Meegan: Hey you know what Ted? These guys are in a fantasy league.
Ted: Fantasy football?
Pete: You like football Ted?
Meegan: Ted’s actually in a real league.
Kevin: 8-man, 12-man? What is it?
Ted: I’m in a park league.
Meegan: He plays.
Jenny: You play! Wow!
Meegan: Muddy field. No pads. Out there every Saturday.
Kevin: Like Favre in those Wrangler ads.
(Pete rolls his eyes.)
The above quote is from the amazing show The League which centers around a group of friends (including one woman) in a fantasy football league. They are obsessed with this league and act like it is the only things in their lives, even though they have careers (well depends on your definition) and some have families. Though the characters on the show are quite outlandish the fact that the majority of the characters are upper middle-class, educated, career-oriented people is quite accurate. About 30 million people participate in fantasy football which means a lot of them probably do league activities at work, are in a league with work friends or at least talk about with people from work. Actually, according to John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 21.3 million full-time workers are participating in fantasy sports each year. Does this mean fantasy football could be the new golf for the business crowd?
With 30 million American adults playing fantasy sports, this translates to annual revenue between $800 million and $1 billion, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. About 85% of gamers play fantasy football, and 40% participate in fantasy baseball. The average player is male, between the ages of 18 and 49 and boasts above-average income and education levels—in other words, a marketer’s dream. But women are getting in there too. David Geller, director of fantasy sports at Yahoo (YHOO), estimates that 12% of the top fantasy site’s players are women. “We have seen an upward trend,” he said in an interview with DailyFinance. On ESPN, about 18% of the fantasy sports content on ESPN.com is consumed by women.
Obviously a lot of people are into fantasy football. For many it is more accessible than golf as well as cheaper. Plus, it is easy to keep tabs on at work. But can it really compare to golf? No sport has ever come close to attaining the power of golf in regards to building business relationships. Mostly because it is a sport where players are often standing around, which gives them ample time to talk shop. An estimated 90% of Fortune 500 CEO’s play golf. According to Barrons, one quarter of the 25 million golfers in the U.S. are top management executives and a full 80% of that number agreed that the game of golf is an important business development tool. But according to some people we talked to, fantasy football may be the new golf.
Matt Meuleners, a partner at FOCUS Training, told The Grindstone:
“As member of an office that used to hit the links together on a weekly basis, I can say that fantasy football has definitely become our golf-replacement. Our business grew and our free time shrunk in direct proportion until it seems almost impossible to find several hours to play around with teammates. Also, our team has spread out around the country which really limits our ability to play. Fantasy football is fun, requires little time or coordination of schedules, and is something that more people in our office can participate in regardless of athletic ability. Besides, our culture is already highly competitive (in a friendly way), so the smack talk potential of a fantasy football league is a perfect fit. We throw a little money into the pool, but overall we spend a lot less than we used to on greens fees and beverages. We still golf when we can, but the talk on the course is almost always about who is going to dominate the FTFL this season.
I do think that this is happening at other companies, yes. I was in three leagues this season – one with our company, one with a friend who organized it as his office, and one back in Minnesota where I’m from originally. They are all based in workplaces. I haven’t seen statistics on this, but just based on my observations I would guess that there is a fantasy football league in almost every office now. When we go to a business networking function or when I sit down next to someone on an airplane, I am much more likely to be striking up conversation about fantasy football than golf. That is a big switch from just five years ago.”
Michael Blake of StartupLounge.com, told The Grindstone:
“I don’t know if fantasy leagues are matching golf in popularity but I can tell you that at least two of the leagues I am in have a dual personal/business role. I work for the largest accounting firm in the SE United States (except the Big 4) and run the business valuation practice. And I have no interest in playing golf.”
But can fantasy football really replace the institution that is golf?