DraftKings will become the official gaming partner of the WWE, just weeks before the entertainment company’s marquee event, WrestleMania, takes place on April 10 and 11. The pact is focused on DraftKings’ free-to-play pools product and will be available for fans to play at WrestleMania as well. The deal does not include betting, however DraftKings will have exclusive media assets and branding for the WWE’s pay-per-view events. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“We’re excited to enter this new agreement that makes DraftKings WWE’s first-ever free to play gaming partner,” Stephanie McMahon, WWE Chief Brand Officer said in a release. “This collaboration marks a significant step in deepening engagement with our passionate fans and will provide DraftKings the opportunity to leverage the massive appeal and reach of the WWE brand.”
The partnership is in-line with WWE’s strategy of collaborating with licensees in lieu of creating products in house, a shift that began in 2013 with mobile gaming development. Since then, WWE has doubled its video game revenue and also says it is outperforming the NFL, NBA and MLB, according to App Annie, a market data and analytics site.
Still, the WWE fell short of fourth-quarter earnings forecasts in their most recent earnings report, released in February. It claims the 26% decrease in revenue came from a lack of live-ticketed events. The WWE held 310 live events in 2019 versus a mere 42 in 2020. The company expects covid-19 related restrictions on live events to go on “at least through the first half of 2021,” it said during the earnings call.
Capacity for WrestleMania at Raymond James Stadium will be at 25,000, 38% of what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers home usually holds. WrestleMania 37 will be the first time the WWE has hosted fans since the pandemic caused cancellations last year.
For DraftKings, the agreement comes less than 30 days after the company inked a five-year $100 million deal with the UFC. The deal also included a commitment of $250 million in marketing for DraftKing’s UFC products. DraftKings ended 2020 with $1.8 billion on its balance sheet and is looking to raise another billion through convertible notes.
“As a cultural icon and incredible sports and entertainment company, we are thrilled to join forces with WWE and introduce its devoted fanbase to the DraftKings brand,” said Ezra Kucharz, Chief Business Officer at DraftKings in a release. “This relationship helps fuel the engagement and drama of WWE’s signature matchups and storylines as audiences enjoy the second-screen experiences our products provide.”