Fantasy football is a virtual game in which the NFL players and prize money are entirely real.
Numerous well known host websites such as CBS Sports, Yahoo!, and ESPN (Disney/ABC) allow global participants the opportunity to draft a virtual team of real NFL players who score points based on their statistics in games each week.
The industry is made up of 18 million fantasy football enthusiasts ranging from CEOs to elementary students. The prize money for winners ranges from trophies to $250,000.
Our product is called FF Wolf (Fantasywolf.com). Our unique selling proposition (USP) is: “He solves draft and lineup problems.” The logo shows a wolf driving a Ferrari-like car, creating brand equity of prestige, accomplishment, quick response, and a predatory brand personality. Our product is statistical forecasts and rankings.
The Wolf will satisfy a very large demand (in terms of millions of people) for professional services that provide NFL skill position statistical projections.
We will compete with Fantasyguru.com, Fantasysharks.com, and FantasyExperts.com, Rotoworld.com, Footballguys.com, and Rootzoo.com.
Our point of difference is superior marketing/branding, creating a significant product differentiation. Stats are stats; however, we will package them more attractively. Essentially, we are targeting the paid advice service industry by using a new approach via a stock market content/context in our website layout and marketing approach (this currently does not exist). A ticker showing players values as if they are stocks will be streaming, providing the sense that this company is run like a high-end brokerage house.
Our place will be on the World Wide Web.
The Wolf will provide a free service, high-traffic advertising revenue draw, business model, and will target a high demand demographic: married, high income, sophisticated male under 35.
Mission Statement To provide the most accurate fantasy football projections and player draft advice for clientele, as well as, act as the authority in the fantasy football industry. What is Fantasy Football? Understanding the Industry
Fantasy football allows an increasingly large number of NFL fans the opportunity to be the general managers of a team (or teams) of players and run it as they see fit. The game is a virtual one but the stakes are serious and the money is real.
Numerous well known websites such as CBS Sports, Yahoo!, and ESPN (Disney/ABC) allow global participants the opportunity to draft a virtual team of real NFL players who score points based on their statistics in games each week. Each ‘general manager’ plays against another in an eight to fourteen team league on a weekly basis. Once a general manager drafts a real NFL player, that player cannot be picked by another owner. The owner who makes it to the playoffs, via the most wins in his division, then wins his playoff match-ups, wins the league’s ‘super bowl,’ and earns a prize.
Winners normally win a portion of the entrance fees, which range anywhere from $25 to $5,000, depending on the number of general managers (eight to fourteen) and how competitive it is. “On major online sites, such as SportingNews.com, Yahoo! Fantasy Sports (YHOO), and CDM Fantasy Sports, prizes range from a T-shirt and virtual trophy to $25,000.” [1, Business Week] There are even certain high priced leagues which hold live drafts in Las Vegas and play for a grand prize of $250,000.
The draft order is random and computer generated and can often be as fun as watching an assembled team accumulate points on a weekly basis. The accumulation of points is the sum total of the quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, tight end, kicker, and team defense that the team owner decides to start each week out of his drafted players. This essentially makes games which normally would not have been interesting, fascinating, as certain individual players that the owner drafted, play. “A growing number of pigskin junkies are planning to root heavily for individual players…even if they play for their favorite team’s most hated rival. “ [2, CNN Money]
Environmental Scan Industry The fantasy football industry is enormous, both in terms of the number of participants and total revenue generated. This industry, which was once comprised of a few hundred statistical nerds (pre-Internet) in the mid 1970s, has now become a financial and advertising behemoth. “Industry estimates suggest there are 13 to 15 million fantasy football players across the country.” [4, ABC News, 2005] Although new data provided by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based employment firm that tracks corporate office trends indicate is much higher. “The estimated number of fantasy football participants (is) a fast growing 36.8 million.”[11, Baltimore Biz Journal]These figures have advertisers and entrepreneurs taking notice. In fact, the numbers can be analyzed even further. “Fantasy football has become a billion dollar industry. It’s not unusual to see men and women in fantasy leagues and it’s not uncommon to see a fantasy player enrolled in more than one league.” [3, Hometownsource.com] Every television station which owns broadcast rights to NFL games now uses the bottom portion of the screen to show fantasy statistics during each game. This inclusion of the major networks into the arena of fantasy football is indicative of the power of this industry. In fact, you would be hard pressed to watch anything dealing with pre-game NFL that does not address fantasy picks. The thrill of the bragging rights you earn, even as a television commentator, by correctly predicting which players will do the best that Sunday is addictive. Most t.v. analysts now play fantasy football themselves, and readily admit it on camera. Moreover, at least a third of all NFL players now play fantasy football. It behooves them to do as well as possible, and therefore is not bad for the game. Because of the fact that many players are competing for monetary prizes, the industry has created demand for online services that provide statistical projections and draft rankings for a subscription fee or by allowing paid advertising on their site. “The Sporting News, a sports magazine with a large subscription fantasy site, is cashing in on some of the online advertising dollars. Since re-launching its fantasy site in October, 2005, the site has seen more than a million unique users a month. With the traffic has come an ad revenue increase of 50% for the past two quarters.” [5, Business Week] Many online advice service companies have decided to use a subscription based business model instead. At least half of the fantasy football playing industry pays for advice. These subscription based advice companies can have as many as 500,000 subscribers at an average fee of $30 (it is estimated that Fantasyguru.com has this large of a subscriber base). With the 10 – 15% annual growth in fantasy football, the industry has seen innovative concepts creep in. “As the popularity of fantasy gaming has grown the past several years, businesses offering peripheral fantasy services have sprouted up, often run by fantasy players who found their interest in the games made good businesses.” [7, ABC News] Because of the heavy investments that players are making on an annual basis, there is a brand new concept of providing insurance on specific players for injury protection purposes. You pay a premium for a certain dollar amount of insurance on a player, and if that player gets injured, the company pays cash.
