From Fan to Player: Growing DraftKings

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The brand's senior director of marketing reveals the five ways the daily fantasy sports company drives growth.

At DraftKings, everything we do is centered on our customers. We offer a daily fantasy sports (DFS) product and brand experience that brings fans closer to the teams and athletes they love across 10 sports, including the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, Soccer, eSports, MMA, Golf, NASCAR, and the CFL.

As marketers, our mission is to grow the DraftKings business by communicating with these fans. But this is easier said than done. Our audience encompasses a wide range of ages, geographic locations, and interests. As a result, we must optimize our marketing for growth by engaging, measuring, listening, and innovating. Here's how we do just that.

Engage: As marketers, our role at DraftKings is to acquire new players and continuously engage existing ones. We start at the top of the consideration funnel by engaging fans across our earned, owned, shared, and paid channels. Most people think marketing is just a paid advertising function. But at DraftKings, we target fans with original content, free contests, information, data, and unique bucket-list experiences to capture their attention and engage them across all touch points. We also geo-message fans based on their sports teams to drive relevancy.

Test before we invest: DraftKings is largely a digital business. As such, we are data-driven and benefit from tracking our marketing, acquisition, fan, and player engagement across all of our platforms. For most digital marketers, testing and optimizing is table stakes. A/B testing, controlled testing, and even focus groups are the proven tools to optimize marketing and advertising spends. We use all these tactics to make the most of our marketing, too. But what most people don't realize is that we've been doing this for a number of years now, and we have data on more than seven million registered users to inform us.

For example, we have a rigorous testing strategy that we deploy before rolling out any new TV creative in the marketplace, ensuring that we gather the insights and results we need before scaling new ads or ramping up spend. If you look back a few years, you can see that we started testing broadcast channels in 2013, built upon those results in 2014, scaled it for 2015, and adjusted for 2016—all decisions based on informed results from previous testing.

Listen: We're constantly listening to our customers, watching how they convert from engagement to player, and using this feedback to inform our creative. In a 2016 focus group, for instance, we heard that people weren't aware that they could play DraftKings with friends. So, we tested more social messaging and creative that showcased features like Leagues, a new product that enables players to set up private contests with friends. This DFS industry first has shown, in some cases, higher conversion rates like:

  • More than  1.1 million private contest creations
  • More than 4.2 million lineup entries for these private contests
  • More than a third of 2016 NFL users have added a friend on DraftKings
  • More than 50,000 users connected their Facebook account since the feature was launched in November
  • More than 20% of NFL players in 2016 played in private contests, over 50% higher than last year
  • 80% increase in NFL private game play, compared to last year, and 50% increase for NBA private play
  • 60% more NFL weeks played in 2016 by private contest users versus public-only players

Build a brand: DraftKings is still a start-up and a young brand. Everything we do must ladder up to our brand message and both reinforce our brand value proposition while also producing ROI. Balancing direct response marketing and brand building while maintaining efficiency within our media buys simply means every ad, communication, social post, and creative must ring true to our brand. We meet this challenge by using our brand architecture to prioritize and filter our marketing efforts, which has proven to be a successful path to positive ROI. We meet this challenge by ensuring our messaging and marketing communications will support the vision of bringing sports fans closer to the game. This focus on a broad, overall brand message creates a framework that drives messaging consistency and brand awareness but still ensures freedom to test and learn under the brand messaging umbrella.

Challenge yourself: With the tremendous growth DraftKings has experienced over the years—including a 12-fold increase in revenues since 2014—we could have become complacent in our marketing and advertising efforts. Instead, we're constantly brainstorming new creative, offers, keywords, channels, and tactics to grow our business. We know we can't rely on just doing what's worked in the past. Our industry, and the sports that anchor our businesses, are dynamic and changing rapidly. We have to stay ahead of this to continue our growth trajectory, and we challenge ourselves to do so every day.

About the author:

Stephanie Agrimanakis Sherman has been with DraftKings for four years and leads the multichannel acquisition team. Prior to DraftKings, Stephanie spent more than six years focusing on customer acquisition at Vistaprint. Sherman graduated from Colby College with a degree in economics.

Want to read more "This Is How We Do It" articles? Check out the column here.


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