Attention entrepreneurial spirit: the following would have seemed fictional like Star Wars to our grandparents, not to mention Vince Lombardi. However, it’s all true and there is a valuable lesson in this: you can monetize anything!
Congratulations to the NFL. They’ve found a way to maintain a huge fan base despite the myriad of off-pitch issues that seem to be shrugging off weekly. The 2012 arbitration strike and the inept substitutions? Forget it – it hasn’t even been registered on the NFL fan’s “List of Things to Care About”. How could it? This is a league that has recently seen famous players indicted or found guilty of domestic violence, rape, child abuse and murder. Good guys, huh? In short, there is NOTHING to stop us from tuning in every Thursday, Sunday and Monday (in my life, I’m sure there will be a match every night of the week). Television ratings suggest that this monster IS way 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 in the minority now. No, the wins and losses are not even the second reason. Sports gambling, while illegal in most states, WAS what kept the NFL at the top of the list of sports enthusiasts. People are betting nearly $ 10 billion in the Super Bowl alone. Imagine what an entire season brings. The line was something like “Dad’s favorite team is the Dolphins and he wants them to win by less than 4 points.” However, because gambling has such a negative connotation in society, people don’t talk much about it, and certainly not when they lose.
The thing that will help the NFL remain king of the hill indefinitely turns out to be the negative picture of gambling. It’s Fantasy Football, and it’s almost gotten to the point where we can remove the word “Fantasy” from the name. It’s real enough, and it’s here to stay. Gambling is illegal because it is considered a “game of chance”. Betting on Fantasy Football is legal because it is considered a “game of skill” (don’t ask me who decides these things, but it’s true). Gambling is bad because it can ruin people’s lives when they lose. Fantasy football is innocent and fun, even if you spend the same amount of money to participate, and yes, half is lost. With gambling, there is only money. With Fantasy Football there is money, but also funny team names, trophies and bragging rights. It is market norms against social norms, once again. Unless you live in one of the few states where gambling is legal, it takes connections with people with connections to participate. Participation in Fantasy Football requires only an Internet connection and a minimum investment of $ 1.
Fantasy Football’s roots go back to the 1960s, but that was a different world. It’s only been in the last 10 years, thanks entirely 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 are spending around $ 2 billion to do so, but that’s just the beginning. When you look at the entire industry, the Fantasy Football empire is estimated to be worth more than $ 50 billion! And it will continue to grow. Everyone is doing it. I play, my friends play. Heck, even NFL players play! Just this week, an NFL player tweeted “I will probably lose my fantasy football match this week because (Adrian Peterson) can’t play on Sundays for disciplining his son …” Really.
While you won’t hear the announcers talk about spread points, they often refer to Fantasy stats. The scan at the bottom of the TV screen is now devoted to the new national pastime. As big as the NFL has become, it recognizes that it NEEDS the Fantasy Football element to keep its brand healthy, so they go to great lengths to promote it. There are magazines, books, radio shows, and TV shows dedicated to it, and there’s even a TV series based on a group of friends related from their Fantasy Football league. Only in America!
Online fantasy football sites are raking in money, capitalizing on the popularity of this “game of skill”. One of the most popular sites boasts of paying over $ 10 million a week. Considering they’re cleverly charging 10% on every dollar to facilitate the thousands of contests between strangers, it’s easy to calculate how a company like this can quickly become worth millions almost overnight. And it’s not just NFL football. Most of these sites provide forums for “Fantasy” baseball, hockey, basketball, golf and major college sports.
The lesson in all of this is simple: if you build the site, they will come and go with dollars to spend. Find the product that drives people crazy and make it available online, in any form you can. 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” (whoever questions it) and you’ll get a price.
Now, if you want to excuse me. It’s almost game time and I need to cheer for my kicker’s attack to move the ball across the pitch towards 30 and then stop me. Strange thing, this fantasy football.