Fantasy Football — The New NASCAR?


Love ‘em or hate ‘em you have to give credit to the NASCAR folks – they do a heck of a job marketing. It used to just be a southern thing but NASCAR has grown into a national sport. Although attendance numbers at events have somewhat declined in recent years, their television and online growth has grown and the awareness and loyal fan support of sponsors is as strong as ever.

It has long been known that the avid NASCAR fan is also very loyal to sponsors of the sport, dwarfing the loyalty of fans of other sports. In fact, a study released by James Madison University’s Center for Sports Sponsorship states extraordinary awareness of sponsors and considers NASCAR “the best buy in sports marketing” with unparalleled awareness, favorability and effectiveness of brands connected to the sport.

The above mentioned study concluded the following of NASCAR fans:
93% said sponsors were “very important” to the sport
83% said they “like sponsors” (“somewhat” or “a lot”)
51% agreed when buying a sponsor’s product they are supporting the sport
47% agreed they “like” a brand more because it sponsors the sport

So, now you ask – how is Fantasy Football the new NASCAR? Well, it’s not a sport in the traditional sense, but it is an online sport and “killer application,” providing a deeper penetration into the physical game. The similarities are striking.

For those that do not know how fantasy football works: like NASCAR, fantasy football fans root for a single athlete – not a team. If you don’t believe me find a good friend that is a fan of say, the New York Giants and also has Tony Romo (QB, Dallas Cowboys) as the starting quarterback on their fantasy team. Now watch closely a game where the Cowboys play the Giants and you will see a single man stretched in two distinctly different directions…wanting his team to win and also wanting Romo to score touchdowns. It’s the ultimate catch-22 and it tears at the fabric of the NFL’s support system.

Research conducted by the Fantasy Sports Association, utilizing Nielsen Net Ratings usage analysis and Copernicus Consulting research, shows that attitudes toward advertisers of fantasy football applications and content were very positive. The most commonly associated responses were consumers stating support because the brands were more of interest to them; they wished to support brands and the sites that provide for their interest, the sponsors were more heavily noticed because of regular site visits and the big one – trust.

In fact, the above mentioned research also found the following of fantasy football fans:
80% expect to see ads on a fantasy sports website
62% expect the brand advertising will “fit with their interest”
56% are “more likely” to notice an advertisement on a fantasy sport website than another website
50% are “more likely” to purchase products from a sponsor

All of the above is strong data to consider when planning an online sponsorship for a brand, particularly one with a focus on a key demographic of males 18 – 49 years of age.

More importantly it begs the questions: Has fantasy football become such a fruitful source of passionate consumerism that brands should consider outright sponsorship of the applications themselves or perhaps sponsorship of the sites that produce the applications and service? Or maybe, sponsorship of the leagues created by the fans? All of which would endear brands to the consumer for a fraction of the cost of a deal with the league or a single player alone.

Consider that the latest data shows there were nearly 9 million unique users of fantasy football sites in October 2005. These 9 million passionate fantasy football consumers averaged seven visits to their fantasy site of choice, logged nearly 2 billion fantasy football-specific page views and created a “multiplier-effect” for those sites, resulting in an additional 1 billion page views per month for those host sites.

In terms of online significance when it comes to fantasy football, consider the Super Bowl is not even a factor in the minds of fantasy football fans. In fact it is an event without a heartbeat on, ESPN and Sportsline, three leading sports sites. Trend data derived from Compete, Inc shows that online traffic surges as preseason begins and maintains high volume throughout the season – with an added pop for the NFL Draft.

Gentlemen fantasy football has arrived and the opportunity for media value is endless. If you listen you can hear it coming – Click-Clack. 

Click-Clack is a trademark of Under Armour.


  1. Hadn’t thought of NASCAR and fantasy football in the same mindset before but you make an important point.

    Affinity drives loyalty and both are pillars of fantasy football (with a healthy dose of gambling err gamesmanship mixed in). Sponsorship of fantasy football-related content and community is a no-brainer, high-conversion advertising opportunity.

    As a relatively avid fantasy fan and someone who has been around the digital media space for years , I’m still surprised that there isn’t more sponsored content out there. I used to think the fantasy football content world had already been staked out, but now I thinks it is still early for both publishers and advertisers.

    Fantasy also taps alot of the other themes/buzzwords associated with “customer-centricity” – choice, control, engagement, etc.

    I know guys that are buying plane tickets to join fantasy drafts. Next August, smart advertisers and marketers of all shapes and sizes will see a lot more opportunities to get involved with fantasy fans.

    Good stuff

  2. Kent, good comments and points. I do believe these fantasy sports in general provide a lot of glue for a marketer/brand to develop a strong bond with a consumer – particularly a consumer that has a deep-deep passion for something such as fantasy football (clearly Nascar has achieved this over a number of years).

    Fantasy football is still in its infancy, just as most online tools, applications and internet centric publishers are and the growth, opportunity and potential tremendous.

    Thanks for the comment.


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