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Fantasy Football – A Lesson In Monetizing Anything
Attention corporate minds – the sequel would have sounded as fictional as Star Wars to our grandfathers, let alone Vince Lombardi. However, it’s all true and there’s a valuable lesson to that: you can monetize anything!
Congratulations to the NFL. They’ve found a way to keep a huge fan base despite the myriad off-field issues they seem to ignore every week. The 2012 referee strike and the inept substitutions? Forget it – it didn’t even make it onto the NFL fan’s “Doing List”. How could that have been? It’s a league that has recently seen popular players charged or convicted of domestic violence, rape, child abuse and murder. Nice guys, huh? In short, there is NOTHING that would stop us from logging on every Thursday, Sunday and Monday (in my lifetime I’m sure there will be a game every night of the week). The ratings suggest this monster really is too big to fail.
So why do we do it? It’s not because we care who wins or loses the actual game. Some of us do, but we are now in the minority. No, wins and losses are not even the second reason. Sports gambling, while illegal in most states, was what kept the NFL high on the list of sports fans. People are betting close to $10 billion on the Super Bowl alone. Imagine what a full season brings. The joke was something like “Dad’s favorite team is the Dolphins and he wants them to win by under 4 points.” However, because gambling has such a negative connotation in society, people don’t talk about it much, and certainly not when they lose.
The thing that will help the NFL stay king of the hill indefinitely turns out to be the game’s photo negative. It’s Fantasy Football, and we’ve almost reached the point where we can drop the word “Fantasy” from the name. It’s real, and it’s here to stay. Gambling is illegal as it is considered a “game of chance”. Betting on Fantasy Football is legal because it’s considered a “game of skill” (don’t ask me who decides these things, but it’s true). Gambling is ugly because it can ruin people’s lives when they lose. Fantasy Football is innocent and fun, even if the same amount of money is spent to participate, and yes, half of it is wasted. With gambling, there is only money. With Fantasy Football, there’s money, but also fun team names, trophies and bragging rights. It’s market norms versus social norms again. Unless you live in one of the few states where gambling is legal, you need connections with people with connections to participate. Participating in Fantasy Football only requires an internet connection and as little as $1 investment.
The roots of Fantasy Football go back to the 1960s, but that was a different world. It’s only been in the last 10 years, entirely thanks to the internet, that it has taken off and become a craze…and a SERIOUS business. About 40 million Americans are playing some form of fantasy football this year, and they’re spending around $2 billion to do so, but that’s just the start. Considering the industry as a whole, the empire that is Fantasy Football is estimated at over $50 billion! And it will continue to grow. Everyone does it. I play, my friends play. Heck, even NFL players play! Just this week, an NFL player tweeted, “Probably gonna lose my fantasy football game this week because (Adrian Peterson) can’t play Sunday for disciplining his kid…” Really.
While you won’t hear advertisers talking about point spreads, they frequently refer to Fantasy stats. The crawl at the bottom of the television screen is now devoted to the new national pastime. As big as the NFL has become, it recognizes it NEEDS the Fantasy Football element to keep its brand healthy, so it’s doing everything it can to promote it. There are magazines, books, radio shows and TV shows dedicated to him and there is even a TV series based on a group of friends bonded by their Fantasy Football league. Only in America!
Online fantasy football sites are raking in money, cashing in on the popularity of this “game of skill”. One of the most popular sites boasts of paying over $10 million per week. Considering they cleverly charge 10% on every dollar to facilitate the thousands of contests between strangers, it’s easy to calculate how a business like this can quickly become worth millions almost overnight. And it’s not just NFL football. Most of these sites provide the forum for baseball, hockey, basketball, golf, and major “fantasy” college sports.
The lesson in all of this is simple – If you build the site, they will come, and they will come with money to spend. Find the product that people love and make it available to them online, in all possible forms. If you don’t have the product itself, write a book about it. If you don’t want to write a book, write an article and sell it. Position yourself as an “expert” (one who questions this anyway), and you’ll get a prize.
Now, if you’ll excuse me. It’s almost game time and I have to rely on my kicker’s attack to move the ball upfield to the 30 and then be stopped. Strangely enough, this Fantasy Football.
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