Fantasy sports website FanDuel recently hit $57 million in revenue – a statistic that shocks some, inspires others, and leaves everyone wondering how they did it. Sure, the whole premise surrounding the fantasy sports website is attractive to customers: Pay a small fee for a chance to win huge cash payouts by competing in fantasy sports leagues. It’s not a unique concept, though. Other websites, company leagues, and family members offer the same gamble, and they’ve missed $57 million by several zeros. What makes FanDuel so special?

The team members at FanDuel are marketing experts, and they’ve made some key plays to take their startup from unknown to the prestigious, industry-leader position they have today. Perhaps their biggest game changer came with their smart use of celebrity endorsements.

In the majority of their marketing efforts, the company has featured big names from sports, helping them to gain popularity, trust, and thousands of customers. Endorsements from sports stars have helped FanDuel become a gargantuan income generator and household name. While it seems many startups today doubt the efficacy of celebrity endorsements, FanDuel has been using them to tremendous success, including receiving $70 million in investment and a valuation of $1 billion.

Here’s a look at how they did it.

FanDuel’s Athlete Endorsement Strategies


You’ve probably seen FanDuel touting their actual winners of cash payouts. It’s true, people have won money from playing in the fantasy leagues, and some of them have become wealthy from it. The problem with using the “real” people who play on FanDuel is that they don’t build credibility, even if they should.

Think about it. Knowing that Shawn from Florida has won $27,000 in 6 weeks of playing on FanDuel is great, but before we heard he won money, we didn’t know who Shawn was. Shawn means nothing to us, so his endorsement of FanDuel isn’t very powerful.


The marketing team at FanDuel knows this, and that’s why they’ve chosen star athletes and sportscasters to market to their audience. Instead of relying on unknown Shawn from Florida talking about his winnings, they’ve enlisted big names like Chad Johnson, Snoop Dogg, Richard Sherman, and Floyd Mayweather.

1-Day fantasy leagues bearing the names of Mayweather and Johnson have helped to increase brand awareness and credibility for the company, but these relationships are more than just being able to stick a well-known sports figure’s name on a fantasy league. FanDuel is able to leverage their endorser’s networks on social media as well.

“I won 27k playing #FanDuel during football season” coming straight from Ochocinco’s Twitter account (which it did on February 5) is hard for sports fans to ignore.

Chad Ochocino Fan Duel Tweet

Besides this, using big names like these generates much free press for the website because bloggers, tweeters, and talk shows care about what star athletes and famous sportscasters are doing.

Interests peaked, fans of the sports stars started trying out FanDuel. And when the fans started playing and legitimately winning cash prizes, they kept playing, and they became unofficial (read: free) endorsers of the website.

Today, 12,000 new fantasy leagues on FanDuel open every day.

The ability to use endorsements with such wild effectiveness isn’t something unique to FanDuel, though. Your startup could start doing the same thing today.

How You Can Use Celebrities to Build Your Brand

If you’re interested in taking your startup from early stage to a $1 billion valuation, then you might consider working with celebrities. Here’s some plays from FanDuel’s book you can implement.

  • Find celebrities that will build your startup’s credibility. Anything resembling gambling or asking for a fee in order to win cash prizes raises suspicion online. Potential customers probably had doubts about FanDuel’s legitimacy, but when Chad Johnson, a name sports fans know and respect, says he plays and wins cash, they believe him. Who’s someone your potential customers know, respect, and believe? That could be the endorser you need to make leads convert.
  • Utilize the power of celebrities on social media. Never underestimate the dizzying ability of a star to generate likes, retweets, and shares. Not only has FanDuel utilized the name and image of athletes like Mayweather in their own social posts, but they’ve also gotten other star athletes to mention them from their own accounts. Since people are more likely to share posts from celebrities’ accounts, this helped FanDuel to reach more people, grow their following, and find leads in new circles. Most startups, even ones with lower marketing budgets, can get a celebrity to endorse them on social media with positive results.

Floyd Mayweather Fan Duel

  • Create endorsement-centered events. You can use this tactic digitally and for in-person events. FanDuel created 1-Day fantasy leagues bearing different sports figures’ names. Your company can use this strategy whether it’s a music festival or an online sale.
  • Promote your endorsement. Believe it or not, even members of your audience regularly ignore your advertising. Just because they’re following your startup on Twitter or Facebook doesn’t mean they ever stop scrolling to read your posts. You can make your updates, emails, and all forms of advertising more compelling by mentioning the endorsement. When FanDuel launched Floyd Mayweather’s 1-Day league, using his name and image, they were able to capture the attention of their following more effectively. This can be as simple as re-posting a social media endorsement from your startup’s account. It’s a simple, effective way to engage your following.

From Here to $57 Million in Revenue

Maybe your product or service is life-changing. How will anyone ever know if your marketing isn’t reaching them?

Celebrity endorsements aren’t something you should enter into without some research, but they’re also not something you should be afraid of. It’s easier to start than you think, and the results can be explosive. Once you’ve reached your audience effectively, your high-quality products and services can keep them.

When you have something worthwhile, and you can get people to notice, you stop needing endorsements. People start to love your brand just because your brand is awesome. Getting a big name to tell people your brand is awesome is a good way to start, though.

It worked for FanDuel, and maybe it can work for you, too.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think!