North Carolina sportsbooks will have plenty of choices for local brand ambassadors when mobile betting launches there sometime in 2024.
That is, if they’re allowed.
A proposed rule before the North Carolina State Lottery Commission would allow “no advertising, marketing, branding, and other promotional materials published, aired, displayed, disseminated, or distributed by or on behalf of any Operator” that contained “images, symbols, celebrity or entertainer endorsements, music, or language that have been used in connection with media or other programming specifically targeted at Underage Persons.”
The debate would have to be settled on whether sports constituted programming targeted explicitly at minors. Carowinds, it isn’t. But it’s not a day at Cedar Mountain Moonshine, either.
And there is precedent. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will ban celebrity and athlete sportsbook endorsers beginning Feb. 28.
So, let’s speculate before the whole idea is quashed.
With a rich athletic history both in terms of pro and college teams and athletes who’ve been raised or elevated to stardom there, North Carolina presents several interesting choices. Having milled through the chaff to find a suitable collection of stats, gravitas, and reputation, Gaming Today presents the triad of North Carolina sportsbook ambassador candidates.
Michael Jordan: The Wilmington native who starred for the Tar Heels and grew up to own the Hornets – after doing some other interstate stuff in the middle – is kinda-sorta already in the sportsbook brand ambassador business.
“Michael Jordan is among the most important figures in sports and culture, who forever redefined the modern athlete and entrepreneur. The strategic counsel and business acumen Michael brings to our board is invaluable, and I am excited to have him join our team.”
Even with Jordan now divested of his majority ownership stake in the Hornets, don’t expect to see him shilling DraftKings bets with Kevin Hart. His presence by association is enough. It’s not completely clear whether NBA rules would allow a minority stakeholder in a team to appear in ads, anyway, but they allowed one to advise a sportsbook. No matter; Jordan can do plenty just wearing a DraftKings-green blazer every once in a while.
UPDATE: Bet365 became the Hornets’ official sports betting partner on Nov. 17.
Stephen Curry: He grew up in Charlotte as his father, Dell, was becoming the all-time points leader for the first version of the Hornets. Curry took Davidson to unimaginable heights in the NCAA Tournament and evolved into one of the best NBA players in history, one deep 3-pointer at a time.
A two-time MVP and four-time NBA champion with Golden State, he remains admired back home and is a ubiquitous endorser for numerous companies, including CarMax and Under Armour. Active NBA players can endorse sportsbooks, but none has taken that potentially controversial step.
At 35, he'd be the perfect, unimpeachable persona to take the shot. He's liked, he's disliked, but he sells many jerseys and scores many views on social media. He's noticed. Foes may oppose some of the shimmies or the shoves, but his there-to-here story and off-court reputation exude credibility.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: The Kannapolis native assumed the mantel of NASCAR's most popular and influential driver from his father and namesake. He has grown into far more than fans could have expected from the skinny racer in the bright red Budweiser firesuit.
He never replicated Earnhardt Sr.'s on-track success. Still, in many ways, he's gone beyond his father's accomplishments as an entrepreneur and media machine through his television analyst work and The Dale Jr. Download podcast. Earmhardt Jr. certainly has plenty of revenue streams and ways to fill his time with podcasting, broadcasting, and occasionally racing, still.
His endorsement deals don't keep him on the national stage as much as a football or basketball player. But a few seconds' worth of cameo or a well-timed one-liner would be incredibly impactful in North Carolina, where NASCAR has embraced sports betting as an engagement tool.