The percentage of men involved in some form of online fantasy sports is rapidly rising. Whether it’s the NBA, NFL or MLB, 18-34 males and beyond are savoring the ability to live vicariously through their favorite players while engaging in virtual competition in the process.
One of the upstart companies to capitalize on this popular medium is ProTrade, a relatively new sports “stock market” site that lets users buy and sell to establish a predictive market of athletes. Assembled by a team of MIT statisticians, economists and leading sports figures to develop, this patent-pending valuation engine quantifies on-field performance and assesses an athlete’s contribution to winning.
“You essentially are creating a stock market portfolio based on athletes you think are undervalued,” explains Steve Curran, creative director of Pod Design, the agency responsible for ProTrade’s latest branding effort. “It creates a market system that they then in turn award cash and prizes and builds a social networking community around a sports stock market. It’s similar to the Hollywood stock exchange, the way that created a really vibrant dynamic and a market for people to create a virtual portfolio of celebrities they’re investing in.” Curran adds, “That draws the attention of people who are inside the industry, and it gives them the beat on what people think and feel about players.”
While the industry gathers their thoughts and analysis on the ProTrade activity, Pod Design is helping the burgeoning company gain brand awareness by launching a viral campaign this week. “What we wanted to do is find the most viral concept we could,” says Curran. “We like to build on games where we can find a unique twist that makes it organic to the service or the product that we’re trying to create viral traffic towards. In this case, we didn’t want to get locked into any particular sport or real-world celebrities because there is obviously the licensing of players, teams or logos. So around the time we were brainstorming ideas, earlier this year, there were a number of articles about mascots behaving badly.”
With the light bulbs flashing, Curran and company devised an advergame, Mascot Kombat, which, as any gaming enthusiast will tell you, draws inspiration from one of the most legendary fighting games ever. “We were playing with this, and came up with the idea of doing a parody of Mortal Kombat,” Curran reveals. “We created a game where you can choose 1 of 4 mascot clichÃƒÂ©s to play in this fighting game. Similar to the console games, we have special games and attacks for each of the characters. So it’s a good combination of strong game play and humor. We think it will make a good viral because not only is it a good game to play, but it also has a sense of humor, the kind of things guys would send to other guys. It definitely has a point challenge to be particularly competitive.”
While no blood-soaked fatalities are involved, this Kombat game does parallel the inherent competitiveness of sports, and serves as a fun way to kill time during the lull periods of your 9-5. In general, viral campaigns and advergames are nothing new to Pod, which explains Curran’s straightforward approach to creating successful executions in this medium.
“With viral campaigns, the dream is to do one that converts to customers,” he says. “We always try to caution any [client] upfront that conversion off a click of a viral marketing campaign isn’t the most direct path. But we look at this as one of the most cost-effective ways you can turn to achieve one of those exposures. It pre-exposes you to something before you decide to buy it or check it out further. When it exceeds far beyond what you’ve spent in a cost-per-click type situation, it really goes beyond the cost of production, it’s unpaid media. So we push these things hard for a couple of months, but they generally take on a life of their own.”
With Pod’s amusing seeding effort and ProTrade’s PR spin, the site should hopefully see some of those desired traffic spikes in the near future. Curran hopes that Mascot Kombat, though, serves as just a tiny accoutrement to ProTrade’s overall service. “It’s a very sticky concept obviously. It’s something similar to fantasy leagues where you’re going to be checking back in on a daily basis to see how your portfolio is doing based on the real-world performance of your players. Fantasy leagues have proven to be an extremely popular thing to participate in online. It creates so many click-throughs, because people will come back all the time checking in, like day-trading activity.”
Want to indulge your flights of sporting fantasy, play day-trader, and kick butt all in one sitting?