It's About the Work

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Each month, Sports Sesh examines the intersection of sports and PR in current events, while highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly. This month: Daily Fantasy Sports

The Good: Leagues Embrace Fantasy

Fantasy sports have come a long way from the days when participants would send the picks for the season into their favorite magazine. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 56.8 million people in United States and Canada played in some form of fantasy sports in 2015. This represents a whopping 26 percent growth from 2014. The average household income of those 56.8 million is $75,000 a year. These statistics show how much opportunity is out there, and the four major leagues – NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB – aren’t shying away.

The big four have embraced the fantasy sports movement, and have even looked to incorporate them into the game day experience. Currently, the Atlanta Falcons have plans to include a fantasy football lounge in their new stadium. On an almost daily basis, a new team is signing a deal with either DraftKings or FanDuel. Rather than trying to weed out fantasy sports due to gambling concerns, the leagues have embraced it. The NBA even signed a partnership with FanDuel in 2014 that landed them an equity stake in the company. As a result, they have opened themselves up to larger fan bases who are more engaged with their respective sports.

The next step, once investigations around Draftkings and FanDuel die down (more to come on that later) is for the leagues to be more proactive about how fantasy sports fit into the future of their games. It’s a thought leadership platform that appeals to a wider audience. 

The Bad: The Advertising  

I wish I could count on one hand the amount of times I see an ad for DraftKings and FanDuel on a daily basis, but there are way too many. Both of them are spending money on all forms of advertising to reach consumers. According to Nomura analyst Anthony DiClemente, DraftKings and FanDuel have spent a collective $150 million on TV and web ads from June-September 2015.

Both companies have invested in banner ads, radio ads, TV ads, sponsored posts and even integrations with local sports talk radio hosts across the country. But they all sound the same, and ultimately their message is the same: “By playing daily fantasy sports, you have the opportunity to win $1 million in a day.”

Again, both companies are under investigation, and if they do come out on the other side, they need to invest in a public relations platform. They’re at the forefront of a bustling industry, yet they’d rather pay for the message than put spokespeople out in the public eye who can discuss the rise in popularity. It’s not like they don’t have the statistics to back any of it up.

The Ugly: The Lawsuits

The New York Attorney General is going after daily fantasy sports hard. He’s even gone as far as adding Yahoo! to the lawsuit that both DraftKings and FanDuel are wrapped up in for being “nothing more than a rebranding of sports betting.” It all comes down to regulation. It’s an unregulated, multi-billion dollar industry that was made possible by a 2006 federal law that banned Internet gambling, but allowed fantasy sites to operate because they are games of skill rather than chance.

That is where it gets ugly. Rather than proactively building the platform around daily fantasy sports and what they really were, DraftKings and FanDuel chose to hide behind a law knowing they would be in this situation someday. It now presents a PR crisis, especially when there’s a DraftKings employee potentially using his knowledge to win over a quarter of million dollars on FanDuel. There is a shroud over the industry and its transparency and it’s something that can’t be fixed until these daily fantasy operators have had their day in court.

Alex Pitocchelli is a Senior Account Executive in Allison+Partners NY office who has worked with numerous sports focused clients during his time with the agency.



Web Summit

Earlier this month, Susie Hughes (VP of the London office) and I attended the last Web Summit being held in my home city of Dublin before it moves to Lisbon next year. Collectively, Susie and I have attended Web Summit for the past five years and have seen it grow from a tiny 200 person gathering to the massive 30,000 person event that it is today.

It was another great year of content and discussion. If you’re planning to attend the next one, here is some insight for you:

The speakers and ‘tracks’ are getting more diverse.

Web Summit is inherently a technology conference. However over the past five years, the rapid infiltration of technology into every aspect of life has become increasingly apparent. This event doesn’t just target a niche group of industry specialists anymore. The line-up of people waiting to hear Allison+Partners’ client Infusionsoft, was just as long as the line to hear Dan Brown’s interview and former Irish rugby player Brian O’ Driscoll’s panel.

Set up meetings ahead of time.

In years past, we would simply show up on the first day and march straight to the media or speakers ‘village’ to set up our networking shop. By the end of day three, our rolodex was full of new contacts and business cards. As the event has grown, this has become more of a challenge. Attendees are more dispersed and there are more activities to distract people from our (persistent) charms. Instead, this year we set up meetings ahead of time, which proved to be very productive. We scheduled meetings for our client, Dublin Commissioner for Start-ups, with The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and USA Today.

