MarketWatch - Fantasy Sports: A Marketers Dream ... Especially in 2009
Who knew playing make-believe could prove so profitable? That’s what many marketers are asking themselves as fantasy sports Web sites continue to grow in popularity. With more than 27 million fantasy sports players in the U.S., accounting for annual revenue projections of $800 million to $1 billion, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, marketers are fighting to get a piece of the action.
Dominated by 18- to 40-year-old men, fantasy sports Web sites allow players to create their own teams consisting of real-life players. The athletes’ combined personal stats for a given season determine fantasy sports players’ fates. Football and baseball make up the majority of players and revenue generated. Sites generate revenue from fantasy sports primarily from three sources: advertising, corporate sponsorships, and such user-generated fees as paid subscriptions and extra charges for premium features, among others.
Despite the weakened economy, there doesn’t appear to be a slowdown in the fantasy sports market, with more players and Web sites joining in.
“Given the passionate audience we have, we’re not expecting a precipitous drop-off, either in users or revenue, this year,” says David Geller, director of fantasy sports at Yahoo, which reports that last year its fantasy sports sites saw the number of unique users and time spent online metrics grow.
Similarly, CBSSports.com continues to track year-over-year growth for its fantasy games. “There are some industries that are relatively recession-proof,” says Patrick Herde, vice president of product management and marketing at CBS Sports. “Fantasy games are typically a lifestyle, and gamers who are committed have been playing for years. I don’t think they’re going to give that up during a recession. In fact, even at a paid site like CBSSports.com, the cost per person is relatively nominal — $3 to $4 a month. We certainly haven’t seen any signs of the recession hitting our fantasy baseball business, and I don’t anticipate any impact on football, either.”
User behavior dictates messaging
For Yahoo, which industry stats show as the most popular destination for fantasy sports players, users’ past behaviors help it more effectively cross-market its offerings. For example, if you’re playing Yahoo’s fantasy football game, you’ll likely be served banner ads on your league homepage to entice you to play the college football fantasy games.
Yahoo also uses e-mail to market to fantasy players, again researching past behavior to dictate the types of messages it sends. While strictly an opt-in service, the company pays close attention to what games you’re currently playing to send more relevant messages. So if you’re a fantasy basketball player, you’re much more likely to receive an invitation to register for Yahoo’s college basketball tournament game than, say, a fantasy hockey player.
“We blend the explicit and implicit user behavior” to provide better targeted messages, Geller says.
The fantasy sports site at Yahoo also takes advantage of the company’s vast network to connect any content — i.e., editorial on its homepage — that’s related to a fantasy sport with a link at the bottom of the article for that sport’s fantasy page.