Disruption Drives the NFL to Gamble — Or How to Kill a Sacred Cow in 3 Easy Steps

A couple weeks ago, the NFL discussed gambling and the game. … No, not the impact gambling could have on the game. Actual gambling as part of the NFL — from your seat, at the game or in your home, every Sunday. Why would they do that? Disruption. What will you do when the sacred cows in your industry are brought to the butcher’s block?

At the owner meetings, the NFL is hearing all sides of the story, especially ways gambling has been incorporated into sports leagues throughout the world. One of the big takeaways is that traditional points-spread betting doesn’t present much opportunity. But prop bets (betting on individual evens, like whether or not they’ll kick a field goal on this drive) can be very lucrative, and in-game prop bets could help engage the active-viewing audience who watches with phones in hand whether they’re at home or in the stadium. It’s considered an open secret that most of those (us) fantasy football players would rather be placing money bets.

Once you realize disruption is coming, you need to figure out what you want the post-disruption future to look like and move to make that the reality. Taxi companies didn’t see the business opportunity of mobile apps, so Uber ate their lunch.

The NFL doesn’t intend to be Ubered, so he owners are looking very carefully at the ways this change could best benefit them. You shouldn’t let yourself be Ubered, either, but recognize that this level of investigation is needed to figure out where your real opportunities lie.

3. Choose Your New Cows

You don’t stumble into the promised land. Once you see disruption coming and identify the opportunities, you need to make change happen.

If the NFL decides to cozy up to gambling, it’s going to mean new apps need to be built, new partnerships need to be made, new brand messaging needs to be developed … Any response to disruption is going to be a big endeavor. It’s going to be disrupting in its own right.

It will take clarity and vision to bring your response into reality, the same kind of clarity and vision that elevated the sacred calf in the first place.

When leagues distanced themselves from gambling, they did it for the integrity of the game. If they get back in bed with gambling, they’ll need a new set of aligning principals. The new sacred cows will most likely be named something like “customer experience” or “giving millennials what they want,” but they’ll be identified and deified as necessary to make this happen.

Whatever your new aligning principal is, be sure its a vision and message you can align the company behind. Because when you slaughter a sacred cow, it takes more than hamburgers to get your congregation back on track.

Author: Thorin McGee

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

9 thoughts on “Disruption Drives the NFL to Gamble — Or How to Kill a Sacred Cow in 3 Easy Steps”

  1. The NFL is dead anyway…they just don’t know it. They have been operating against their best self interest for years. Virtue signaling, allowing behavior repugnant to its base, letting the inmates run the asylum. Buh-bye, Too Big to Fail.

    1. Yeah. The NFL has nowhere to grow, really. The pro sport that is growing in North America is soccer. MLS has been expanding rapidly, crowds in new markets have been large…e.g. Atlanta, Orlando, LA (though a few markets are terrible such as Columbus, Houston and Dallas) and the quality of play improving every year and drawing world class players in their prime. Young people play soccer, fewer kids play football and the fans in the crowds at MLS games are young and diverse. Maybe the NFL will die, but does it matter? I would hate to see it go but my kids wouldn’t; it’s dad’s thing and they hate it.

  2. “At the same time, some of the underlying realities of the Black Sox scandal have changed as well. Athletes of the time were not that wealthy, and very vulnerable to outside financial influence. Today, professional athletes are some of the wealthiest people in the world, and gambling payoffs large enough to motivate them seem unrealistic.”

    Uh, Pete Rose, for example?

    The thesis that pro athletes are paid so much, they don’t need payoffs from gamblers may not stand the real world test. There will always be some players for whom enough will never be enough. They’ll need more, and then more after that, and some of them will figure, or be told, that the way to make more money is to rig the game.

    Keep it pristine clean from the get-go, or risk every sport in America becoming another version of “Professional” Wrestling.

    1. 1. Pete Rose was never accused of fixing games. It’s one of the ironies of his banning that while he bet, no one has seriously questioned his effort to win. His sin was gambling on the side, often on his own team to win.
      2. When the Phillies made Pete Rose the highest paid player in Baseball, he made $800k a year (1978). Today, Clayton Kershaw is making $33 million a year. That growth is something like 6 times the rate of inflation. And doesn’t include endorsements or any other income derived from his baseball reputation.

      But I think the most powerful argument for everyone involved is that this has broadly worked out OK in other countries with the same issues. FIFA has not been ruined by legalized gambling in its countries, and there is a lot more risk there, with many teams playing under many different sets of laws.

      It’s not that pro athletes are untouchable, it’s just that they have a lot more to lose and relatively little to gain today, especially when there are more legit ways to cash in than ever, than they did in Pete’s day. The personal brand is too important to risk.

  3. You write: “It could be the boldest stroke of genius, or the dumbest butt-fumble, in NFL history.”

    I’ll go with the latter. Gambling infuences everything it touches, and the NFL players could actually gamble on their own games. Strikes me as insider trading. If the NFL goes with this, they will lose their already shrinking audience.

    These men (mostly felons – check it out) make obscene amounts of money for playing a game. Ridiculous.

    If they move toward this, I’m outta here. They would be nothing but highly paid prostitutes. The fact that this idea is even up for decision says a lot about the quality of owners and their motley group of players.

    1. I don’t think anyone is suggesting letting players bet on the games. It’s about allowing gambling with NFL consent and partnership for viewers.

      1. I doubt it anyone’s talking about that either. But I know people who are compulsive gamblers and they would make bets through a third party.

        The quality of players of the NFL is very questionable. I really hate to demean the game, but I saw a list of the players on three NFL teams and all but two were actually convicted felons. Sad but true.

  4. From the NFL’s mouth to God’s ears. Can we also legalize pot and use the taxes on both to eliminate state and federal taxes?

    The only interest I have in the NFL is if I have money on the game and the only way I put money on the game is if I’m in Vegas.

    Let the NFL lead the way for legalized nationwide sports betting.

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