With the proliferation of sports betting in jurisdictions across North America, it was bound to happen. The NFL became the first major professional league to appoint an executive to exclusively oversee sports betting-related activities with the hiring of David Highhill. Mr. Highhill, previously vice president of strategy and analysis for the NFL, will assume the new role with the official title: Vice President and General Manager, Sports Betting at the National Football League.
David Highhill, who has worked in the NFL for ten years, is leaving the corporate strategy group, where he led the league’s sports betting go-to-market initiatives. Previously, he also served for almost six years as Director, Consumer Products Strategy and Business Development.
In his new role, Mr. Highhill will be primarily responsible for leading efforts to protect the integrity of the game from gambling-related harm. While the NFL has mostly avoided major sports betting scandals in the past, he there have been incidents that have threatened the integrity of the game.
Last year, Atlanta Falcons starting catcher Calvin Ridley was suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL contests during the 2021 NFL season. Ridley, who had 90 receptions for 1,374 yards in 2020 while making the 2nd Team All-Pro, became just the sixth player to be banned by the league for gambling-related activities. t is a historic shortlist of people suspended in sports betting-related activities, the NFL wants to make sure it stays that way.
Another motivation for the NFL to create a special sports betting leadership position may be political. The league must demonstrate that it can protect the integrity of the game and its properties. If they can’t, Congress could eventually step in and create an agency with the power to investigate, prosecute and potentially incarcerate anyone who breaks the rules. Of course, protecting brand loyalty is another major part of the equation.
Mr. Highhill will also be responsible for advancing the league’s brand and reputation, increasing the value of NFL data and intellectual property, and driving fan engagement globally.