One thing was certain on the opening Sunday of NFL games this season — an Ohio team would win.
The Cincinnati Bengals visited the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 10, hoping to end the Browns’ dominance over them the past few years.
It was the 100th meeting of the two Ohio teams. Although the Bengals are 52-47 all-time in the “Battle of Ohio” matchup, Cincinnati hasn’t won in Cleveland since 2017.
Another certain thing for those watching the Bengals/Browns game on television. There will be sportsbook advertisements — lots of them.
But how many sports betting commercials will be shown during the broadcast in the Buckeye State? Ohio sports betting began at the start of this year, making this the first full NFL season for Ohioans to bet on.
We tracked how many sportsbook commercials infiltrated the latest Battle of Ohio TV broadcast.
Sportsbook TV advertising has increased in recent years
There are tons of complaints on social media about the abundance of sportsbook ads. TV advertising measurement and analytics company iSpot recently released a report that found that there has been a 25% year-over-year increase in sports betting television ads, affirming that there has indeed been an uptick.
But in that same report, iSpot found that 41% of sports betting advertising on TV is aired during non-sports programming. PlayOhio previously tracked sportsbook commercials during a Cleveland Cavaliers game. Then, we tracked the ads again during the NFL Draft. It was surprising how few sports betting commercials were shown.
During the most recent Super Bowl, only two actual sportsbook commercials were shown during the broadcast. However, there were various other promotions and mentions featured during the game.
That may have been by design. The NFL reportedly limits the number of sports betting commercials that air during a game broadcast.
For regular season and playoff games, the NFL allows for just six sportsbook spots to be shown. And those ads must be for NFL partners — so DraftKings, FanDuel and Caesars Sportsbook, and “second tier” partners like BetMGM Ohio and PointsBet Sportsbook.
Sportsbook operators would normally chomp at the bit to advertise during sports programming, especially during an event like Sunday’s Bengals-Brown game. It’s the first NFL season opener since sports betting launched in Ohio on Jan. 1.
FanDuel has heavy presence ahead of kickoff
I’m watching the game in Southwest Ohio on the Cincinnati CBS affiliate WKRC/Local 12. I tuned into the NFL Today pregame show before the 1 p.m. kickoff to see if the sportsbook ads get flowing early and often.
I immediately see the first sports betting commercial of the day, a FanDuel Sportsbook Ohio spot. Soundtracked by the ’90s rap hit “I Got 5 on It” by Luniz, the 30-second “Cherish The NFL Season” ad features a group of fans watching a game in a living room, celebrating and high-fiving in slow-motion after a big play.
The FanDuel ad’s voiceover implores viewers to get their high-fives in “before football Sundays … become Sundays again.” As the slow-mo effect switches off, Cheetos fall to the ground and a man is suddenly alone in his living room.
The commercial promotes FanDuel’s new customer offer — the long-standing “bet $5 and get $200 in bonus bets” promo. The commercial also touts a deal where “all NFL bettors” receive $100 off the NFL Sunday Ticket package on YouTube TV, one of the more unique OH sportsbook promo offers.
Less than 15 minutes later, the same FanDuel commercial is shown again. It leads into a short segment, “FanDuel Best Bets,” during which a couple of the pregame show hosts offer their picks on a handful of prop bets. Boomer Esiason suggests taking the over on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow scoring more than 2.5 touchdowns, advice that turns out to be (spoiler alert) terrible.
After the segment, the broadcasting team moves on to more analysis, but for several more minutes, the scroll at the bottom of the screen toggles exclusively between FanDuel messaging like “Bet the NFL on FanDuel, America’s #1 Sportsbook.”
DraftKings gets in on the pregame commercial action
DraftKings Ohio enters the pregame about 30 minutes in with its 30-second “Like Magic” spot.
The recent DraftKings ad features the main DK spokesperson, comedian/actor Kevin Hart, and journeyman NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose post-NFL life has included analyzing NFL programming on Amazon’s Prime Video and commercial work like this.
The DraftKings commercial begins with Hart considering DK’s “bet $5 to get $200 in bonus bets” new user offer. After saying DK has “spoiled” him with “these big payouts” (which makes no sense with the offer because Hart is clearly not a “new user”), he throws to “retired NFL smart guy” Fitzpatrick to “break it down for us.”
Fitzpatrick explains that you place your bet, and then the bonus bets appear in your account “like magic.” Then, he transforms from his basic workout clothes to um… fancier workout clothes? The outfit includes a gold chain and sunglasses.
“Like FitzMagic,” he says, coolly calling back to his old NFL nickname (well, one of them — the other was “FitzTragic”).
Hart looks him down and deadpans twice, “That’s too much magic.” It’s a highly basic and forgettable spot. But it does hammer home the welcome offer a couple of times.
FanDuel sneaks in two more commercials before kickoff
The same FanDuel commercial runs for the third time during the pregame show.
Following some quick opening remarks from announcers Ian Eagle and Charles Davis at very rainy Cleveland Browns Stadium, they cut to another pre-kickoff commercial break. This begins with the same FanDuel commercial aired thrice during the pregame show.
