Many of the Super Bowl’s most notorious annual advertisers opted out of a TV spot for this year’s game, keeping in line with an overall fan experience that felt anything but normal. Instead of traditional brand heavyweights like Coke, Pepsi, and the Anheuser-Busch giants dominating commercial airtime, some fresh faces chose to enter the picture for the first time in 2021. Of all the newcomers to the Super Bowl advertising party, perhaps none left feeling better than their airtime was money well spent than DraftKings – a sports betting giant who dropped an estimated $5.6 million total for two 15-second ads during the game (AdAge).

While $5.6 million is a staggering total to pay for not even a minute of airtime, that number pales in comparison to the volume of business that gambling giants like DraftKings are churning out these days. The brand’s decision to spend big on Super Bowl advertising in 2021 is a sign of just how confident the company feels about its prospects moving forward.

In the third quarter of 2020, DraftKings reported revenue of $133 million (98% growth) over that three month period (DraftKings). With the company expecting a full calendar year of live sports for its users to bet on, revenue projections have been set as an astounding $750-850 million for 2021 (Sports Pro Media). Although DraftKings often steals the spotlight given its high brand visibility and status within the market of betting companies, the company’s success is not unique within the industry.

The popularity of legalized sports betting platforms is reaching astronomical heights. For evidence, we need to look no further than the Super Bowl itself. Friendly wagering and casual gambling pools like ‘Super Bowl Squares’ have long been a part of the event’s tradition, but these informal betting ways have now been surpassed by official betting sites when it comes to enticing fans to put their money on the line. Experts estimate that the final legal wagering figure for the game will come in around $300 million total. That number would be an increase of $30 million from 2020 (Legal Sports Report).

The movement to legalize sports betting has gained traction on the regional level, as more and more state legislatures across the country have started to pass laws allowing for the usage of mobile betting sites like DraftKings within their state boundaries. The total number of states who have legalized sports betting in some capacity is up to 21 total as of February 2021, while another six have legislation currently awaiting expected approval at some point later in the year (Action Network). If the sports betting craze hasn’t already hit, the wave is certainly imminent.

Take a state like New Jersey, for example, which has the highest betting presence of any state apart from Nevada – the original American gambling mecca. The Garden State, which reports that 80% of its betting totals come from “sportsbook apps and websites,” has posted incredible revenue stats since legalizing the practice over two-and-a-half years ago. Here are how the state’s overall betting platforms performed in 2020 alone:

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Considering these figures and revenue streams, it’s easy to see why state legislatures across the nation are rushing to get in on the betting action. Even in a pandemic year that saw live sports put on total pause for nearly five months, sportsbooks in New Jersey surged ahead, raking in record-breaking bet totals for seven consecutive months to end the year. In every month excluding the peak pandemic shutdown of April, the state raked in at least $1 million from taxes collected among the sportsbook it allows to operate on its premises. The betting platforms themselves stole the show, however, finishing the calendar with three straight months above $50 million in revenue.

With figures like these, individuals around the sports industry can no longer deny the impact that gambling is going to have on the sporting world in the near future. This trend toward legalization will undoubtedly present a number of challenges and concerns among officials, and those worries are valid. Those around some of the nation’s top leagues can talk all they want about how the legalization of in-stadium betting is unethical and threatens the authenticity of the fan experience, but that talk will be futile at the end of the day. Although it may take a decent amount of time before all 50 states certify legislation into action, national legalization of sports gambling is inevitable. The financial reward for states opening their doors to legal sportsbooks is simply too powerful.

So the big question arising from all this talk of betting legalization is still rather ambiguous -- how will gambling change the way teams and leagues operate moving forward? Drawing certain conclusions one way or the other is difficult given the new and unprecedented nature of this gambling wave, but the bottom line is that sporting executives must embrace this wave for what it truly is: a chance to make more money.


Take the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, for example. With the team’s home state of Michigan officially passing the legalization of online sports gambling in January 2021, the franchise jumped ahead of the curve, inking multi-year sponsorship deals with the two online betting giants: DraftKings and FanDuel (Detroit Free Press). Recognizing that betting was about to become a part of the Pistons fan experience no matter what, the team chose to capitalize on the impending betting spike in its home state by establishing a productive partnership with these mega-betting entities as opposed to an adversarial one.

