Whether or not you’re a fan of sports or sports betting, it’s worth taking a look at the incredible development of Barstool Sports, a company that has brilliantly managed to incorporate the trifecta of necessary ingredients for success in the modern age: innovative new products, a diehard and loyal fanbase, and ingenious social media marketing all of which has led to a universally-recognized public image.
In less than 20 years, a small, print sports newspaper transformed into a massive, multi-faceted behemoth that’s currently valued at around $450 million. How did this transformation happen and what is the story of Barstool Sports?
What is Barstool Sports?
Barstool Sports is a digital media company with a massive scope, covering topics like entertainment, popular culture, and sports. The company creates a variety of popular content with extensive distribution on the web, apps, podcasts, radio, video, social, events, pay per view, subscription, and TV to an incredibly engaged audience.
Dave Portnoy is an American internet celebrity, blogger, and founder of the sports and pop culture blog Barstool Sports. His persona has been a huge part of the success of Barstool Sports and his self-titled rank of “El Presidente” continues to delight his rabid fanbase.
The Evolution and Diversification of Barstool Sports
The company began when Dave Portnoy quit his job and started Barstool Sports as a gambling newspaper in Boston way back in 2003. From meager beginnings, Portnoy paid homeless people to deliver the newspaper. He launched the digital edition on the internet in 2007 and it has only grown from there. More recently, Dave has been in the news for his $25k Bitcoin exit after admitting he didn’t know the ins and outs of BTC trading well enough to make money on the coin.
Since its inception, the fledgling business has come into its own, growing to become a sports gambling phenomenon with a cult following of individuals known as “Stoolies”. This core audience of incredibly loyal fans is one of the main reasons for the success of the company, even from the beginning.
Targeting young, male sports fans, a demographic that is also highly-active on social media, Barstool was able to make significant profits from merchandise, rather than subscription services, which can sometimes alienate non-paying visitors from a site.
In 2018, Barstool Sports continued its commercial diversification with the launch of a local TV show about NFL gambling and podcasts covering not only sports and comedy but also pop culture, parenting, and even political topics.
Barstool launched a SiriusXM channel, grew its bare-knuckle fighting series, hosted its first sold-out punk concert, and even debuted a pizza review app, called One Bite, based on its founders’ popular video series.
The face of Barstool Sports, Dave Portnoy, along with some other company staff members, have established a lengthy track record of sexual harassment, online bullying and other chauvinistic behavior. Recently reports emerged that Portnoy had settled with the National Labor Relations Board after he posted a series of anti-union tweets last year.
Despite his poor public relations, Portnoy and Barstool Sports have maintained their loyal fans and continued to grow with unrivaled success.
Barstool Sports App
The app has been touted as superior to rival apps due to its accessibility as an app for casual bettors. Opening the doors for many more players to give it a try, without the learning curve or intimidating nature of some other apps, the Barstool Sports app has a bright future ahead.
In its first two days of availability, the Barstool Sports app was downloaded 29,000 times, which is four times higher than the number of downloads that FanDuel and DraftKings Inc. saw after their initial launch.
The app maintains a 4.9-star rating, making it the top-rated sportsbook. As long as it can hold onto this high rating, Barstool Sportsbook has a great chance of outperforming the competition for the foreseeable future.
In January 2020, it was announced that Penn National Gaming had purchased a 36% stake in Barstool Sports for $163 million, significantly increasing the company’s valuation. Companies such as Draftkings and Fanduel have risen to prominence in the industry. Beyond that, Penn National has plans to channel Barstool’s growing popularity and expand into brick-and-mortar locations like Barstool-themed casinos.
But it’s not all roses for the gambling industry as a whole. While sports betting is legal both online and offline in various states, casino play is a little trickier – this isn’t covered by the legislation repeal, although this may very well change in the near future. Currently, the state of play is that most online casino players play offshore. The US market has been predicted to be worth 20 Billion by 2025. We think it’s going to be closer to 200 Billion. We expect the existing market of offshore casinos to dwindle to nothing.
Barstool Sports Today
In the last few years, the company has been able to compound all of its early successes while staying true to its original identity by investing heavily in podcasts. Maintaining its fan base with charismatic and relatable hosts has been key to its public relations success.
The company’s recent sale to Penn National Gaming, however, marks the company’s potentially most lucrative chapter yet. The 2018 Supreme Court ruling favoring online sports betting has truly helped to catapult this industry into a new golden age. With a projected $100 billion in revenue by 2024, there’s no telling how high Barstool Sports has the potential to climb.