Mixed Consumer Reaction to Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) Controversy

How has the recent disclosure of employee winnings on competitor fantasy sports sites affected consumer sentiment around the industry?

If you’ve seen a football game this season then you’ve undoubtedly also seen one of many advertisements for market leaders in online daily fantasy sports betting, DraftKings and Fanduel. Both sites have purchased massive television ad buys and exponentially increased their user base this year, bringing them under closer scrutiny.
Headlines on the employee betting “scandal” currently abound – but do customers of the site really care about the allegations?
In early October it was disclosed that a DraftKings employee won $350,000 on competitor site FanDuel after having allegedly had access to insider information. Both sites have reacted by since barring their employees from competing in daily fantasy sports. Investigations are just beginning, and with the legal outcome of the industry still unclear, we took a look at how consumers on Twitter and Tumblr have reacted to this latest news to see if the sites should really be worried about losing part of their consumer base. Our insights below are organized into 3 key sections: Topical Analysis, Sentiment Analysis, and Audience Analysis.

Topical Analysis

What are the major topics of conversation around Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS)?
When we look at the Topic Waves visualization (below), we see that Millionaire Maker Tickets and other promotions still generated a significant amount of the conversation, showing that the controversy did not entirely dominate amongst consumers. We do see spikes the week of Oct. 4 around the lawsuit and investigation, though they seem to have mostly decreased in the week since.
Posts around the scandal include the following:
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Sentiment Analysis

How do people feel about DFS before and after the employee winnings disclosure?
When we look at the change in sentiment over time (below), it’s clear that we see a huge spike in negative conversation due to the controversy on October 6. However, the negative comments as share of the larger conversation seem to primarily be decreasing daily (perhaps due to both sites swiftly blocking their employees from any future DFS participation), and we see the “Lifecasting” category begin to creep back into the overall conversation.
Undoubtedly, consumer sentiment will continue to evolve as DraftKings and FanDuel navigate the legal and regulatory aspects of their business. Time will tell whether consumer sentiment will bounce back completely from this “insider trading” disclosure, leaving the controversy as a blip that is forgotten in months and years to come, or whether consumer perception of the sites will be permanently changed by the event.

Audience Analysis

Who are the main participants in the DFS conversation, and what are their interests beyond Daily Fantasy Sports?
The audience speaking on Twitter and Tumblr about the Daily Fantasy Sports controversy is mostly just who you would expect to be talking about this topic: 18+ males, with the largest age group being men 25-34.
When we explore the main audience Affinities for this group of dominantly mid-twenties and mid-thirties men we see that they beyond DFS they are predictably interested in Fantasy Baseball, Gambling, and professional football teams. The one surprise may be that the DFS audience is ~⅓ as likely to be interested in video games as the general Twitter population.

So, where does this controversy leave Daily Fantasy Sports companies?

In a stage of transition, for now. Consumer perception is mixed – some bettors feel defrauded, others are undeterred by the latest news and simply want to continue betting. Here are a few key takeaways for those assessing the DFS controversy and subsequent fallout:
1) The continuance of contest-related promotions as one of the top-trending topics on social is a hopeful sign for companies, who may be able to leverage their die-hard base to ride this PR crisis out.
2) Further, negative sentiment appears to have peaked on Oct. 6, with negative conversations continuing to be present, but at a much lower volume than in the day or two following the disclosure of employee winnings.
3) Ongoing listening to consumer conversations will provide further insight into the long-term sentiment trend. In the meantime, both companies should continue to closely monitor the online discussion, and focus on efforts to rebuild trust with consumers by ongoing assessment and establishment of policies that ensure fair game rules.

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