What Can Marketers Learn From Fantasy Sports?

If you don’t participate in a fantasy sports league, you probably know somebody who does. This is because fantasy sports are popular— as Fast Company reports, they’re part of a billion dollar industry. But why, specifically, are they so popular, and how can marketers learn from their example?

Adelphi University cites four growing trends in sports marketing: the use of detailed analytics about fans to market directly to them online; fantasy sports leagues reaching out to real-life sports fans as an extension of the ‘real life’ version; expanded online access to games and programming; and an increasing awareness of female fans as a crucial demographic not to overlook. One interesting connection that both Fast Company and Adelphi University pointed out is the crossover of ‘real life’ and fantasy sports fans. For example, oftentimes, real-life Dodgers fans will be more likely to join a fantasy sports league and create a team made up of Dodgers players, among others.

If fantasy sports can teach us anything about marketing, it’s that interaction and active participation is key. You want your website visitors to feel engaged and active—as if their opinions are wanted and in-demand. Among a few viable options are animation, 360-degree videos, questionnaires, and pop-up chat rooms with customer service representatives. According to Four Winds Interactive, one in five people make unplanned purchases after seeing items on digital signage displays, so increased investment in digital marketing can only help your brand.

Moreover, it should be a given that your website must be mobile-friendly: this means quick-loading and reader-friendly, regardless of the device used to access your site. In addition, your site should offer a number of different types of entertaining, user-friendly pieces of content, such as e-books and podcasts, which engage potential customers and speak to their demographic in a relevant and trustworthy manner. Prove your company is delivering expert advice by making sure your site’s content is unique and well thought-out—as opposed to sloppily produced with faulty logic.

Another reason to create interactive content is to have another way to gauge customer preferences and help shape the tone and subject matter of future blog content and product specifications. If your customers voice their fondness for finger steaks, for example, and you’re putting together a new appetizer menu for your restaurant that sources locally-grown ingredients, you may want to add finger steaks to your list of happy hour specials—mentioning, also, that you source the beef from a small, local organic farm.

That’s part of the charm of fantasy sports teams as well: the feeling of community that is established when business owners practice active, social listening and demonstrate that they truly care about customer feedback; similarly, human resource managers are recognizing that fantasy sports teams can provide an opportunity for workplace camaraderie and community building, which in turn can provide time for coworkers to chat about not only their fantasy football teams but also the latest marketing campaign for your site. Who knows: you may come up with a breakthrough piece of content without even trying while eating lunch in the break room.

Increasing dialogues with customers via short videos, pop-up chat rooms, and social media platforms offer more opportunities to gauge customer interest and feedback on current and future products. Brands also stand to be perceived more favorably, as a result of positive real-time conversations and response to online comments, for example—allowing for more a more personalized customer experience with relevant product recommendations and answers to technical problems. These new forms of what’s called “conversational commerce” provide ways for your company to reach out to future and current customers in a way that effectively builds brand rapport.

Brian Havig makes some excellent points in his article on fantasy football’s relevance to marketing, via Forbes. First, fantasy football is participatory and social. Fun, interactive content is extremely important in today’s socially connected audience of potential and current customers. How better to expand one’s client base than making your business an extension of a community? The second point Havig makes is also related to the community: if customers, like NFL fans, are offered an opportunity to “geek out” as fantasy league participants can do on player statistics and plays, they’ll be much more likely to stick around, having been given something to talk about.

Another important sticking point is co-creation: that is, just as fantasy football was created by fans, many successful products come about as a result of a customer suggestion or contest winner. And lastly, in order for players or customers to stick around, marketers should recognize that their product users are intelligent and in search of well-designed and clever outlets for their time. Moreover, people value pastimes that are entertaining and fun—and that means, specifically, that your company’s ideas or products should consist of interesting content, useful function, and unique elements.

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What elements do you think make for successful marketing and loyal customers? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below!


Daphne Stanford
Daphne Stanford
DAPHNE grew up near the ocean, and she loves taking pictures of the mountains and rivers in Idaho, where she now lives. She believes in the power of writing, education, and community radio to change the world. She hosts “The Poetry Show!” Sundays on Radio Boise.

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