Fantasy sports was a small side hobby for decades until social media got involved. Today, thanks largely to social media, fantasy sports has become a multi-billion dollar industry. How has social media affected the growth of fantasy sports?
Fantasy sports involve competitions that can be played in person with pen and paper, at a Vegas online casino or on a fantasy sports platform. In fantasy sports participants put together imaginary teams that are made up of real life athletes.
The fantasy teams compete with the results determined by the statistical performance of the players that were selected. So, for instance, if you draft Tom Brady to your team and the following Sunday Tom scores a touchdown, your fantasy team adds points to its total.
From simple pen-and-paper games of the 20th century fantasy sports has exploded into an industry that includes fantasy platforms, websites, commentators, broadcast channels and more. The major influence driving fantasy sports has been the rise of social media which continues to move the industry forward.
Approximately 15 million people played fantasy sports online in 2003, the year before the launch of Facebook and 3 years before the launch of Twitter.
Once social media platforms started to become centers for fantasy players, new participants joined in droves, driven by the opportunities to update, talk strategy, share their successes and failures, ask questions and more.
By 2016 the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) estimated that approximately 20% of the U.S. population was playing in fantasy leagues in the United States, with the largest percentage of players focusing on fantasy football.
There are a number of strategies that fantasy sites are using to engage existing players and draw in new potential competitors. Two of the biggest platforms, DraftKings and FanDuel, have put a good percentage of their eggs into the social media basket and are seeing significant results.
DraftKings launched in 2012 and has embraced social media in a big way. One of their most successful strategies that has brought them a lot of success involves their contests.
Through their contests DraftKings has been successful in growing their userbase, generating brand awareness, increasing their email lists and getting followers to engage with their content. They get brands to sponsor the contest and then tag the sponsor to show the sponsor how many people the contest – and therefore the brand – have reached.
- On their social media pages, they solicit opinions and throw out questions which draws their audience into the world of DraftKings (“What’s the craziest player/team combo that you almost forget about?”, “What sports moment would you get as a tattoo?”, “What are you grilling this weekend?”)
- DraftKings backs various support efforts and then shares those initiatives on their social media pages to help create an atmosphere of community. (“Community DraftKings has helped over 600 veterans and their spouses to train in the tech industry for better transitions after service. Check out our story”)
- Many people tune into the DraftKings’ social media pages because they offer valuable advice. Analysts and experts in a number of fields write content and appear in videos on DraftKings social media pages to analyze games and players so that users can make better choices when choosing their fantasy players. Fantasy players are usually people who know their game and the intricate analyses that the platform presents resonate with them.
FanDuel replicates much of the content of DraftKings but they have other strategies as well.
- One successful technique that FanDuel uses involves their focus on polls and questions which they find spurs excitement and comraderie. They can ask a question or run a poll about a popular topic, a lesser-known subject or even about something not sports-related at all. But it’s the sports-related topics that draw the highest level of engagement because, after all, that’s why people are on their site all-together.
- FanDuel users their social media pages to educate their audience on topics that aren’t specifically sports-related but may relate to sports. For instance, they bring in experts to explain cybercurrency , a subject that may speak to sports bettors.
- There’s a lot of nostalgia on the FanDuel social media pages. Sports fans love to relive old glory and test each other about old sports trivial FanDuel uses this type of reminiscing to engage viewers.
While the fantasy sports platforms have become the center of the industry, there are other support services that also benefit from social media engagement with fantasy sports fans. They include sporting goods companies, ecommerce stores that cater to the sports industry, gyms, sports bars, fitness camps, etc.
Fantasy sports companies and supporting brands and services are, in many ways, leading the way into the new frontier of the possibilities that exist for using social media for the widest engagement possible.