Faulty Study Tries to Leverage Fantasy’s Popularity

OK. We passed along links yesterday to the latest “research” from Challenger, Gray & Christmas on the impact of fantasy football in the workplace, but now it’s time to take a look at the actual value of the numbers here.

Our appraisal: They’re worthless.

In a short piece for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Nicklaus speculates that the outplacement firm’s statistics are “wildly inflated” and “misleading.” That seems like a fair assessment of the estimate that fantasy football alone will cost companies $9 billion in lost productivity this fall and winter.

Let’s start with the headline numbers. As far as I can tell, the Challenger study goes back at least to 2004. As recently as 2006, the company estimated that fantasy football players cost their employers $1.1 billion a week. That put the season total at nearly $19 billion, more than double what the company has guesstimated in each of the past two years.

Obviously, it would make no sense for the financial impact of fantasy football to be cut by more than half at a time when the entire fantasy sports field is showing annual average growth of nearly 25 percent, according to Fantasy Sports Trade Association research. Challenger’s main problem there appears to have been its projection that about 36.8 million people were participating in fantasy football, a ridiculous total that even Challenger has scaled way down in the past two rounds.

By comparison, this year’s Ipsos-FSTA study found the highest rate of fantasy participation ever with possibly as many as 29.9 million competing in all sports if you combine the United States and Canada.

Now on to the average worker-fantasy player data, which seems to have remained unchanged in Challenger’s “study” over at least the past several years. The guesstimate works under the assumption that the average fantasy football player rakes in $80,000 a year, based on information from the Fantasy Sports Association that 70 percent of fantasy players fall in the annual-salary range of $50,000 to $149,000.

Now, all industry research points to fantasy players being pretty affluent when compared with the general public, but $80,000 seems a bit high. Have you ever noticed that the Census Bureau uses median income in its national representations? That’s because such a method keeps the few at either end of the spectrum from skewing the overall results. To put it nicely, $80,000 is a skewed number. (Anecdotally, how many of the fantasy players that you know make anywhere near $80,000? How many of them do you know from leagues other than the WCOFF?)

Finally, there’s the figuring of the actual time spent with fantasy football on the internet at work, which is central to this whole charade.

 ”Anyone who denies that it is a distraction in the work place is kidding themselves,” Challenger Gray spokesman James Pedderson was quoted as saying in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog post last year.

I’m pretty sure no one will be arguing that point. You know what else is a distraction in the work place? Windows. Oh, and the carpet, hammering by the facilities staff, odd smells and coworkers.

The point is, this “study” absurdly assumes that the time American workers spend researching their fantasy players at work is time that would otherwise be spent working efficiently. Sorry, that just isn’t true. There’s a lot more out there on the internet besides fantasy games, and it’s not just that Bills season-ticketholder in the next cubicle over who is driving up the Web-usage numbers for the whole company. And let’s not even get into fantasy players who might not hold down office jobs or have computer access at work.

Do people check their fantasy teams in the office? Of course. Some of us do it every day. But if you’re going to say this habit costs employers billions of dollars a year, you’d better be able to back up the claim with some much stronger research.


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One Response to “Faulty Study Tries to Leverage Fantasy’s Popularity”

  1. Fantasy Sports Business » Blog Archive » Fantasy Football Could Be Good for the Office Says:

    [...] Gray & Christmas that has fantasy football costing employers billions each season ran earlier this week, but we’re not yet ready to drop the [...]

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