After a Visible, Voluble 2015, DraftKings Appoints a CMO

Daily Fantasy Sports Site May Temper Ad Spend

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DraftKings CMO Janet Holian.
DraftKings CMO Janet Holian. Credit: DraftKings

On the heels of a season that saw daily fantasy sports emerge as a top 10 advertising category in highly sought-after NFL broadcasts, one of the industry's biggest spenders is fine tuning its marketing strategy for 2016.

The Boston-based daily fantasy site DraftKings has named longtime consultant Janet Holian as chief marketing officer, giving her oversight of a roster of duties that includes advertising and sponsorships, brand licensing and global marketing. Ms. Holian is the former CMO of Vistaprint (now known as Cimpress), where she worked alongside DraftKings co-founders Matt Kalish, Paul Liberman and Jason Robins.

Ms. Holian most recently served as CEO of Gemvara, an online jewelry retailer.

While Ms. Holian said DraftKings is "still in the midst of planning" this year's media blitz, she added that there would be little deviation from the fundamentals that characterized the company's marketing strategy in 2015. The NFL will remain the locus of DraftKings' customer acquisition efforts, and as such, the greatest concentration of ad spend will occur in the two weeks leading up to the opening kickoff and on into September.

"You won't see a major shift this year. Certainly there will be a broadcast component to our media mix," Ms. Holian said.

Ms. Holian said the budget has not been finalized, but as DraftKings effectively has established itself as a household name, the TV spend is unlikely to be as massive as it was last fall. According to estimates, DraftKings ads last year aired 46,143 times, to the tune of $156.1 million in national TV spending. The company invested $37.4 million on in-game NFL inventory; with preseason and various shoulder programming, DraftKings' total pro football spending added up to $62.7 million.

DraftKings funneled some $60.1 million into national TV in September alone. Since the year began, its overall TV spend is slightly north of $1.25 million, per data.

If the daily fantasy season won't heat up again for several months, DraftKings doesn't go fallow when the NFL hangs up its spikes in February. "The NFL season absolutely is the time you'll see us more than any other time of the year, but now we're starting to shift our focus to other sports," Ms. Holian said. "We do have a league deal with Major League Baseball, and that is a very strong relationship. So we'll be out in the market for baseball season, and while it won't be as heavy as what we do during the NFL season, we'll be out there at the stadium, in digital and perhaps some TV as well."

Ms. Holian's tenure begins as DraftKings and its rival FanDuel are fighting off legal entanglements set by the state attorneys general in New York and Illinois. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is looking to shutter both sites altogether, charging that the services amount to nothing more than illegal gambling. DraftKings and FanDuel last week earned a stay of execution when a New York judge granted a permanent injunction that allows both to continue operations in the Empire State while their cases are in litigation.

As Ms. Holian noted, the court wranglings fall outside her purview. "I am very focused on the business at hand and not so much on the legal side," she said. "Obviously, if there are any legislative changes that impact how we market our services, we will absolutely comply with those. But I don't personally foresee any major changes ahead."

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