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NFL 2023: Record-Breaking Sportsbook Engagement Despite Decline in Downloads

Sports betting apps set records with groundbreaking growth at the beginning of the 2022 NFL season. With the end of the first month of the 2023 NFL season coming to a close, we zoom in to see how sportsbooks like DraftKings and FanDuel are competing compared to last year.


What you should know — key takeaways: 

  • Though sportsbook app downloads are down, active users are significantly up year over year for top sportsbook apps.

  • Sportsbooks are offering aggressive promotions to lure in valuable users.

  • As more states legalize, we can expect the sports betting market to continue to grow

As the competitive landscape of sports betting ecosystem continues to evolve, the dynamics between sportsbook apps such as FanDuel and DraftKings are constantly shifting as new players such as Fanatics & ESPN BET enter. The stretch between the 2022 and 2023 NFL seasons has seen an iinterplay of market saturation, user engagement, promotional strategies, and legislative advancements. Sportsbooks compete fiercely as states continue to legalize, from New York in 2022 to Kentucky just last month. In this blogpost, we aim to outline how the landscape has unfolded this year so far.


Sportsbook app US downloads have shown a small decline when comparing the beginning of the NFL 2022 season to the beginning of the 2023 season. While digital advertising expenditure remained relatively stable year over year according to Sensor Tower Pathmatics data, less downloads were generated. With a significant portion of interested users in legalized states having already been exposed to these platforms, a likely reason for diminishing downloads is the market reaching a saturation point in the short term. The failure of legalization efforts in huge markets like California is a significant factor keeping the door shut on downloads growth for now.


By contrast, the monthly active users (MAU) numbers tell a different tale. The top sportsbook apps have witnessed a surge in US users, even with downloads on a downturn. This dynamic reveals a nuanced challenge - while acquiring new users is becoming a stiffer task, the existing user base continues to engage in the long term. bet365 stands out with a staggering 280% increase in US MAU year over year. In the past, bet365 had a reputation for being internationally focused, with a smaller presence in the US. This growth shows that bet365 is not ignoring the massive US market, even as FanDuel and DraftKings continue to reign as the top contenders.

Recognizing the goldmine in acquiring valuable users who continue to engage in the long term, top sportsbooks have continued to apply aggressive promotional campaigns. Leading the charge are FanDuel and DraftKings with enticing offers such as "Bet $5 get $200". bet365 offers one of the most aggressive campaigns with a “Bet $1 get $365”, though this campaign is restricted by state. On the other end, newcomer Fanatics Sportsbook is carving a niche by offering long-term value through a unique rewards program. “FanCash” rewards users with a percentage of bets back in points redeemable in the Fanatics sports apparel and merchandise store. This strategy bears a strong resemblance to credit card cashback and point loyalty programs, a proven strategy in cultivating customer loyalty.


As the NFL season kicks off, top sportsbooks have displayed a surprising diversity in ad spend strategy. While DraftKings is investing in a balanced variety of channels, FanDuel and BetMGM are focused on high quality video creatives OTT (Over the top, streaming TV ads, for example Hulu) and on YouTube. Caesars implemented a unique strategy focused on display ads while bet365 showed a variation on balanced diversity, leaning into YouTube.

Another theme impossible to miss in this segment is the ever present celebrity endorsement. DraftKings must be having great success partnering with Kevin Hart, as they kicked off another marketing partnership in August. Similarly, BetMGM continues to feature Jamie Foxx in their ads, suited up and playing the piano, and FanDuel continue to work with Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski after Gronkowski unfortunately missed a field goal during the Super Bowl with $10 million in FanDuel free bets on the line earlier this year. 

Similarly, influencer inspired creatives have been gaining traction on social networks like TikTok. In these ads, influencers and actors deliver narrative to viewers in an organic style that fits in with the platform’s user generated content, making audiences more likely to engage. These ads have noticeably lower production values than their celebrity counterparts, making them more budget friendly and easier to build and test in a time sensitive manner.

The juxtaposition of September 2023 against September 2022 unveils a sportsbook app market in flux. Diminished downloads are countered by rising user engagement, spurred by creative promotional offerings and the march of legalization across the US. As the domain of digital sports betting matures, sportsbooks will need to continue to innovate and monitor the latest trends for a chance of staying on top.

Want to learn more? Download the full report on how the first month of NFL season 2023 has affected sportsbooks here.

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Sam Aune

Written by: Sam Aune, Gaming Insights Analyst

Date: October 2023