• FanDuel has decided to honor all AAF championship futures wagers as winning bets.
  • Paying out futures on all eight AAF teams will cost FanDuel less than $10,000.

NEW YORK – In yet another marketing coup, FanDuel has decided to grade as winners all Alliance of American Football championship futures bets placed on its multistate platform. The AAF ceased operations earlier this week, bringing an unexpected and ignominious end to the league in its inaugural year.

The AAF, marketed as a developmental complement to the NFL, couldn’t keep its head above water. This comes despite the fledgling football alternative attracting big names like Steve Spurrier and Johnny Manziel and launching during the height of the US push towards ubiquitous sports wagering.

While most sportsbooks have simply refunded pending AAF wagers, FanDuel has instead chosen to insert itself into the headlines.

“Because the FanDuel Sportsbook loves football and we believe this is the very definition of a bad beat for sports fans everywhere, we are also going to pay out straight future wagers for all AAF teams as winners.”

Interestingly, this decision also applies to futures that have already been decided. Two of the AAF’s eight teams – the Memphis Express and the Atlanta Legends – were already eliminated from the playoffs before the league shuttered. However, FanDuel is also grading these clubs as winners.

According to ESPN, FanDuel claims that the totality of these payouts amounts to “just under $10,000.” While that’s the equivalent of a single small-market ad buy for a multibillion-dollar brand like FanDuel, it might also be informative going forward.

Measuring Sports Popularity By Betting Action

The fact that FanDuel is only going out of pocket to the tune of a used Honda Civic doesn’t just explain why this marketing stunt was a complete no-brainer, it also explains a fundamental reason why the AAF didn’t survive.

In the past, the popularity of a given team or start-up league in a given region has been based on things like stadium attendance data, retail clothes and accessories sales, and television ratings.

While each of these offers valuable data points in assembling the bigger picture, betting handle might be the most valuable point of all as sports wagering becomes more and more commonplace across the country.

Granted, if a team or league gets low attendance and weak sales, it will not survive, and no amount of handle will change that. But if a sporting entity with weak traditional metrics has strong wagering metrics, that speaks to latent popularity that can (at least theoretically) be brought out.

In the case of the AAF, the league did not have the ratings, attendance figures, or swag sales to keep it afloat. But crucially, it also lacked the betting interest from the general public to give league executives any positive foundation off of which to build.

This, more than anything else, was perhaps the ultimate proof that the league could not be saved.

Next up: XFL 2.0.

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