DraftKings inks UK football sponsorships with Arsenal, Liverpool and Watford

draftkings-english-premier-league-liverpool-sponsorshipDaily fantasy sports operator DraftKings has signed a trio of high-profile English Premier League football sponsorships ahead of the company’s UK market launch.

On Wednesday, DraftKings announced it had entered into official DFS partnerships with EPL clubs Arsenal, Liverpool and Watford. Terms weren’t disclosed but likely didn’t come cheap, underscoring DraftKings’ eagerness to open up revenue streams outside the US.

Whatever they cost, DraftKings’ deals entitle it to lots of in-stadium branding and marketing promotions via the clubs’ digital and social media channels. DraftKings’ UK players will have the opportunity to win match tickets, autographed swag and “unique experiences” with the clubs. (Who’s up for a group shower? No? How about pretending to snort cocaine with Robbie Fowler?)

The Arsenal deal was listed as “long-term” in duration, while Liverpool specified a three-year term. Marketing news site The Drum is as yet the only one reporting the Watford deal, as the club’s site makes no mention of any DraftKings tie-up.

DraftKings began teasing the launch of its UK site again this week, promising to open for business “very soon.” The Financial Times reported that DraftKings planned to launch the site on Wednesday, but technical issues have apparently pushed things back a few more days.

The UK site launch has undergone a couple of delays, ostensibly to upgrade the product but more probably because the company has been more than a little distracted of late.

On Tuesday, DraftKings announced it would no longer serve customers in Hawaii, one of a growing number of states that have declared DFS to be illegal gambling. Both DraftKings and rival FanDuel are currently waging the legal fight of their lives in some of these larger states, while also facing the loss of a primary payment processor.

DraftKings announced its international expansion plan some time ago but the increasing uncertainty of operations in the US has made this an imperative. The NFL remains the DFS cash cow – responsible for 42% of 2015’s entry fees – and with the season over and the legal bills mounting, the Premier League looks like a way to help bridge the gap until baseball resumes this spring.

DraftKings co-founder Matt Kalish told the FT that the UK push wasn’t a “reaction” to the US uncertainty but UK site boss Jeffrey Haas must have skipped that meeting, as he characterized the international expansion as “an element of risk mitigation.”

Kalish said it was highly doubtful that DraftKings would limit itself to three UK sponsorship deals but said the UK operation wouldn’t mimic the advertising binge the US site engaged in last fall (likely because they can no longer afford to). However, UK marketing could ramp up by August as the EPL prepares for the next season, assuming the money’s there.