Night Summit is where the best networking happens.

Over the three days of the conference, a series of evening events are held throughout the city of Dublin. One thing that has remained consistent as the conference has grown is that the most valuable networking happens during these events. This year was no exception. We attended events held by two of the biggest Irish start-ups – CurrencyFair and Intercom – where we caught up with media and mingled with VCs and entrepreneurs. We even caught a live taping of my favourite podcast, an Irishman Abroad.

The start-ups in the exhibitor area get more insane every year.

The exhibiting ‘village’ at Web Summit has grown every year and now spans across the two venues. When we have some down time at the conference, we love to walk through the exhibitor areas and spot the most outrageous start-ups and start up names. Could you imagine a health tech start-up called ‘What the Health Are You Doing’ or an app that lets you turn on your microwave with your mind? Neither of these are real, but give you an example of the creative start-ups we regularly come across.

The growth of the Dublin tech industry.

The biggest change over the past five years has been the remarkable growth of Dublin’s start-up and tech industry. Previously, the city was known as the headquarters for European multinationals, but now it has fast carved out a name for itself as a major European Tech Hub, contending only Berlin and London. The city is bursting with creativity and innovation, which is evident (and sometimes a surprise) to everyone who attends Web Summit.

It will be interesting to see how Web Summit’s new home in Lisbon impacts the vibe and essence of the conference. Only time will tell, but you will all have to wait with baited breath until next year when I will report back on my findings.

Kate joined Allison+Partners in 2010 and has worked in both the San Francisco and London offices. Based in Dublin, she serves as director of the London office working closely with her U.K. and U.S. colleagues.


It is more difficult than ever for a company — especially a foreign company — to influence government policy in China. The current administration in Beijing views such influence as undesirable if not nefarious. Policies have been put into place that limits the interaction between senior officials and international companies. International commitments notwithstanding, China also appears determined to favor domestic firms that it hopes will lead China into a future of global commercial dominance in a range of profitable industries.

That said, there are still ways to ensure that your voice is heard in the policymaking process. Your efforts to have a say in the evolution of policies and regulation around your industry should include four avenues of approach.

  1. Direct contact. While these instances are rare, they are precious and often come with little warning. You need to be prepared to take full advantage of opportunities to have senior leaders hear your point of view. That doesn’t just mean being able to speak Chinese or having Xi Jinping’s book on your desk when welcoming a Chinese official; it means understanding how to earn respect without being a sycophant, and how to deliver your case convincingly to those most resistant to it.
  1. Diplomatic intercession. Getting your embassy or your home government to intervene directly on your behalf is the “nuclear option” as you don’t want to bring in the hammer unless you’ve tried everything else. Beijing’s leaders have become expert at turning a diplomatic solution into a pyrrhic victory. At the same time, commercial, economic, and political attaches at the embassy can be sources of insight and information, help align you with other companies in the same predicament, and ensure that your broader concerns are part of the bilateral discussion between China and your home country.
  1. Local influencers. The voices that matter the most to policymakers in Beijing are the ones that belong to Chinese enterprises and local governments. If you make your case to local leaders and to your Chinese partners in a way that demonstrates that your gain is their gain, you have recruited the most powerful spokespeople of all.
  1. The community at large. When the policy tide rolls against you, your best insurance is the devoted support of consumers and neighbors in your community. Building loyalty among your customers is, naturally, very good business. It is also a powerful bulwark against the vagaries of policy change in Beijing. Social media and relationships with opinion leaders offer another reason why all components of your external communications team need to be synchronized in China.

David Wolf is the managing director of Allison+Partners’ Global China Practice. Recognized as a leader in China’s public relations industry, David specializes in helping clients manage complex communications challenges, including government relations, crisis, new market entry, and corporate reorganization. His book, “Public Relations in China: Building and Defending Your Brand in the PRC,” was released in October 2015



These fees are worth paying when you travel



Travel is full of ancillary fees, add-ons and opportunities to upgrade. So how do you know when it’s worth it to shell out the extra money and when you’ll regret it?

Here’s a roundup of information on what’s worth it and what you should skip, based on travel industry know-how and personal experience.

Read More

Heather Dratler is a director in Allison+Partners’ Washington, D.C. office who provides strategic counsel to many of the agency’s travel and hospitality clients. She is a regular contributor for Elliott. 

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