With North Carolina online sports betting scheduled to launch in the first half of 2024, North Carolinians can expect more sports betting media campaigns on their TVs, phones and computers.
Who could be the face of the industry as the Tar Heel State moves toward launch?
NCSharp has selected six Tar Heel sports icons who would make for great North Carolina sports betting ambassadors.
While this list is, by design, debatable, having Michael Jordan on it is not. Not only could he be an ambassador for North Carolina sports betting, but he would be the ambassador.
Jordan is the GOAT. He was born in North Carolina, won a national title as a player at the University of North Carolina, his Air Jordan 1 Carolina Blue colorway is among the most popular of the brand and so much more. Jordan still calls North Carolina home.
Maybe one of the most significant factors is that Jordan loves to gamble, with many stories of his love/pension for betting, gambling and more. Jordan’s love of betting goes back to the early days of his playing career.
Jordan is a special adviser to the DraftKings board of directors.
The winningest college basketball coach of all time, retired Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski would be a recognizable face who could represent the industry with authority and poise.
Coach K is the winningest coach in NCAA history, with 1,202 career wins. He also owns five national championships, six gold medals as the US National Team coach, eight National College Coach of the Year honors, 14 regular season ACC Championships, 13 Finals Fours and enough other accolades to fill a bookcase.
If Coach K were a North Carolina sports betting ambassador, he would bring immediate integrity to a brand or the industry. It should not get lost in the discussion around sports betting marketing that brand ambassadors must represent the brand’s commitment to responsible gambling in North Carolina. This is where Coach K would be an asset to the state and the industry as a North Carolina sports betting ambassador.
Greg Olsen is the most successful tight end in Carolina Panthers history. Olsen had 524 receptions, 6,463 yards, 39 touchdowns, was a fan favorite in Charlotte and a nightmare for opposing defenses in his eight seasons as a Panther.
Olsen’s playing career alone makes him worthy of being on this list. Yet his post-playing career has seen him rise to the top spot in the NFL’s biggest broadcasting booth. Olsen is Fox Sports‘ No. 1 NFL analyst. He got rave reviews from media, fans and players for his broadcast of last season’s Super Bowl.
He’s shown savvy on the playing field and as one of the NFL’s top broadcasters. Fans don’t just love him; they trust him. That makes him a great candidate for sports betting ambassador in North Carolina.
Outside of the Duke fan base, JJ Redick is possibly one of the most-hated college basketball players ever. Most players will tell you that’s a good thing; it means people are paying attention.
In his post-NBA playing career, Redick has gone from hated to loved for his new-age style of sports media. Redick has made a name for himself in the media field as a podcaster and NBA analyst. Similar to how he did as a player, he’s never been afraid of taking big shots.
Redick is outspoken and takes views that are outside the norm. This has helped him become well-liked among NBA viewers. His status on ESPN may grow as Reddick’s name is on the list of possible replacements for laid-off commentator Jeff Van Gundy.
Reddick’s instantly-recognizable face and voice would give him fast credibility as a North Carolina sports betting ambassador.
Perhaps the most popular women’s soccer player in American history, Mia Hamm started her rise to the top of the sport as a star soccer player at UNC. Hamm starred for the Tar Heels, winning four straight women’s college soccer national championships.
Hamm only lost a game once in 95 opportunities in her UNC soccer career, was three-time ACC Player of the Year and, in 2003, she was named the Greatest Female Athlete of the ACC’s first 50 years. (Who won for male athlete? Here’s a hint: he’s on this list.)
Hamm’s pro career is well noted, culminating in two Olympic Gold Medals and two World Cups. At the time of her retirement, Hamm was the leading scorer in US Women’s National Team history. Moreover, her popularity is one of the major reasons why UNC has continued to be a primary feeder for the USWNT.
Put all of it together, and Hamm would be another recognizable face in North Carolina women’s sports. With the surge of women sports bettors over the last two years, Hamm could lead the charge in North Carolina.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The home of NASCAR in most people’s minds, North Carolina could draw from a rich stable of auto racing legends to find a sports betting ambassador.
To honor the legend, Dale Earnhardt, and the family name with deep Carolina roots, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be an awfully good choice. In some ways, Junior may be even better than his father, as he has had a great career on the media side after the end of his driving career.
Born in Kannapolis, Earnhardt Jr. had a successful driving career, winning 26 times, including the 2004 and 2014 Daytona 500. After his racing career, he has become one of the best-known media personalities in NASCAR, hosting one the most popular NASCAR podcasts, the Dale Jr. Download.
His wide following has only grown since his retirement, and with NASCAR betting in North Carolina expanding, he would be an easy fit to introduce the industry to racing fans.