5 Digital Marketing Lessons Learned from Fantasy Football

Posted by Mike O'Rourke on Wed, Sep 14, 2011 @ 02:31 PM

hk 20080207 footballstats resized 600Last week, I kicked off the football season with my eyes glued as much to my laptop as my television.  I’ve mentioned my media consumption habits before on the blog, but this Sunday was different.  I wasn’t surfing the usual internet haunts; I was playing fantasy football, along with an estimated 21 million other people around the world.

What started in the 1980’s as a way for only the geekiest of sports fans to take their obsession to the next level has become a mainstream phenomenon and very big business, thanks in no small part to the internet.  Fantasy football alone was estimated to be an $800 million industry last year, not counting the value it creates for the NFL. 

I’ve gone from being a casual NFL fan, watching one or two games a week before playing fantasy football, to spending all Sunday on the couch, cursing the networks for depriving me of the chance to watch my starting quarterback and running back by not showing Minnesota vs. San Diego in my hometown of Raleigh. 

Where I was once a reasonable, fair-weather Panthers fan (Cam Newton what what?!?!) I now am an obsessive, nit-picking football fiend, ravenously consuming every bit of content the NFL throws my way.  Thanks to fantasy, I can’t get enough football and I’m not alone:  


Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

Skip to 4:10 for Sports Journalist Mike Florio’s Angle on the Marketing Impact of Fantasy Football

Believe it or not, I’m not trying to pass off a post about my new favorite obsession as work.  Indeed, fantasy football is a tremendous marketing tool for the NFL.  A study conducted by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) found that:


The growth [of fantasy sports] has also been positive for the sports industry as a whole as fantasy sports players watch more game telecasts, buy more tickets and spend money at stadiums at a much higher rate than general sports fans. For example, 55% of fantasy sport players report watching more sports on television since they started playing fantasy sports

Isn’t this exactly the kind of response that we, as marketers, hope to generate online?  The growth of fantasy football means growth for the NFL.  Moreover, the intense interaction with NFL content required to play pushes fans to learn about players they would have otherwise ignored, and teams they never cared about.  Fantasy football sells the NFL’s product the way that rooting for the home team never could.

The interactive capacity of the web presents every marketer with this same opportunity.  Sure, your products or services may not be as fun or exciting to the customer as pro sports.  Few are.  But the principles that make fantasy football a successful marketing tool for the NFL can be applied to any digital marketing effort.


  1. Create Inherently Valuable Content – You hear this time and time again, but it bears repeating.  People ignore content that isn’t compelling.  Make sure that your blog posts, tweets, links etc. are not only relevant but also inherently valuable.  Nobody has to ask why people play fantasy football.  Its value is obvious, and your content’s should be too. 

  2. Be Consistent – The NFL and the media covering it don’t stop when the final whistle blows.  Fantasy players rely on updates, news, and analysis from the league every day of the week to make decisions that impact their team.  It’s fresh, relevant coverage that keeps fantasy players logging into their accounts every day, and keeps football on their minds (most spend over an hour a day thinking about fantasy football). 

  3. Integrate the Fan Experience – Playing fantasy football makes watching football better, and vice versa.  Ensure that your digital presence enhances your customers’ experiences with exclusive content, special deals, and responsive & tailored customer service.  Make sure that your most loyal customers are rewarded.

  4. Up Sell & Cross Sell – Fantasy football forces fans out of their comfort zone and gets them excited about new players and teams.  When your customers are used to consuming your content consistently, you have an open door to present them with opportunities to transact additional business with you.  Do not underestimate the revenues this can generate. 

  5. Profit from Partners – The NFL partners with television networks and websites to broadcast games, disseminate content, and facilitate fantasy competition.  Fantasy football’s popularity allows fantasy websites like ESPN.com and Yahoo! to rake in advertising revenues without charging for participation.  It’s a win-win situation.  Partnering with companies or consultants in complimentary industries to share each other’s content, guest blog, or jointly produce webinars will help you gain more exposure while providing better content to prospects and customers.

    Customers and prospects are more than willing to interact with your brand, provided the right content and engagement.  By applying these principles, marketers can engage their customers on a deeper level, creating more selling opportunities, more revenue, and greater customer satisfaction.

    If you need help putting together your digital marketing playbook, fill out the form to the right or the button below to sign up for a free consultation.  We’ll discuss your specific marketing goals, and show you how to create and distribute content that will boost interest and grow revenue.

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     And maybe you can help me figure out whether to start Dez Bryant or Robert Meachem this week...

    Tags: Social Media, Strategy, Fantasy Football, Integration