June, 2009

A Different Measure of Fantasy Industry Growth?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

At the Fantasy Sports Trade Association conference earlier this month, we learned from Dr. Kim Beason’s research that the number of avowed fantasy players had leveled off after several years of increases.

The obvious initial reaction to this information is to assume at least a temporary lull in industry growth. A different view of things, however, might just point to how business is thriving or perhaps just how much room to grow still remains.

We all know about the various businesses and affiliated websites that exist to support our fantasy games, and new versions enter the market all the time. Each entry represents at least one person’s belief that he or she can prosper in delivering fantasy sports to consumers in some way.

Lately, however, there seems to be more branching out into different areas and ancillary services that play off of the growing mainstream appeal or simply support the games that millions already play.

For starters, it’s been no surprise to see fantasy efforts extend beyond the more traditional sports to exploits such as bass fishing and wakeboarding and non-sports such as American Idol.

Beyond those kinds of competitions are the more complementary products. Multiple outlets exist, for example, that will provide opinions from lawyers to resolve league disputes for a fee. SportsJudge.com and FantasyDispute.com have each been around for at least several years already.

Two new entrants into the fantasy marketplace complement existing leagues in a similar fashion. FantasySportsInsurance.com seeks to sell policies to fantasy owners scared that a freak injury will prematurely separate them from their league entry fees. The creators of Mission Competition believe that there’s a significant market out there of leagues that lose an owner or two during the season and will pay to have the dead teams taken over.

We’ll see whether pursuits such as these turn into profitable businesses. The fact that companies are even looking to fill these perceived voids, however, indicates an industry with plenty of growth potential — a marketplace that’s still defining itself.


Personal Profile: Justin Cleveland

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Name: Justin Cleveland
Nickname: JC
Job title(s): Association Manager
Full-time in fantasy? Yes
Age: 28
Education: master’s in Communication Arts and Sciences from Penn State
Family status: Single
Favorite fantasy sport to play: Football (Draft-style)
Favorite sport to watch: Football (Pro first, college second, XFL a distant third)
Favorite team (any sport): Green Bay Packers
All-time favorite athlete: Jim Brown
Years playing fantasy: 11

I got my start in the fantasy industry when: I attended the August, 2007 FSTA Conference in Las Vegas.

Since then, my fantasy résumé includes: Finishing dead last in the FSTA Fantasy Football Experts League.

Three questions

1. How did your role with the FSTA come about?
When I was finishing up grad school, I was looking for jobs and came across the FSTA when they were looking for their first association manager. Being a big fantasy sports fan, I decided to check it out and sent in my résumé. I talked with Jeff Thomas, George del Prado and the board about the position and then flew out to the FSTA Conference in Las Vegas in 2007 and met with everyone.

When I tell people that the FSTA conference is a great place to network and get deals done, I speak from experience. I went out to meet everyone and found the industry professionals engaging and open, willing to speak about the industry and their vision for it going forward.

2. Anyone who has attended an FSTA conference in the past couple of years has heard your bad jokes between sessions and seen you hustle around with the microphone for questions. Can you describe what else you do as FSTA manager?
You lead with bad jokes? I work for months on those jokes. I may have to reevaluate my strategy. My essential job is twofold: working to expand the FSTA membership-assisting in acquisition and retention-and helping to organize the conferences. As to the first, I work with membership concerns including how to find and qualify a programmer, how to obtain merchant services (a surprising challenge even with clear case law on the industry’s side differentiating it from gambling) and locating particular bits of research. That is just skimming the surface but gives you a general idea of what I do on a daily basis.

As far as the conferences go, I’m involved in every aspect of putting the show together, from site selection (though Brett Baker at Fantasy Coverage has been instrumental in the Chicago shows since he’s local) down to stuffing name badges (extra special thanks to Danielle MacLean for volunteering her nametag-stuffing prowess in Chicago). The conferences are, essentially, my baby and most of the work has been done by the time the show runs around, I just have to make sure they run smoothly. And that involves the aforementioned microphone hustling.

I work with all of the different committees as they require (writing and distributing press releases, talking to reporters about the industry, adding content to the website, helping organize the awards categories and voting, etc). I’m a Jack of all trades, so to speak, when it comes to the FSTA. I essentially have to keep abreast of everything that is happening in the industry and what might potentially be of interest to our members and keep them in the loop.

3. How has your role changed during your stint with the association? How has that been impacted by changes to the industry itself?
My job really hasn’t changed from day one-the mandate was to help the association grow and develop the conferences, along with taking care of the day-to-day operations of the association (helping with the research, PR, awards, etc). That’s what I do.

When people ask what I do for a living, I have to lead with “I work for a non-profit association doing research, conference planning, and PR.” If I lead with “I work for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association” I get blank stares or the dreaded “You play fantasy football for a living?”

The one aspect that has developed more in the past year is the amount of knowledge I need to have on legal rulings and potential legislative impacts. Of course Glenn Colton has been a fantastic resource to help set me on the right path, but I have spent a good amount of time reading legal briefs from related cases and studying up on case law to be able to hold an informed opinion.

The summary is: The job is the same, if the minutia has changed how I go about it.


A Wink To Fantasy Football’s Influence

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

In presenting its list Sunday of the 10 most influential figures in sports over the past 50 years, the St. Petersburg Times acknowledged the sweeping popularity of fantasy football.

The group includes, of course, the likes of Marvin Miller for getting free agency going in Major League Baseball, Pete Rozelle for helping to launch the NFL to its current prominence and ESPN founder Steve Bornstein for obvious reasons.

If you scroll down the list a bit, though, you’ll find a name that might only be familiar to fantasy historians and serious Raider fans. Bill “Wink” Winkenbach sits right between Title IX creator Patsy Mink and IMG founder Mark McCormack. Here’s what the Times had to say about Winkenbach:

There’s a good chance that no one out there knows who Winkenbach is, but many of you know his work so well that you imitate it. Winkenbach was part-owner of the Oakland Raiders, and in a Manhattan hotel room in 1962, he created a concept, with several friends, for a game that used the actual statistics of real football games. They called it the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of these leagues across the country involving millions of dollars. Each league has its own name, but we all call it by one name: fantasy football.

It’s unlikely that anyone reading this site would argue Winkenbach’s influence.


FSB Daily 6/24: Partnerships Abound, FSV Goes Social

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

A roundup of recent posts on the FSB News page.

- YouGabSports.com has signed on as an affiliate site for RapidDraft, the new fantasy football game launched by the company that also brings you this site. RD also now has its blogs and forums area live — including the “Fantasy Island” blog from one particularly intelligent and handsome writer.

- Fantasy Sports Ventures announced earlier this week a new operating unit that will focus on social media. The effort includes partnerships with RotoHog, Watercooler and Sky Social Media.

- The Fantasy Action Sports League has reached a deal with wakeboard company Liquid Force to back prizes for its fantasy wakeboarding offerings.

- Among a group of new partnerships recently announced by HDTV producer Vizio is one with Rallypoint Sports, which provides customizable fantasy platforms for Internet-ready TVs.

- USA Today’s Steve Gardner says that fantasy players can still benefit from looking at what the “experts” do in leagues such as the Leagues of Alternate Baseball Reality.

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