Bills’ Emmanuel Sanders Makes Six-Figure Investment In Sports Betting, Esports

Posted By Mike Mazzeo on October 5, 2021

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has expanded his investment portfolio.

Last week, Sanders made a six-figure investment as part of SeventySix Capital’s latest round of funding. This round will go toward fledgling companies in sports betting, esports and sports tech.

Sanders is represented on the marketing side by Rubicon Talent. Since 2017, Rubicon has had a strategic partnership with SeventySix. Two years ago, the 34-year-old veteran invested in Nerd Street Gamers via SeventySix.

“You don’t need me to tell you that sports betting, tech and esports are hot, hot categories right now. And they have been for the last few years,” Rubicon Talent founder and partner Dave Maryles, Sanders’ marketing agent, told PlayNY.

“(Emmanuel’s) a big tech guy, a big analytics guy, so that’s why he’s involved with SeventySix.”

Details On SeventySix’s Sports Funding Round

Other investors in this $50 million sports funding round for SeventySix include pro sports owners Robert Nutting (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Arthur Blank (Atlanta Falcons), and former NFL players DeMarco Murray and Brian Westbrook.

Past sports companies sold by SeventySix include VSiN (sports betting media), Vigtory (next generation sportsbook) and Team Whistle (sports and entertainment media).

SeventySix’s current portfolio includes C360, Diamond Kinetics, Forte, Maestro, Nerd Street, Play by Play, ShotTracker, Swish Analytics and US Integrity.

Sanders is an accomplished player. His resume includes two Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring. He’s also been paid $63.6 million, according to overthecap.com.

“I think for this, we’re looking at the more mature and well-versed athletes that we represent,” Maryles said. “Usually guys later in their career, they’ve made money, they’ve had a couple contracts, not on their rookie deals, and they have some discretionary income to invest in these companies.”

Athletes and Sports Betting Companies: A Slippery Slope

In 2017, commissioner Roger Goodell said that the NFL strongly opposed sports betting. Four years later, the league added four more sportsbook partners, giving it seven total.

Yes, times have changed. Still, athletes aren’t partnering directly with sports betting companies. There’s still a degree of separation.

“It’s tricky. The integrity of the game, you can’t forget about that,” Maryles said, using the Pete Rose betting scandal as an example. “You can work with DraftKings in a limited, private capacity, maybe only promoting their fantasy sports, but it’s tricky.

“You’re not seeing a superstar player as the spokesperson for DraftKings. You don’t want them blowing a game. I think for now they need to keep that delineation and separation. I think they’ll get closer, but they probably will always need to keep that level of separation.”

Athletes Smarter When It Comes To Investing

These days, some players are basically corporations.

See: Boardroom and Kevin Durant.

“The players are now much more educated, much smarter, much more strategic with their wealth,” Maryles said. “And with what I would call their social capital in getting involved with these venture funds that will really accelerate their exposure, compared to any other rich guy.”

The Rubicon-SeventySix strategic partnership, formed as a result of strong relationships on both sides, allowed the marketing agency to learn the business and properly advise its clients.

Maryles explained that contract agents typically don’t persuade their clients to take entrepreneurial investment risks in fear they might backfire, and the athletes would go elsewhere for their representation. Meanwhile, financial advisors often err on the side of caution, preferring that their clients preserve their wealth and avoid buying too many unnecessary luxury items that immediately depreciate in value.

Still, based on Maryles’ previous comment that athletes are investing smarter, rather than spending $100,000 on a weekend with their friends in Las Vegas, instead they might want to invest that money in a startup company.

Or, in this case, a sports betting, esports or tech company.

“Get in while you can,” Maryles said. “I’m all-in on that bet. Every day you read that the industry is only getting bigger and bigger.”

Photo by Adrian Kraus / The Associated Press
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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo has covered New York sports since 2010, previously working as a beat writer and columnist for ESPN (Nets), Yahoo Sports (NBA/MLB) and the New York Daily News (Yankees). His work has also been published in the New York Times, New York Post, Forbes and The Ringer.

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