There’s a new way to be a fan of the National Football League.

In the time of COVID, we are all looking to be involved with each other and our passions, while minimizing risk. But for a lot of people, risk has become a huge part of enjoying football. The ads for online betting are everywhere: online, on billboards, and during the games, fans are encouraged to support their teams and players by getting some “skin in the game.”

I’m one of the fans that goes to games when I can, but more often than not, I spend my Sundays yelling at the Philadelphia Eagles (and the refs) from my apartment. COVID has changed a lot for me, but not necessarily how I enjoy the game. But for a lot of people who have found crowds in stands, bars, and tailgates, the pandemic has interrupted the way that they show support. Virtual betting has become legalized in many states at a time that it was needed by a lot of people to maintain their relationships to their teams and their fanbases.

Something that I think is interesting with the marketing around virtual sports betting, is that it encourages fans to have another connection to the game: financial. This might sound obvious, because betting is a financial decision, but the marketing compares wins from betting to salaries of fans’ favorite players. For example, sportsgeek.com says in a post comparing betting sites: “Joey Bosa makes $43.8 million a year…Carson Wentz gets $43.4 million… While it’s incredibly fun to look up just how much NFL players make, it’s a lot more exciting when you find out that you can cash in and make money on the NFL too! If you’re someone who regularly predicts the outcomes and winners of NFL football games, then you can turn your smarts into cold hard cash.” So it’s not just about being a fan, or comparing wins with friends, but actually being involved in the finances of sports. And of course, the more betting that happens, the more viewership of games and value of ad time, so the League is definitely benefiting from this angle.

The most virtual betting I do these days is talking trash with my dad over text after the Eagles play. I’m 100%, definitely, a sports nut. I love the competition and the risk, but from a distance. While virtual betting isn’t my thing, I’m interested to see how it develops as more and more states legalize it, and the effects of the pandemic stretch on.