be fierce, as the remaining operators try and get into the game, or at least avoid the others getting them.
Whether this will matter in terms of signups and actual dollars deposited when the legal market goes live is hard to tell – McDavid has just shy of a million Instagram followers and he is one of the most recognizable Canadian figures, inside or out of sports. That said, if BetMGM thinks that the quality of their star campaigns will move the needle for their revenue in Ontario, and not the quality of their signup bonuses, then they’ll likely be sadly mistaken.
Given that they presumably know that fact, however, this announcement is probably just the beginning of the fight for Ontario marketshare, and given they and their competition can’t start seducing Ontarians with their bonuses and promotions, they’re starting the battle for hearts and minds by making a big splash, and getting themselves name recognition they’ll need when the deluge starts.
And, for all those Ontarians already sick of seeing the same 4 sportsbook ads every time we turn on a game, at least we’ll get to see Connor McDavid do what passes for acting in them now, so that should be an improvement.