Local radio’s nearly $4 million take of sports betting advertising in the first quarter of 2021 quickly makes the category one of the most important for the industry. In addition to the $3.9 million local radio gained from the category, Nielsen says network radio’s haul was $488,000 in the same period.
“The sports betting category, when it comes to national sales for the company, this year it will easily finish in the top five for us out of nowhere,” Townsquare Media VP of National Client Partnerships Darrin Klayman tells Sports Handle. “When you look at categories like insurance, automotive, fast food … yes, sports betting will easily be ranked within those categories at the end of the year.”
And the ads are not only filling stop sets at sports radio. Music-formatted stations are also getting a slice of the pie, Klayman says. “They will take any format that drives the audience that they’re looking for,” he explains. “They’ll buy sports, rock, country, talk.”
Sports betting advertising increased 4,000% from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021 at Townsquare Media, and Klayman says it continues to grow with the vast majority of ads run on company stations in New Jersey and Michigan, two states where sports wagering is legal.
“Sports betting is only going to go up in Michigan,” Klayman continues. “It’s brand new this year, spending jumped in January after it went live… We haven’t even experienced football season with them yet.”
Cumulus Media is also watching the sports betting category spread across multiple formats at its stations, with some sports stations “seeing 30% of their total advertising coming from this category, particularly last fall when all sports started back up at once,” says Bruce Gilbert, Senior VP/Sports at Cumulus Media/Westwood One. “Outside of football season, sports book advertising is taking up about 10-12% of inventory in states where sports wagering is legalized.”
The spread of sports betting advertising to non-sports stations is a testament to the power of personalities and influencers. “Radio talent are highly trusted by their constituents and sportsbook advertisers are smart about tapping into that talent and signing on strong local talent to promote their brand and all its special features,” Gilbert continues.
Klayman believes the sports betting category is one that will continue to grow at radio. “Sports are huge to begin with, and more people are getting into the sports betting environment,” he says. “The demographics all over the place, with 18-year-olds as engaged as older people. I don’t think it slows down; I think it continues to grow.”
The sports betting business was a topic of conversation during first quarter results calls held recently by radio groups. Audacy CEO David Field said he anticipates sports gambling will blossom into a $100 million ad category for the company over the next few years, tripling its expected 2021 dollar volume. Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, called sports gambling “a great category” for the company.