Fantasy football leagues and advertisers vie to attract fans—and each other
With the pro football season set to kick off in empty stadiums this week, the National Football League—along with advertisers and fantasy football leagues—are trying to fill the void for fans stuck at home.
To bolster the game's perceived engagement, the NFL—which has operated its own fantasy league since 2010—is giving away a large suite of experiential prizes, ranging from the chance to choreograph a touchdown dance via FaceTime with a pro player to a trip to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for your fantasy league’s playoffs.
“The desire of the fan is to feel like they’re connected to their sport,” says Michael Steiner, the NFL Media Group’s VP of Marketing. “We wanted it to feel like you didn’t need a lottery ticket” to win a prize, he says, adding that the idea behind the volume and quality of the prizes was to offer rewards “you can’t get any place else.”
The theme of offering prizes to facilitate engagement has also translated to brands currently cashing in on the fantasy football market.
Bud Light’s fantasy-related campaign, for example, promises fans the chance to win a case of beer if they draft Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II in the first round. And, if they win their league’s championship with Minshew starting, they’ll have the chance to win a season’s worth of Bud Light in a social media-based sweepstakes.
"With fans spending a lot of time in the comfort of their homes this year, Bud Light has looked to engage consumers in new and exciting ways which tie back to their interest," says Joe Barnes, Director of Bud Light Sports Marketing. The aim of the Anheuser-Busch InBev brand's fantasy campaign this year is to play "even more of a role" in engaging with fans, considering most are stuck at home, Barnes adds.
“Making [fantasy football] more fun, or making it more accessible, or adding a reward” can both cement recurring fantasy players and attract new ones, says Jim Andrews, a senior consultant with Onside Marketing. “It’s positioning the brand as a friend. This brand is something that understands me.”
Some U.S. restaurant brands are still moving to utilize fantasy sports this year with in-house promotions, despite most dining rooms remaining either closed or at reduced capacity to accommodate proper social distancing.
Hooters has positioned itself as “Smack Talk Central” for this year’s fantasy football drafts, offering a suite of content from Zoom backgrounds and chicken wing discounts for fans. And, if your local Hooters is open, fans may be able to host fantasy draft parties at their nearest restaurant (though its website notes that parties of six or more may be prohibited).
In addition to the usual suspects, the Florida-based restaurant chain has also produced a range of gimmicks for fantasy players. "Use Hooters Prank News Generator to make a prospect look a little worse so you can pick him up on the sly," the brand says, letting users choose how severe they want their fake headline to be on a one-to-five scale. "Let’s keep this our little secret!"
Buffalo Wild Wings, long known for its fantasy sports promotions, has also centered on low-key draft party food deals both in-restaurant and at home, not opting for any wider-reaching branded campaigns. For the sports bar chain, $3 MillerCoors tall cans and 100-wing bundles are the way to go in 2020.
Ploys to attract the nearly 46 million Americans who play at least one fantasy sport are becoming more common every year, especially given their coveted age demographic and higher-than-average annual income.
Total ad spend for fantasy sports leagues was up nearly 50 percent between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, rising from $5.5 billion to $7.7 billion year-over-year, according to data analyst Kantar, which looked at a dozen major fantasy games including those produced by ESPN, NFL, Yahoo and Ottoneu.