Infographic Of The Day: The Fantasy Sports Economy Is Rip-Roaring

Helloooooo, business opportunity!

I’ll admit that I don’t understand a lick about fantasy sports: So you get together with your friends and invent make-believe teams? Then you trade your players in such a way that you effectively rip off your buddies? And you have to pay money for the privilege? What’s the difference between that and, say, playing Barbies? I mean, on the one hand, you have a pastime in which lonely children make playthings of little plastic human simulacra. On the other, you have something that doesn’t involve Derek Jeter.

But if I were a marketer, I’d do my damnedest to try and grasp this stuff, because as Good and Column Five Media show, the folks who play fantasy sports are an extremely attractive bunch. They account for $800 million, or about 18%, of the $4.5 billion sports industry. They’re affluent sports fans (players earn $60,000 to $100,000 a year) who are more likely than non-playing fans to spend their salary on everything from beer to sports magazines to airlines tickets. An estimated 32 million of North Americans ages 12 and older compete in fantasy leagues, a 60% increase since 2007.

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The infographic also suggests something interesting about sports journalism: In a way, fantasy sports now subsidize sportswriting. The site that draws the most unique readers, Yahoo! Sports, also happens to be the top destination for fantasy leagues. Take away all those eyeballs, and you think an online sports outfit would still invest many months and untold dollars in an exposé of a renegade football booster? Doubt it. Maybe there’s a lesson here for other media entities: There’s good money in giving grown-ups a place to play with their dollies.

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  • Gary

    100% agree with @keithstoeckeler -- "I'll admit, I don't understand a lick about fantasy sports..." just might be the worst, laziest lede I've ever read. Unreal Fast Co. would allow this to be published. Given that there's an estimated 32 million fantasy sports players in the U.S. alone, you'd think they'd be able to find SOMEONE who could've done a much better job than 300 words comparing the game to...collecting Barbies? Ugh...

  • Jack Hildr

    She wrote a slightly negative review of Fantasy Football, and men who don't like to be compared to girls who play with dolls got upset. If you're commenting, that's the point. Yay, they made their advertising money, and we can all go home. 

  • Joey Cordes

    mTp's point about connection really resonates with me. I play in two free fantasy football leagues with two groups of friends who are dispersed all over the US.  While fantasy football certainly engages us with a sport that many of us were not die-hard about a few years ago (a huge plus for the NFL, sports media, and incessant beer adverts), we're really going there for the connection to each other. It brings the sort of competitive play and jabbing wit of male relationships to a digital medium in a way that has not been achieved in other social media.
    So while fantasy sports may not be "real," they offer very real emotional benefits to the users of the services. There's much more depth to this concept of fantasy sports as a business opportunity than was communicated in the article.

  • Heather

    I'm just commenting on the design aspect, I love infographics, but this one, for me, is an info-overloadgraphic. It's just not doing it in terms of hierarchy, proximity and relationship of information.

  • Adam Meckler

    I have to agree with mTp here. The thing that makes this different than "playing dollies" is the money factor. You pay to enter leagues, sometimes upwards of hundreds or even thousands of dollars (my leagues all round out at about $25), and the winners take home money. It's gambling, and it's the kind of gambling my wife is OK with. There is little in there that suggests we're just playing with dolls, though I get why someone who knows nothing about FF would say all this.

  • keithstoeckeler

    Someone who could lead with "I play fantasy sports and..." rather than "I'll admit that I don't understand a lick about fantasy sports..." should have written this post.

  • Tim Letscher

    I'll add to mTp's comment to say your analysis slanted and narrow-minded. My two girls happen to of the age when they're playing with dolls and they're FAR from lonely. Fantasy play encourages their creativity and lets them develop emotionally. Maybe your comment was tongue-in-cheek but it might also speak more to your own mentality. 

    Just your opening sentence speaks volumes about the journalistic worth of this post. If you "don't know a lick," then learn a lick before sitting at your keyboard to write! I realize today's fast pace drives writers to publish first, but a little more knowledge on your part would let you add some value on top of what Good already gave us.

  • Guest

    Come on Suzanne that was about as shallow as you could get of an analysis. Dollies? There is something more compelling here than that. The NFL has recognized that fanatsy sports has allowed them to connect with fans outside of the immediate markets by having them follow, research and bet on (put a stake in) teams the fan cannot see on TV. This allows the fan to reduce all the games to the teams, players and plays they are interested in. How is this any different from the baseball fans who for a century have been doing to 40-50 games a year and taking note cards to tally the statistics on every player? As entertainment, it seems to me that this is the most active engagement the entertainment industry has out there.

    Are you a fan of "social media?" If so, isn't this the best example of it? People are using the context of sports as the social object. As an example, my family, located all over the US, plays fantasy football. This allows all of us to interact as adults and with the children through football. It is fun, it requires a little research and attention and provides another channel for us to connect. Maybe that is not typical but it is not playing dolls or video games.