Pilots take part in practice rounds at the Drone Racing League / Allianz World Championship final at Alexandra Palaceon June 08, 2017 in London, England.
Adam Gray | Barcroft Media | Getty Images
Sports betting company DraftKings and the Drone Racing League (DRL) announced an exclusive deal on Friday that will let people bet on drone races. It should also help DraftKings cater to a younger audience.
DRL is a first-person-view racing league where drone pilots race devices through neon-lit courses and compete for top prize money. DRL did not provide the amount it pays its competitors, but in a 2017 the award amount reached $100,000.
The two sides did not provide financial terms of the deal.
People in Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, and West Virginia can place bets on drone races from their phones.
Established in 2015, DRL has built up interest among younger sports fans over the years. It’s set to complete the fifth season with a “level 14” racing event on Saturday followed by its championship event, which has yet to be announced.
Drones used in events are designed and built by DRL. Identical models are built for every race. Each drone is worth roughly $2,000 and can travel up to 90 miles per hour.
“DRL’s thrilling, innovative racing events are perfect for the customized wagering offerings we can create,” said Ezra Kucharz, DraftKings’ chief business officer, in a statement. “Our expertise in sports betting combined with DRL’s stats-packed competition will make this a fun and seamless opportunity to engage their avid audience along with tech-savvy, adrenaline-loving sports fans.”
DraftKings officials told CNBC it tested DRL’s wager interest with its free-to-play popularity pools offered in November and were pleased with the results. The firm had to shift to non-traditional sports offers when leagues shut down last spring due to Covid-19.
Aligning with DRL provides DraftKings access to Generation Z consumers pro leagues still have issues attracting.
DRL uses the label “tech-setters” to define the audience, describing the 16-34 age group as predominantly male and “deeply passionate about technology, science, and gaming.” This group is also considered sports fans who don’t follow traditional leagues or esports as closely as millennials.
DRL says this age group resembles its current fanbase.
“They’re young; they’re influential, they’re tech-savvy,” said DRL president Rachel Jacobson in an interview with CNBC on Friday. Jacobson added that the league will unlock the “next generation of betting fans” for DraftKings.
DRL fans are three times more likely to place a sports bet and 90% more interested in sports wagering compared to the average global sports fan, according to data by Wasserman Media Group.
The drone league has media rights deals with NBC Sports and Sky Sports, owned by CNBC parent company Comcast. It also has a streaming deal with Twitter to host its pre-flight shows. The league said its Thursday show grew to 193,000 viewers, up from 75,000 viewers during the first show in December.
Jacobson said the company added eight new sponsorships in 2020, including sports drink maker Bodyarmor and a technology deal with T-Mobile, including building a 5G drone for the league.