Mike Crawford’s vision for the Hall of Fame Village surrounding the pro football shrine in Canton, Ohio entails more than gold jackets and busts of NFL legends.
There’s the “destination-based assets” of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village and Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, where the ceremonial first NFL preseason game is played, and the expanding entertainment complex around them.
Then there’s the media studio the chief executive officer of Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment Company is attempting to build out, tapping into his experience as a former Disney executive. And well before Ohio legalized sports betting, there was the gaming component. With retail and mobile sports betting set to launch on Jan. 1, Crawford found a partner that could bolster two of those categories.
A high-profile one.
And an Ohio guy as a bonus.
Influencer/media personality/boxer Jake Paul was the right person, and his Betr micro-betting platform was the right mobile sports betting app at the right time, Crawford said. But Crawford also knows that Paul’s level of fame and controversy make this more than a typical business transaction. Maybe not Dave Portnoy-level. But way more than an anonymous CEO in an expensive suit.
“Look, there’s going to be a lot of opinions around Jake,” Crawford told Gaming Today. “My personal opinion is ‘good for him.’ I think he is really challenging status quo. I think that’s what Millennials, Gen Z, Gen Alpha is going to really look for. It’s not just the standard of ‘you sit back and you watch ESPN’. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what I do.”
Paul, 25, rose from Cleveland kid made famous on Vine to a YouTuber, influencer, lightning rod, boxer, and entrepreneur worth $310 million, according to Forbes. He claimed in a video announcing Betr that he’d turned down $40 million in endorsements from other sportsbooks to launch his own with partner Joel Levy. And he had the logo tattooed on his right leg.
Paul’s Media Savvy All Part of Betr Plan
Betr is both a would-be sports betting platform and a content farm, playing into Paul’s ability to generate attention, if not interest.
“Progressively, these [younger] generations are going to look for different ways to engage with sport and different lenses to view it by,” Crawford said. “I think Jake is one of those guys that’s really bringing a new and progressive view on how sports can not only be broadcast, but given he’s done it, the filter by which he can talk to it. And you see that with the Manning brothers, you see it with others that are out there really sort of making what was a more traditional sit- in-a-booth-and-broadcast-the-game, more color, commentary, more reality, if you want more reality TV and exposing things to an audience in ways that they’ve never had the opportunity to be exposed before.”
HOFV had originally announced Genesis as its online partner, but Crawford said Betr better aligned his company’s three verticals: destination-based assets, media, and gaming. HOFV took an equity stake in Betr as part of the transaction.
“We just thought that overall the marriage with Betr was going to be a much broader opportunity for us,” Crawford said. “And so knowing Jake Paul and his appeal as an Ohio guy to start with, and I got to know Joey Levy, their CEO, quite well, so they seemed like good partners for us.”
Of current sports betting options, Paul said on his “BS w/ Jake Paul” podcast, “Just like in boxing, I see a market that’s old, outdated, and archaic.”
“The parlays and the minus-3000 odd, no one knows what that means,” he continued.
Henry Schafer, executive vice president of Q Scores, which measures likeability and influence in personalities, said in a study last month, Paul registered “above average familiarity/awareness for a social media influencer, but he has weak likability scores indicating polarizing perceptions (image as a “stir the pot” personality).”
Betr the Right Risk at Right Time for HOFV
There might not have been apprehension in aligning with a company that has yet to take a wager. But Crawford acknowledged there was risk.
“I think there’s always a risk when you’re dealing with companies that haven’t been proven, battle-tested and roll things out,” he conceded. “What you are looking for is the business model, the product itself, understanding how it connects with your vision. And frankly, are they a high-quality partner continuing to grow, together?
“We’re still in the infancy stage for our company. And so there’s a little bit of, ‘Hey, let’s take a risk with each other while we have a brand that we’re building around and certainly the credibility of professional football standing behind us.”
“I think when we looked at Betr, made the assessment of where they were heading and the quality of partnership that we could get from them, the multiple business vertical engagement, it just made sense for us.”
Betr Demographic Could Age into Hall of Fame Patrons
Although Betr will offer traditional sports betting options, Crawford said, it’s being touted by Paul as a micro-betting niche catering to bettors seeking cheap and frequent plays. Paul, who has almost 68 million followers across multiple social media platforms, has foisted TikTok as the analog for Betr’s ambition. That would also, in theory, aim Betr toward younger bettors who likely haven’t yet reached the stage of nostalgia over NFL players they don’t remember from their exploits on the field. That won’t be a problem, Crawford said, and possibly part of a longer game.
“I think what we’re seeing is, as the Peyton Mannings come into the Hall, you have powerful names that still resonate with younger generations,” he explained said. “The fun thing, though, is that with the younger generations, they know Michael Strahan as the guy on Good Morning America. They didn’t know him as a dominating defensive foe that the offense had to fear every time.
“The list goes on and on. These guys are very relevant to our audience and the newer generations, but in a different way. It really is a very progressive step forward to say we’re investing not only in the next generation, but the next three generations, because we think that’s how the technology and how [Betr will] market and continue to evolve their business. Our goal to access those generations will certainly benefit the rest of everything that we’re doing.”