As legal betting continues to thrive in more states across the country and thus becomes popular among a wider global audience, it will be up to individual franchises like the Pistons to determine how betting influences their overall fan experience. While some might raise valid concerns about how an excessive embracement of betting could ruin the sanctity of the sports fan experience, the reality is that the rise of gambling legalization seems irreversible. With the legal gambling wave knocking on the doorstep of more and more franchises, teams have two simple options: put aside ethical concerns and get it on the action, or sit back idly as other entities around them rake in millions.



Athletic opportunities take many forms. For some, sports involve a team, a field, or a ball. For others, sport is more solitary and potentially life-threatening. Participation in extreme sports is rising in popularity and spanning across a range of demographics. For extreme athletes, the roar of the crowd is replaced by the rush of adrenaline that can be heard in your ears and felt in your blood. Pushing one’s own limits and facing one’s own fears is an attractive draw to participation in any of the many extreme sports.

My mom, a history teacher, shared a lecture with me that she was presenting about former presidents in which she noted that George HW Bush celebrated every fifth birthday going skydiving.  Well, if he could do it, so could I.

They say the “high” from jumping from an airplane traveling thousands of feet in the air is better than any drug, drink, or even falling in love. I was ready to test that out the day I signed up to jump from an airplane over the beautiful mountains of Switzerland. The thrill was almost indescribable. The intense rush of energy and power was overwhelming. I had heard of the adrenaline hormone produced from such exciting activities and I was experiencing it first-hand. Adrenaline was taking me over and endorphins were creating a drunk-like feeling throughout me. Extreme sports such as surfing, bungee jumping, wakeboarding, skateboarding, and skiing hook people in like a drug making them crave more challenges and risks.


The International Olympic Committee recently voted to include skateboarding, sports climbing, and surfing in the Olympic Games to generate interest and excitement in the Olympics from a younger crowd. The inclusion of these popular extreme sports will open and expand participation to the mainstream population, appealing to more than just thrill-seekers. Put these on your radar, they are sports to watch. The inclusion of these extreme competitions indicates a huge shift in sports on a worldwide level, a shift worth following. Research conducted by Bennett, Henson, and Zhang reveals that those fans the Committee is seeking to attract, members of Generation Y, prefer extreme sports over the traditional sports of basketball and baseball. While many are soccer fans, they would prefer to watch the X-Games than the World Cup. More members of Generation Y enjoyed televised action sports more than their predecessors making interest in these sports, a definite trend to watch. The researchers report that “The rise of consumer and corporate interest in extreme sports has been phenomenal.” In addition, media coverage of action sports has increased considerably over the last few years."

The popularity of extreme sports is further advanced by the ESPN X Games. The X Games attract big-name sponsors and popular top athletes which draw in a younger fan base. These Generation X and Generation Y enthusiasts are the demographic who are very attractive to marketers making sponsorship quite lucrative. Professional skateboarders, surfers, and snowboarders have attracted corporate sponsors is from the mainstream, national brands such as Target, Nike VISA, and Mountain Dew with competition earnings.

Red Bull is a brand that is often associated with extreme sports sponsorship. They are lined with skydiving and cliff diving and the most extreme sports in between. They are a huge force with younger people making it a natural fit for extreme athletes. Oakley, another huge sponsor, especially of winter-type sports had a great showing at the last winter Olympics having been worn by the skiers and skateboarders.

Social media also works to drive interest in extreme sports. GoPro cameras capture incredible feats of regular people. Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are filled with posts of real people engaging in real death-defying actions, actions that quickly go viral.

Extreme athletes push their minds and bodies while theoretically risking their lives. This incredible feeling, like a drug, hooks a person in making them crave more risk and challenge. This excitement travels to fans and spectators by hooking them in, enticing them to “take it to extremes.”  I am not sure why (or even how) George HW Bush waited 5 years between his jumps. I am hooked for sure and can’t wait to feel the sense of euphoria and “go extreme” again, and again.

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