Counselor Commentary: No Longer A Fantasy

Many Drafts Held At Pubs And Restaurants

Dave VagnoniIt was about a year ago when we asked a handful of top distributors this question: Can the fantasy football market be a lucrative one for the ad specialty industry? The answers went mostly: “No way, just don’t see it.” Or, “it’s not worth our time.” Or, “there’s not a lot of money in selling one-off trophies.”

The big problem, distributors said, is that there wasn’t an easy way to tie into the $11 billion fantasy market pipeline – unless you had an in with ESPN, Yahoo, CBS or the NFL itself – the main online players in the space. Fair enough. Fortunately, though, the market potential has continued to expand and there’s another, more local target for industry firms: restaurants.

There are about 35 million people in the U.S. who play fantasy football. Where do they hold their drafts? Sure, some have them online or in basements or on crowded kitchen tables. But, even with no rock-sold numbers to back us up, we feel confident in saying many fantasy drafts are held in pubs, sports bars and restaurants. These dining spots are trying to incentivize leagues to come to them – with attractive servers, good Wi-Fi and free appetizers.

What’s the next incentive? Yup, it’s promotional products. Leagues need draftboards – think branded whiteboards. People drink beer as they draft – think logoed drinkware, bottle openers and coasters. Simple things like notepads, pens, markers, stickers, brag flags, and mobile screen cleaners are also options to pitch. Plus, restaurants can offer prize packs, hand out loyalty chips or bracelets, and sell promotional merchandise during this fantasy rush, as well. You can and should get in on this action. Smaller distributors can go after the neighborhood watering hole and larger firms can make a play for local, regional or even national chains.

It also makes a lot of sense to showcase trophies and championship rings during fantasy drafts. Once you’ve won some fantasy business at restaurants, get in touch with an industry trophy or jewelry supplier and invite them to display some cool awards at draft parties. Even if just a couple of leagues bite and want to buy a trophy, ring, or belt for their champion, it’s money in your pocket. Restaurants might even purchase a large award for fantasy promotions and leagues they’re trying to run.

These are just a few thoughts, but the opportunity is there, so make it happen – even if you’re looking ahead to next year. Now, of course, no commentary on fantasy football would be complete without some unsolicited drafting advice, so here goes. Don’t be shy about going top three quarterback early, get lots of running back depth in the middle rounds and take a flier on Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks or Kelvin Benjamin late.