Drew Brees, in his new commercial for sportsbook PointsBet, leads friends up a metaphorical gambling mountain, reaching the peak and celebrating when the final leg of a successful parlay culminates.
It symbolizes the retired New Orleans Saints quarterback's latest adventure -- attempting to navigate the rapidly evolving U.S. sports betting space. Brees, now a broadcaster and analyst for NBC Sports, is the most high-profile former athlete to team up with a bookmaker since a 2018 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court allowed all states to authorize legal sports betting.
With his new PointsBet commercials hitting the air this week, Brees spoke with ESPN on Wednesday about transitioning from the NFL, where sports betting was the ultimate sin for decades, to becoming a brand ambassador for a sportsbook. (The interview has been edited for clarity.)
Sports betting was taboo for anyone associated with the NFL for a long time, especially players. How did you get comfortable enough with the sports betting space to join PointsBet?
Brees: Obviously, if you're an active player or coach, the rule has always been -- not just in the NFL, but all professional sports -- that you would not have any involvement in sports betting, and rightfully so. You never want there to be a blurred line or even a thought that there would be a lack of integrity in regard to the way that you'd play the game.
Sports betting, with prop betting and in-game betting, it's very similar to fantasy football now. When [fantasy football] was first introduced, there was this huge spike in the interest to where people were not just following their favorite team or their favorite player, but all of a sudden they had a vested interest in a lot of other games and a lot of other players. Now, it's very similar to what's happening with sports betting and in-game betting. There's this constant attraction and constant opportunity as it pertains to the things that are happening through the course of the game.
It's becoming much more widely embraced and accepted, obviously by the sports leagues ... and the network's involvement in the partnership. I work for NBC Sports. NBC has a big partnership with PointsBet. There's just a lot of synergies. You kind of see the direction that it's going and the way that fans consume sports, and this is part of it.
Have you thought about how you're going to talk to your kids about your new role, what gambling is and how it's something that requires responsibility? What advice would you give parents in regard to teaching kids about gambling?
Brees: Absolutely. It's the same as buying a stock or investing into anything. There's a level of risk that you're taking. You could win, you could lose. So I think it applies to a lot of different things. And everything should be done responsibly and should be done with a level of preparation and understanding. I try to use an opportunity like that as a teaching moment, to be a teaching moment for kids and anybody that I come in contact with that may have a question or inquiry about it.
How would you characterize the awareness of the point spread and the odds by NFL players and coaches? Do most guys know the line on their game?
Brees: No, I don't think so. I can recall maybe a handful of times where that was even brought up or mentioned or it even came to my attention as I was preparing for a game. And I think the way that it was used was to say, "People are starting to bet against us. What are we going to do about it?" It was almost like motivation or on the flip side, "Fans believe in us. Let's go prove them right."
It was more like bulletin board [material]. Rarely was I ever paying attention to any of that stuff as a player.
The Saints are 5-point home underdogs against the Buccaneers this week. New Orleans hasn't been this big of a home underdog since 2017 against the Patriots. Any thoughts on Bucs-Saints?
Brees: We all know what we're seeing with the Bucs, how good they are and what they're doing offensively. It seems like they're pretty unstoppable, Defensively, they're pretty stout as well.
The Saints are 40-1 to win the Super Bowl at PointsBet. Good bet or bad bet?
Brees: I don't know. There's a bunch of great teams out there. In my role now as analyst, I get to see a lot of these teams. NFC is pretty stout. You've got Arizona, who looks pretty good. I think the Rams are pretty good. The Packers are flying under the radar right now, but obviously they're the real deal.
There's a bunch of teams in the AFC. Buffalo -- Kansas City and Cleveland are struggling right now, but I think they're going to find their way back by the end of the year and will be someone to contend with -- Tennessee, Cincinnati, the Ravens ... you've got this group of like five teams in each conference that have kind of separated themselves. Man, anything can happen.