March 1st, 2010

Business Profile: Fantasy Trophies

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Launch date: launched in 1995 but became an LLC in 2008
No. of employees: We have 4 employees during the busy times of the year.

We’ve learned that the fantasy sports consumer can be an attractive target for marketers because “he” is devoted to the hobby and willing to spend money. Dave Mitri has been intimately familiar with those facts since launching about 15 years ago. He took some time out recently to tell about building a business around handcrafting trophies for fantasy players … and divulge the identity of his “Armchair Quarterback” inspiration.

1. So, really, who buys a fantasy sports trophy?

I think any fantasy player that really wants to “kick it up a notch” and recognizes a bit of the humor in fantasy sports purchases one of our trophies. Fantasy sports, when you boil it all down, is mainly about bragging rights, having fun and rubbing victory in your buddy’s face. It’s the reason exists. Playing for a cash prize is nice, but playing for cash and the rights to have your name on a hand-crafted trophy, specifically designed for fantasy, is tough to outdo. Also, let’s face it, the amount of time and energy that we put towards fantasy sports should deserve something in itself. I realized this when I won my league in its inaugural season in 1991 and wanted the trash-talking opportunities to continue long after I spent the cash prize. Leagues everywhere are all the same. Winners love to cherish victory for as long as possible and make the losers boil over with envy. I believe our trophies help to do just that … and then some.

2. How long does it take to create one? How different is the process (and/or processing) today from when you started in “a garage in Cleveland”?

The initial sculpting process can take me months to complete. We then make a mold of the sculpture so that we can pour multiple trophies from that one mold. After that we need to clean up the cast, give it a bronze finish and build the base. Our workforce can fluctuate depending on the season, but usually we can have a trophy from start to finish within a few days. The process itself, since moving to a shop in Brooklyn, hasn’t changed a whole lot from the days I was doing it in my garage in Cleveland. Having heat in the winter though is a nice thing. You can see more of the process at

3. Which design in your current lineup got things started, and what was your inspiration? Your model must be proud.

My cousin Johnny can be credited with posing for the first trophy I ever sculpted: The Armchair Quarterback. He still brags about being my model and displays a trophy in his basement (to the disbelief of his wife). I talked to him about my idea and how I wanted to create something that wouldn’t be mistaken for anything else besides a fantasy football trophy. He was all in. Posing for the Throwback was a little more challenging for him, but he was still game. I’m just glad he didn’t pull something trying to get in that pose. It could’ve been ugly.

4. How did you go about introducing your company and product to the industry and the consumer?

When I first launched on the web I had no clue what I was doing. I was in college at the time and just thought it would be a cool thing to try and start up. I had my buddy Mario put up a webpage for me and would later realize how lucky I was to get my domain name when I did. Remember, it was 1995 and the Internet was just starting to take off. Leagues mainly found me by just doing searches for trophies. It was pretty barebones at the time.

5. At what point did business really start to pick up? Was there a particular event or promotion that kind of brought everything together?

You know, business really picked up when I finally got the Throwback out there and teamed up with a couple other artists and craftsmen in Brooklyn, N.Y. Having great partners and employees helps with everything. We redid the website and introduced new product — including the Armchair Big Man (basketball), the Armchair Crew Chief (NASCAR) and the Ultimate Loser. We’ve also been fortunate enough to have a few high-profile athletes play for our trophies — including Chris Cooley and Curt Schilling. You can even see Cooley presenting our trophy to CB Fred Smoot at

We also have some of the top fantasy writers playing for our trophies. Both Gregg Rosenthal of Rotoworld and Dave Richards of have one of our trophies representing their experts leagues. Being members of the FSTA (Fantasy Sports Trade Association) since 2008 really helps too. Both their baseball and football leagues play for one of our trophies and the contacts we’ve made through them have been a big help.

6. What methods do you use today for getting your product in front of fantasy players? (Besides answering questions for wildly popular industry-news sites.)

We do what any other small business is attempting to do in today’s economy. We try and get the word out through social networking sites, a blog, paid advertising when we can, and by staying creative and open. I believe you have to keep two goals in mind though during the entire process. One is to produce a top notch product that will speak for itself and the other is to have great customer service. People are always willing to spend a few extra bucks if they know your product is quality and that they can count on you in the end. I know I’m doing something right when I have leagues invite me out for beers, if I’m ever in their city, because they appreciate the commitment I have to achieving both goals.

7. You recently launched an affiliate program. What does that entail, and what are your goals for it?

Yes, our affiliate program is new and I’m really excited to get it off the ground. We’re offering 10% of any product sold. That comes out to $37.50 for our best selling trophy: The Throwback. If you have a website and you’re interested you can check it out at I think affiliate programs are a great way to get a product like ours out there more and we’re hoping to attract not only larger sites, but also the smaller ones who hopefully see the potential in teaming up with a company like ours.

8. Obviously football is king around the fantasy industry. How do orders for the other sports you treat compare, though? Have you seen growth outside of football? Do you have plans for adding any further sports?

Football is definitely king, and the other sports really don’t even come close. However, I’m hopeful that our other trophies can make a little niche for themselves once they get noticed a little more. Our Armchair Crew Chief has received a great response from racing fans since its release and I think the hockey trophy I’m working on will do the same. I’m excited to be sculpting something new and you can imagine the unique characteristics a hockey trophy can possess. Stay tuned.

9. You offer trophies with big bases to allow for new league-winner plaques to be applied going forward. How much business do you get, though, from leagues that return to buy a new trophy every year?

Getting return customers is an important element to our business. As a result, I recently introduced the Armchair Quarterback Mini. It’s a smaller version of the large Armchair Quarterback. The Mini is our smallest trophy yet and sells for $99. I’ve had numerous leagues say they’d love to have something to hand out each year and a trophy to keep after the large one moves on to another proud recipient. Believe me, it’s tough giving that big guy up, but it should be made a little easier now that the Mini is around. A smaller version of the Throwback is also in the works.

10. There’s an increasing amount of study done on the fantasy sports consumer. What have you learned about “him” through running and growing your business?

I’ve found that players are always searching for ways to enhance their overall experience no matter how established their league may be. Because of this, they’re willing to spend their hard earned dollars, even in these trying times, if they feel they’ve discovered something of quality that will do just that. Also, I know how competitive not only fantasy players can be within their own league, but with leagues themselves. Fantasy players want to feel that their league is top-notch and is better than the league down the block or in the office. They’ll try and differentiate their league from the others by holding their draft at unique locations, having a fantasy league golf outing prior to draft day, or just about anything else to stand out from the crowd. Take it from me; I’ve heard plenty of stories that prove this to be true. Some I can’t repeat. That is also where we come into the equation. A trophy like ours definitely makes a league stand out from the rest.

I’m truly grateful that players and leagues continue to see our trophies as part of their heightened experience.