The National Football League and Las Vegas have had what can be called an “evolving” relationship over the last several decades. For years, the league wouldn’t allow the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) to advertise in the Super Bowl. But that didn’t stop the LVCVA and its agency, R&R Partners, from using more creative methods to circumvent the ban.
In 2004, then-mayor Oscar Goodman threatened to sue the NFL over an ad that featured montages of the city. At the time, according to league spokesman Brian McCarthy in a CBS interview, the policy was to prohibit “the acceptance of any message that makes reference to or mention of sports betting.”
Over the years, the goalposts have moved in light of the spread of gaming outside the usual markets of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Additionally, a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2018 opened the door to commercial sports betting, further altering the landscape. In the same year, the NFL relaxed its policy to allow gambling elements within Las Vegas ads, with the only restriction for the past two seasons being not showing sports betting within the spot.
The changes in law and attitudes toward gambling have opened up a wide swath of opportunity. Most prominently, the Oakland Raiders relocated to Las Vegas and will play their first season in the city starting later this year. The NFL also chose Caesars Entertainment as its first-ever casino partner and will hold its annual draft in Las Vegas this April.
With that in mind, a report from a local Las Vegas site indicating that the NFL rejected an LVCVA TV spot for Super Bowl 2020 made little sense. Sources at the league confirmed that the story was inaccurate, pointing to the fact that the league has fully embraced the market in multiple ways.
Billy Vassiliadis, principal and CEO of R&R Partners, part of the WPI independent agency network, noted that the more relaxed rules favor his client and that the agency is in the process of showing the league new creative work to potentially run in the Super Bowl.
“[We’re giving the league] a sense of what we’re trying to do,” Vassiliadis said. “We’re hoping to hear [feedback] very soon.”
What’s interesting is how the landscape has changed over the years. For example, the Philadelphia market has a casino a short distance from Lincoln Financial Field, home of the 2018 Super Bowl champion Eagles.
“Ten to 15 years ago, many of the markets with teams had casinos,” Vassiliadis said. “I get the league’s point of view, but, at that point, I thought there would have been more evolution [in terms of the guidelines].”
Even though it was slower going, Vassiliadis believes that Las Vegas and the league are primed for a new era of cooperation.
“Having [the Raiders] may shake things up pretty significantly,” he said. “Plus, The Strip is going to be the backdrop of the [NFL] draft almost the entire time it’s here. [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell was a keynote speaker at a Chamber of Commerce meeting last Friday, talking about the wonderful opportunities in Las Vegas. There’s a new era of communication with the NFL we’ve never had before, and I feel pretty good that we’ll get something done with them [for the Super Bowl].”
Since it’s Vegas—odds on getting something approved for the game?
“I’ll put it at 1 / 2,” Vassiliadis said.
For all the latest Super Bowl advertising news—who’s in, who’s out, teasers, full ads and more—check out Adweek’s Super Bowl 2020 Ad Tracker. And join us on the evening of Feb. 2 for the best live coverage of Super Bowl commercials anywhere.