Betting joins alcohol as latest "sin" category for colleges to tap into

In last week’s SBJ, I wrote about beer sponsorship in college athletics. This week, my colleague Bill King and I covered the latest on legal sports betting and its impact on the college space. Why are we spending so much time writing about the “sin” categories, as they’re sometimes called? Because there is big money to be made from the sponsors in that space and they’re typically free spenders with sports teams and leagues.

ADs are feeling the pressure to find new revenue streams, especially since they’ve been pinched by COVID, but it’s not as simple as opening the sportsbook category and waiting for the checks to flow in from Caesars, MGM and the like. Some states prohibit their colleges from accepting money from sportsbooks. Other schools have leadership that’s just not ready to go into business with a sportsbook.

One AD told me: “Our multimedia rights partner is telling us that there is money here. Companies absolutely want to be a part of our brand. … But universities have different comfort levels on what they can and can't do. They're starting to evolve under the financial pressures. I'm like, ‘Why are we saying no to this?’”

Tough decisions like these are going to keep coming. The spirits category opened earlier this year with GameDay Vodka, and marketers say CBD brands will be next. Is that where we’ll see schools draw the line?

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