That’s five sportsbook ads, plus some in-show branding, and we haven’t even played a down of football yet. Perhaps the NFL has loosened its sports betting ad limitations ahead of the new season.
We finally have kickoff, as the Bengals’ Chris Evans brings it back for a 28-yard return. The first action of the day for Burrow, who just signed a contract extension making him the highest-paid NFL player of all time, ends with little to show for it, as the Bengals are forced to punt after two quick series.
BetMGM’s latest Jamie Foxx commercial makes an appearance
BetMGM is the third sportsbook to have an ad pop up during CBS’s Sunday NFL programming.
The commercial is BetMGM’s latest ad campaign, “Doing it Live.” It features brand ambassador Jamie Foxx roaming around a swanky Vegas lounge, promoting BetMGM’s live betting options as athletes from various sports erupt in action around him.
BetMGM is also mentioned when the CBS game broadcast returns as an official sponsor.
After the Browns’ first drive also ends quickly, Ryan Fitzpatrick returns to the screen. But this time, it’s for a commercial for Little Caesars pizza. FitzMagic seems to be having a pretty lucrative second act.
Neither the Bengals nor the Browns look very good early on, thanks at least partly to the heavy rain. As the first quarter ends, it’s been over 30 minutes without a sportsbook ad.
FanDuel, DraftKings spots continue into second quarter
After the Browns strike first with a 42-yard field goal from new kicker Dustin Hopkins and the Bengals go 3-and-out, FanDuel’s “Cherish The NFL Season” commercial airs for the fifth time since noon.
The FanDuel ad is included in a block with T-Mobile and State Farm commercials starring Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes and Fitzpatrick are really getting a lot of airtime today so far.
FanDuel gets another mention in a “The NFL on CBS is sponsored by …” bumper heading back into the game.
The rain momentarily stops. Now, maybe both offenses won’t continue to seem like they’re still asleep. Although standout Browns running back Nick Chubb has looked stellar already.
In the first break after the two-minute warning, the Kevin Hart/Ryan Fitzpatrick DraftKings commercial runs again. DraftKings gets a “sponsored by” mention as the broadcast returns to the game.
After the Browns put together their best offensive drive of the game, quarterback Deshaun Watson runs the ball in from 13 yards out for the first touchdown of the game with just 17 seconds left in the half.
It’s halftime, with the Browns up 10-0. It’s the first time since their game against the Browns last Halloween that the Bengals have been shut out in the first half.
FanDuel showcases live betting in the second commercial
The second half begins following a halftime devoid of sportsbook commercials. The early deluge of sports betting ads appears to be slowing down.
The Bengals begin to show a little life. After their best drive of the game so far (aided by a pass interference call), kicker Evan McPherson gets Cincinnati on the board. More signs of life for the Bengals — Dax Hill nabs an interception and the Bengals get the ball back quickly.
Then FanDuel returns to the broadcast, but it’s a different commercial. This spot promotes FanDuel’s live betting with fast-paced cuts of clocks and timers, as the voiceover says, “You think life is short? Football is short. Cherish every over and under before it’s over on FanDuel with live betting on every NFL game.”
In the ad, a man is shown shirtless in the stands of a Bills game, then alone and shirtless in the snow at a bus stop, as the voiceover continues, “Before you know it, a cold night at a Buffalo Bills game … will just be a cold night in Buffalo.”
Browns dominance over Bengals continues
The rain has returned, as has the Bengals anemic offense. McPherson misses a 51-yard field goal attempt.
After Hopkins kicks another field goal following another impressive Browns running drive, Hopkins gets the fourth quarter scoring started with a 43-yarder. The Browns are up 16-3, the Dawg Pound is in full celebration mode and the Bengals don’t have much time left to make something happen.
The Bengals get desperate and go for it on fourth down, deep in their own territory. Burrow gets sacked, the Browns take over on Cincinnati’s 18-yard line and three plays later, Watson hits tight end Harrison Bryant to put the Browns up 24-3.
The Bengals wave the white flag, putting in backup quarterback Jake Browning, who does not get paid $55 million a year to throw a football. Browns win 24-3.
It’s Burrow’s worst game statistically in his career and the first time he hasn’t thrown for more than 100 yards in a game.
After cutting to the end of the Tennessee/New Orleans game — and just ahead of switching over to its 4:30 p.m. game — the CBS broadcast get in one more sportsbook ad. No, it’s not another FanDuel spot — it’s the DraftKings commercial with Hart and Fitzpatrick.
FanDuel, DraftKings nearly monopolize betting commercial space
So the final tally of Battle of Ohio sportsbook commercials — running from the noon pregame show until the tail-end of the post-game — comes out to 10. That’s about 10% of the commercials aired during an average NFL game.
Four ads ran during the pre-game, five aired during the game and one more aired during the post-game coverage (which was partially pre-game for the 4:30 p.m. game).
The market leaders and primary NFL sports betting partners FanDuel and DraftKings dominated the sports betting commercial space for this Week 1 matchup. It’s curious that Caesars, the NFL’s third main sportsbook partner, had no ads at all. It’s not like they don’t run commercials.
Here’s the breakdown by operator:
- Six FanDuel commercials
- Three DraftKings commercials
- One BetMGM commercial