Entrant Company: Drone Racing League, DraftKings


Most Engaging Sports Betting Partnership

Most Engaging Sports Betting Partnership


In January 2021, DRL became the first sport in the air fans can legally bet on in six U.S. states: Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

How does this represent “Excellence in Engagement”?

DRL set new fan engagement benchmarks for the sport of drone racing and for the sports betting industry in general, kicking off 2021 as a breakthrough year of new sports getting approved for betting.

As the first aerial sport fans can legally wager on, DRL unveiled betting, fantasy, and free-to-play opportunities on DRL for the first time, setting new fan engagement metrics around the drone racing space. The league brought a whole new sport and audience to the sports betting space: not only are DRL fans more likely to place bets than average sports fans, but 70% of DRL fans don’t follow Big 5 sports, so they now finally have a sport they genuinely care to bet on.

Moving forward, DRL will look to expand sports betting approval in more states, drive engagement up for the next season and beyond, and collaborate with operators nationally.


Objective: During the first Drone Racing League (DRL) test event in 2015, DRL CEO/Founder, Nicholas Horbaczewski recalls a guest saying, “I bet you $5 the drone in blue wins.” DRL, a stats-packed, high-speed tech-enabled sport, has always been tailor-made for betting -- but as a post-produced broadcast, it never qualified for legal betting.

However, when Covid hit and created a massive reshuffling of the sports industry, DRL used the drastic shift in the market to replace filmed, in-person competitions with a live-to-air, socially distant, virtual format, and team up with sports betting integrity partners and operators to transform DRL into the first aerial sport fans can bet on.


Strategy & Execution: With sports betting legalization rising in the U.S. and study-led discoveries that DRL fans are 90% more likely to place a sports bet than average global sports fans, DRL set out to engage this new market and transform DRL into a sport fans can bet on in record time.

After three weeks of negotiation, DRL announced a multi-year, sports betting integrity partnership with Genius Sports on October 28, 2020. Together, the elite tech companies reimagined the gaming landscape with an initial step towards creating a first-ever, league-approved drone racing product in the United States.

Three weeks later, on November 19th, DRL pivoted to airing their 2020 DRL Allianz World Championship Season drone races on NBC, NBCSN, Twitter and Facebook completely LIVE for the first time ever to help the league accelerate into the sports betting space and opened a DRL Free-to-Play pool on DraftKings. On January 8, 2021, DRL announced DraftKings as an Official Sports Betting Partner of DRL, and launched their digital marketing campaign, “The Sky is NOW the Limit”, celebrating DRL as the first aerial sport fans can bet on. The campaign included a “Pre-Flight” educational betting show, “Luck is in the Air” sweepstakes, and influencer promotion.



The day DRL announced their partnership with DraftKings, DraftKings’ stock soared up 5%. DRL saw 230,000 entries in the DRL Free-to-Play pools on DraftKings, with 30% more entries in its first week alone compared to other new sports. Over 1.2mm fans tuned in to DRL x DraftKings Pre-Flight betting shows on Twitter to learn how to bet on drone racing on DraftKings, illustrating a significant interest in getting in on the DRL action. DRL’s partnership announcement with DraftKings garnered over a billion media impressions across top news, sports and tech publications including CNBC, The AP, Engadget and Gizmodo. Nearly 500 fans also entered a “Luck is in the Air” contest to celebrate the partnership ahead of the Championship race on January 30th.


Drone Racing League and DraftKings



Drone Racing League
Drone Racing League
Partnership Coordinator
Drone Racing League
Director of Communications
Drone Racing League



Over two days, sports betting + media will converge to discuss the North American fan. Learn the insights and strategies needed to develop partnerships, create and monetize betting content, and drive critical revenue and engagement.

May 12-13, 2021 (Virtual)


Hashtag Sports® is the leading platform for media and marketing professionals and the next generation of creative talent across the converging sports and entertainment industries.

From unparalleled experiences like our annual conference and the Hashtag Sports Awards presented with Budweiser to inspirational digital content and mission-driven initiatives, Hashtag Sports is the benchmark for fan engagement and the go-to resource for the development of a new sports and entertainment ecosystem powered by digital media, content, culture, purpose, and technology.