PointsBet USA, the stateside operating unit of the Australia-based sports betting group, continues to face backlash after a video surfaced online last Friday supposedly showing NFL great Drew Brees being struck by lightning.
The video clip, which went viral on social media and racked up millions of views, showed Brees apparently getting ready to film an actual PointsBet commercial outside in stormy conditions. The former New Orleans Saints quarterback is being fitted with a microphone on his shirt when a loud lightning bolt strikes and renders the video black.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 2, 2022
The video clip caused panic among Brees’ millions of fans. Brees led the Saints to the franchise’s first NFL championship by winning Super Bowl XLIV on Feb 7, 2010.
It was later revealed that the video clip was simply a marketing ploy for PointsBet. Brees has been a brand ambassador for the company since July 2021. PointsBet explained that the movie-like lightning strike was to promote the sportsbook’s live in-game odds, called “Lightning Bets.”
Time to let you in on a little fun we've had with @drewbrees guys. He's alive and well and "buzzing" for a weekend of free bets. Keep your eyes on our channels all weekend for bet drops for US vs. Netherlands, College Football and NFL. pic.twitter.com/vhnLm5S0Cw
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) December 2, 2022
Brees, 43, spent the bulk of his 20-year career with the Saints. A future Hall of Fame inductee, Brees threw for 571 touchdowns and more than 80,000 yards — both ranking second all-time in the NFL, behind only Tom Brady.
Lightning Survivors Respond
Many Brees fans didn’t take kindly to the PointsBet marketing gimmick. The nonprofit support group Lightning Strike & Electric Shock Survivors International (LSESSI) didn’t either.
Labeling the advert “disgusting” and “inappropriate,” LSESSI said PointsBet should be ashamed.
The recent Drew Brees lightning commercial is an inappropriate, disgusting method of promoting gambling,” the organization said in a statement. “This is a deadly injury, and it is disappointing to see the continual ridicule of lightning and electrical injury survivors in comical light in which it is presented for commercial gain and profit.”
LSESSI said the PointsBet sketch “set us back 20 years,” and questioned, “What example does it set for our children to learn?”
PointsBet acknowledged the feedback. The company tweeted in response that it would offer LSESSI a free $10K “Lightning Bet.” The organization didn’t take PointsBet up on the offer.
We didn’t mean to upset the good people of LSESSI (https://t.co/ZimmtUBwjL) so we are delighted to offer them a FREE $500 Lightning Bet for every year they said our Drew Brees stunt set them back. That’s $10K in Lightning Bets, all for charity, for any NFL game tomorrow @tmz
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) December 3, 2022
PointsBet is teetering on the brink of becoming yet another sportsbook casualty in the US. As sports betting expanded across the nation, sportsbooks spent heavily on marketing to acquire customers. But the crowded market has resulted in some operators already closing shop, notables including MaximBet and Fubo Sportsbook.
PointsBet’s heavy marketing spending has drastically cut into its bottom line. Investors have been fleeing the Australian firm over the past 24 months, with shares of the sportsbook dropping from around $11 a share to $1.32 today.
The stock loss has hurt Brees, as part of his PointsBet partnership included him receiving an undefined equity stake in the sportsbook.
Lightning strike survivors weren’t the only ones who found the PointsBet promo in poor taste. The majority of the social media feedback has been mainly in opposition to the lightning strike storyline.
My seven-year-old son just went into a panic attack after seeing that video and thinking his favorite quarterback was dead,” said one person on Twitter.
“The cringe is unbearable. How about you stop with the silly marketing ploys and focus on setting lines that are good enough that you can actually take action without limits?” asked another.
“This is a disgusting way to try to get new clients. ‘Hey, let’s get everyone to think Drew is severely wounded. That’ll do it,’” commented another. “Disgusting.”
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