DraftKings – WWE Partnership Will Gamify Pro Wrestling, But Bettors Remain Outside The Ropes

Written By Derek Helling on March 30, 2021

Some people have called professional wrestling a soap opera for men. The choreographed, scripted nature of the entertainment is exactly the essence of a new DraftKings-WWE partnership.

The two brands announced their synergy Monday.

WWE fans and DraftKings customers alike should note, at least for now, this deal is all about exposing each company’s populace to the other brand. The collaboration is sure to include all the over-the-top antics that normally come with anything related to WWE.

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Details of the DraftKings – WWE collaboration

According to a press release, DraftKings will debut its new offerings for WWE fans during WrestleMania April 10 and 11. DraftKings customers will find free-to-play pool games on DraftKings’ apps and website.

“As a cultural icon and incredible sports and entertainment company, we are thrilled to join forces with WWE and introduce its devoted fanbase to the DraftKings brand,” said Ezra Kucharz, Chief Business Officer at DraftKings. “This relationship helps fuel the engagement and drama of WWE’s signature matchups and storylines as audiences enjoy the second-screen experiences our products provide.”

In exchange for running the new games promoting WWE, DraftKings will get exclusive brand presentations during WWE events. It could be something similar to the UFC Fight Clock sponsored by DraftKings. DraftKings probably had to pony up some cash for that exclusivity.

Those exclusive brand presentations are big for DraftKings. It means for the duration of the contract, none of DraftKings’ competitors will enjoy such exposure to WWE’s fan base.

“We’re excited to enter this new agreement that makes DraftKings WWE’s first-ever free-to-play gaming partner,” said Stephanie McMahon, WWE Chief Brand Officer, in the same release. “This collaboration marks a significant step in deepening engagement with our passionate fans and will provide DraftKings the opportunity to leverage the massive appeal and reach of the WWE brand.”

The transaction doesn’t mean there will be pay-to-play WWE daily fantasy games or sports betting markets on DraftKings. To understand why, it’s important to remember what WWE’s primary product is.

Why you cannot bet on WWE

WWE performers are highly skilled athletes who perform difficult, impressive tasks in front of live audiences. They train just as hard as any other athletes and have tremendous commercial value. However, WWE is sports entertainment with predetermined match results.

Writers decide the outcome of every ‘fight’. Olympic wrestling is a live competition. A live theatre production is a better comparison for WWE’s show style. DraftKings offering betting markets on a WWE event would be like wagering on an episode of your favorite television drama or comedy.

The same goes for DFS games. In most of the jurisdictions that regulate such contests, WWE would not fit the definition of allowed events. That is not a knock against WWE or anyone who enjoys it. It’s simply a legal differentiation between live athletic competitions and staged entertainment.

If WWE ever were to introduce unscripted events, then DraftKings might be able to offer DFS and/or wagering on that. However, it would still require regulatory approval. For example, wrestling at any level doesn’t appear on the approved events list for Indiana sportsbooks.

That doesn’t mean this partnership has no value for any of the parties involved. Free-to-play pool games can be tremendously valuable. Getting a brand with the kind of massive following WWE has could increase that value exponentially.

DraftKings’ hope to convert WWE fans

The strategy here for DraftKings is simple. Get WWE fans on its platform playing the free games, which require account registration. Then expose them to advertising for the DFS contests, and sportsbook products, where applicable.

DraftKings’ hope is that some of those new accounts become regular depositors and players. If that happens, then offering the free pools was worth it. Given WWE’s popularity among the exact demographic DraftKings is most likely to appeal to, males 18-to-34 years old, the only surprise is it took this long for this partnership to happen.

This deal is essentially highly-visible brand exposure for DraftKings during WWE events, and WWE on DraftKings’ platforms. However, playing up something that is usually standard practice is exactly what appeals to WWE fans.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

View all posts by Derek Helling