The NBA is slowly bringing sports betting ads to its broadcasts

While sports betting is now legal in the United States, it’s slow state-by-state rollout has the National Basketball Association (NBA) cautiously introducing gambling ads to its media mix.

Scott Kaufman-Ross, senior vice-president, head of fantasy and gaming at the NBA, said the league will be working with its broadcast partners and sports betting operators to sensibly introduce gambling ads so they don’t overwhelm viewers.

He added that operators likely won’t rollout national campaigns as less than 10% of states have legalized sports betting.

“Should it be done on platforms that can be geo-targeted to places where it is legal, or broadcast platforms where there are local availabilities in local stations? Those are the types of things we're looking at,” Kaufman-Ross said.

“Certainly, as sports betting becomes legal in more states..., more national broadcasting will make sense. But finding that right balance is going to be very important in the early years.”

Sports betting is currently legal in Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

Kaufman-Ross said the NBA will learn from the successes and mistakes international markets where sports betting is more entrenched.

Sky, for instance, has introduced TV gambling ad limits and ad blocking measures to help protect addicts. As part of the NBA’s guidelines, gambling ads must include responsible gaming disclosures.

Kaufman-Ross said it’s still too early to foresee how brands outside of gambling can align with this new craze, especially since there isn’t a dominant operator yet. He added that broadcaster Fox Sports is pushing its own platform Fox Bet, which creates an “interesting dynamic” in the marketplace.

While the larger gambling world gets its house in order, the NBA is working to target pro-gambling audiences through it’s free-to-play games.

These free-to-play games offer a 'gambling-lite' service that reward players with giveaways rather than cash. In turn, players share valuable data that the NBA can then package and sell to advertisers.

“It creates an asset where we can use it as sponsorable inventory for our sports betting partners, because those fans have shown a proclivity for and an interest in gaming, rather than just sort of blasting emails to everyone where you don't know which fans are interesting in gaming and which are not. It's a very valuable platform for us to learn more about our fans,” said Kaufman-Ross.

Kaufman-Ross recently spoke at sports business conference Leaders Week New York on how sports betting with transform the fan experience.