BetMGM Sportsbook has a partnership with former Boston Celtics great Kevin Garnett, and the NBA champion appeared in several BetMGM ads in Massachusetts leading up to that state’s sports betting launch back in March.
Online sports betting in Massachusetts has been live for several months, and the NBA Finals are now in full swing. It is prime time for a Garnett commercial, but there has been no word on a new campaign yet.
Let’s take a closer look at why that might be.
BetMGM’s advertising absence during the Finals
With the notoriety Garnett’s name has in the NBA, you would think you would see him on screen during the Finals. However, the Big Ticket hasn’t made an appearance in quite a while on a new ad for BetMGM Massachusetts. That’s a little baffling considering the quality of his on-screen appearances, but the sportsbook may have good reason.
That may have to do with viewership expectations for the series. Although Game 1 of the series outperformed expectations, it was the least-watched Finals opener since 2006, with the exception of 2020 and 2021 due to COVID.
In addition, with the Celtics getting eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals, the fear of a lack of betting interest in Massachusetts could also be why the sportsbook pulled back in the Finals.
In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, BetMGM trading manager Christian Cipollini said a Celtics-Lakers matchup would have created much more betting action.
“Everyone bets the Lakers-Celtics,” Cipollini said.
That is understandable, given the large, passionate fan bases of the two historic franchises.
Considering ABC is charging around $1.2 million for a 30-second commercial, it’s plausible that the price tag may have been too hefty if Massachusetts was the intended audience.
Sports calendar gets barren after NBA Finals
For BetMGM, although holding steady with a sports handle above $40 million, the actual revenue hovers south of $5 million a month.
That doesn’t mean things can’t change. If the series goes to Game 6 or 7, BetMGM may still place an ad. According to reports, 90% of ad space for Games 1-5 is already filled, so the likelihood of seeing one before then feels slim.
After the Finals conclude, the dog days of summer don’t bring any major sporting events. If another ad doesn’t get placed during the Finals, the sportsbook is likely to hold off until football season or the regular season in the NBA next year, when it will be much cheaper. Americans wager much more on football than any other sport, so there is a good chance fans won’t have to wait for the NBA to return before seeing Garnett again.
In the meantime, BetMGM sponsors Garnett’s show on Showtime entitled Certified. On the show, Garnett has a sports betting section, and has plenty of previously recorded commercials featuring already in rotation in much less expensive spots.
Garnett’s BetMGM ambassadorship
Garnett was a critical piece of BetMGM’s pre-launch efforts, as well as its March Madness and NBA playoffs campaigns.
For an audience of Massachusetts sports fans, Garnett was an obvious target that BetMGM quickly identified. In addition to being a hoops icon in the area, Garnett already had a stake in the gaming industry. He founded the Gaming Society, a media company dedicated to making sports betting more accessible and inclusive.
Another major benefit was that Garnett already had acting experience and could seamlessly be plugged into a variety of commercials for the sportsbook. He starred as himself in the 2019 movie Uncut Gems. The film starred Adam Sandler, LaKeith Stanfield and Julia Fox, and was centered around a sports bettor. It was met with critical acclaim and shined a spotlight on what Garnett was capable of in front of the camera.
As a Hall of Famer, his sports knowledge was always evident. With a quality on-screen role under his belt, his acting chops were solidified, making it only a matter of time before he got a call from one of the major sportsbooks.
“I’m thrilled to be working with BetMGM to share my insights with my fans. It’s a natural fit for both myself and BetMGM given our mutual desire to stay on top of the ever-changing sports business landscape,” Garnett said at the announcement of the partnership.
BetMGM’s share in the MA market
BetMGM Massachusetts has the third-highest percentage of the Massachusetts market so far. In March, the sportsbook took in $45 million in bets. In May, residents wagered $42 million with the sportsbook.
That’s nowhere in the ballpark of what DraftKings and FanDuel are bringing in, but it does signal room for growth.
The company is hoping that Garnett’s BetMGM partnership will increase its stake in the marketplace. The 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee and 2008 NBA championship winner is a fan favorite among locals, and BetMGM is hoping to convert some of that love and aspiration from the residents into additional wagers on its platform.