Kyle Wachtel has been building bridges for 10 years now, from his time as a Director of Marketing Partnerships at FanDuel, where he worked in the complexed and often hard-working world of affiliate online gambling partners, to his role as Head of Partnerships for BetMGM which he began in 2019.
Sports betting has been taking off in the United States as more major sports leagues and teams have opened themselves to opportunities to work with betting companies to promote their brands and create new experiences for fans. BetMGM is at the forefront of that with long term partnerships with the NFL, NBA, MLB, and MLS.
Kyle Wachtel will be attending BETFEST on May 15th, and in his chat with Bolavip he highlighted the importance of building relationships and creating promotions that are both beneficial to BetMGM, but also the teams that BetMGM partners with.
BetMGM’s Partnerships with MLB, NBA, NFL, and MLS
Bolavip: What exactly does a Head of Partnerships do for BetMGM?
Kyle Wachtel: I receive partnerships and affiliates for BetMGM, I joined in January 2019, so in those two years I have seen the company grow… our partnerships range far and wide, they include our league and team partners and our strategic partners. Those partners are Yahoo Sports, the Buffalo Wild Wings, TopGolf, the Athletics to name a few. On the team and league side we are partnered with NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, and a growing number of team partnerships as well… So, it's certainly a wide-ranging job with a lot of unique and different partners, and that keeps things exciting, there is a whole host of arrangements (with the partners) and it makes things multifaceted.
BV: How is BetMGM introducing itself through these relationships with the top sports league in the country?
KW: So, this is a new industry here in the U.S., there are some things we can do and some things we can’t do, and those guidelines are evolving as people become more knowledgeable through trial and error. Ultimately sports betting is one of our core verticals here at BetMGM, we offer online gaming products (online Casino, Poker), but sports betting really is the most mainstream and ultimately these team and league partners are great opportunities to reach their fan bases and generate awareness for BetMGM… These partnerships have many components, we have been able to tie our brands together through IP usages and advertising, whether digitally, for example on the MLS website you can click through the odds grid to be taken to the BetMGM website… We are working with them (Sports League Partners) to introduce sports betting, odds, and be good experiences for their fans, that’s the ultimate goal, a good experience for fans…
BV: What would be an example of a good fan experience?
KW: Some of the promotions and executions that we run help create that experience… for example, we ran a promotion with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the “Decade of Black and Gold” sweepstakes, fans were able to enter a sweepstakes to win weekly prizes and one lucky fan won ten years’ worth of season tickets. So, those are opportunities that without partnerships in place we would not be able to offer. It is a differentiator for BetMGM versus the competition, and it’s a unique opportunity for a Steelers fan to engage with the team.
BV: Are these partnerships broken down where the leagues or teams are affiliates of BetMGM or is there some kind of revenue share between the two sides?
KW: We structure all our arrangements as partnerships versus sponsorship and revenue share, because it really is two sides that need to work together. There are different goals for different partnerships, and it is about finding something that fits for that specific partner. As an example, the NBA and MLB are well established, people are used to betting on those sports so it’s something that is not entirely new, but NASCAR, they have a great fan base and an audience that is really engaged, but NASCAR and betting are not something (the fan) has not grown up seeing tied together. So, we are looking to introduce fans to betting on NASCAR and improve the betting markets and opportunities for those fans.
BV: Where there a lot of reservations by the major sports leagues to partner with online betting? Or were they enthusiastic about the opportunity?
KW: There certainly are instances where some partners might be more progressive than others, like showing odds on social media, where other leagues may not be as comfortable today with that. Each league is discovering their respective comfort level, ultimately, they realize that betting is great for engagement in the sport and adds excitement… So it’s about going about it in a manner that explains to the fans that sports betting is here is to complement their experience. If you trial it and enjoy it that’s fantastic and hopefully you continue to have fun and if you don’t that’s cool too.
BV: Recently the NBA partnered with Marvel and had graphics during a game pertaining to Marvel, does the sports betting industry see execution as those as opportunities or are you still limited on what you can do?
KW: It’s an evolving process, and you will start to see more integrations on linear television and through streaming. I saw the NBA broadcast and it was interesting for them to push the envelope there. Also, for NBA they do have NBA Bet Stream, in which online you can watch a handful of games with BetMGM odds, integration, and branding across those broadcasts. They also bring in commentators that speak more specifically to betting, so that is something you are able to stream now, and I think increasingly so you will see more integrations...
Measuring the results
BV: Have you seen the repercussions of all these efforts? Have there been increases in website traffic? Signups?
KW: We are certainly a data driven company and we want to quantify results the best we can. In some instances, it can be difficult, but we are looking to do our best, through surveys, and companies like Nielsen that will provide evaluations of other media and we really do look to stitch the whole picture together, so we can get an understanding of “this is driving value”, so how can we evolve and do more and build off of these successes…
BV: How has it been building partnerships during a pandemic?
KW: We very much have a long-term view, our hope is to find long term partnerships, that is certainly our preference over short term partnerships. Short term trails can certainly be merited in certain instances but ultimately, we want to find partners that share our ideals and work together to reach both of our goals, it is certainly a two way street…
BV: The BETFEST conference is coming up, when BetMGM participates in an online conference or any conference, how does the process work to build off of all that networking?
KW: it’s been great that conferences have been able to pivot digitally last year, although I will admit, I can’t wait to get back to a conference in person. Conferences are very insightful in such a new industry, but also great opportunities to network and reconnect with new people… During a digital conference it was where we started our Tennessee Titans partnership, and so there was still networking and a partnership that came from a digital conference.