Competitive Forces It is our firm opinion that there is not a single competitor, other than Fantasyguru.com, that has any truly appealing brand equity or brand personality. Most of the competition typically focuses on a football based marketing appeal. What these competitors don’t realize is that a different approach to attracting fantasy football subscribers is available to creative minds: the similarity between investing in fantasy football and investing in stocks. The quintessential success story in the industry is Fantasyguru.com: an online advice source that charges a seasonal fee of $29. Fantasyguru.com has been in existence since the early 1990s. The owner and founder, John Hansen, is now a fixture on XM radio and can be seen weekly on Fox Sports Fantasy Football Show. The Guru uses solid colors, limited graphic annoyance, and very reputable quotes on their site to garner subscribers. This competitor is really a goal of what an advice company would want to become. Certainly, with The Wolf just starting out, it would be difficult to classify this company as a competitor, due to the substantial market share and solid reputation it has. Another competitor would be Fantasysharks.com. They happen to have the best search engine optimization (SEO) and are listed first on Google for the key word search of ‘fantasy football advice.’ They are not paying a cost per click. This puts them into the category of the primary competitor, as The Wolf’s marketing objective is to utilize a cost effective method of SEO to reach potential customers. Sharks have very poor website content and context, making them an easy bite to swallow. Footballguys.com has now been in the black for the last two years. They have a business model of subscription based revenue generation, and as many different statistical analysis angles as one could imagine. They happen to have a less than appealing website design and their marketing is email-list based. With a very weak website content (other than the statistics) and context, The Wolf could easily surpass this company in revenue within a few years with superior marketing alone. A few other competitors, who all utilize an ‘in-your-face,’ football based website design, with helmets and football fields as contextual layouts appear in the top of Google’s search results. This makes them competitors; however, The Wolf’s concept of using superior brand equity/personality, and a stock market website design as its context and content should allow The Wolf significant product differentiation.
Economic Forces The content will be offered for free. Advertising dollars should continue if the traffic continues, which we project will be the case. Moreover, due to the gambling-like nature of the industry, the product has a relatively inelastic demand. These economic forces will allow this industry to thrive in a recession. Regulatory Forces The fantasy sports industry won an important legal battle. A U.S. District Court Judge ruled that fantasy baseball leagues do not have to get licensing agreements from Major League Baseball in order to use player’s names and statistics. This is obviously a precedent setting case for the NFL and fantasy football leagues. The use of a player’s stats and name on a fantasy sports website was addressed by the United States Court of Appeals. The finding that these are historical facts used by fantasy baseball in a manner that advances free speech rights. This does not violate the player’s publicity rights and excused CBC. [8, U.S. Court of Appeals] Using the picture of an NFL player on an advice site may not need a contractual agreement either, as the NFL would most likely “look the other way” since it is a large benefactor of this media exposure. Technological Forces The forces of technology will only help this industry, not hinder it. As more mobile wireless devices are purchased, more access to fantasy sports will be prevalent. More rural areas will have Internet service and the overall industry will grow because of that. Cell phones with Internet service and PDAs obviously will assist in the tremendous growth. ESPN is stepping up its efforts to increase its fantasy presence. It is launching podcasts. “So what’s next? Ambrosius (Greg Ambrosius, president of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association) says new technology for fantasy sports is “right down the pipe,” with interactive TV capable of fully integrating a couch potato’s fantasy stats in real time. “You will be able to see the live scoring of fantasy on the left-hand side of the screen while you’re watching the game.” [9, Forbes] Social Forces Fantasy football is becoming so popular, that if you don’t talk about it at the proverbial water cooler, you are at risk of being the odd man out. Everyone from CEOs to entry-level workers is playing. The popularity of this game is reaching numerous social generations, from Baby Boomers to Generations X and Y. The growth in the Southern states should add to the growth of the fantasy football industry as more sophisticated consumers emerge in those areas. The Internet is still considered somewhat sophisticated, with more educated participants from bigger, more advanced cities. As the NFL expands to Europe and other countries, we will see more growth. Essentially, the uncontrollable social forces are only positive.
S.W.O.T. Analysis Strengths The Wolf will cater to what all paid advice subscribers want, and that is (what appears to be) a superior source that gives them an edge over the competition’s advice site(s). This is conveyed by using what has yet to be offered in the form of a stock brokerage-like fantasy advice site. The concept of using a stock market ticker along the bottom of the website displaying NFL players values as up or down will help accomplish that. The similarities between stock market investing and fantasy football are striking. Both have money invested. The money is expected to grow. Most will consult a top source for a fee. Stock newsletters are much the same as online advice sites. Because of the similarities between stock investing and fantasy investing, our strength will be the brand equity, brand personality, and product differentiation via: our logo, web design layout and context. The logo and website layout represents a higher quality product than the competition. The brand equity The Wolf logo creates will be known to symbolize achievement, success, money and a predatory nature. This is through the use of a Ferrari-like car that The Wolf is driving. The W in the logo ends with a stock up tick element. The nature of fantasy football is competition, so a logo incorporating a predator with the reputation like a wolf gives the company a solid brand personality. Weaknesses The Wolf is a start-up in an industry with many advice websites. Because of that, we have yet to establish a track record of being a great source for advice on fantasy football and thus no loyal fan base. Market penetration will be slow initially. The Wolf is also starting out with a very limited budget. Due to a limited amount of venture capital, our technological disadvantage is that we have to put forth more manual labor to produce the data necessary for the beginning process of forecasting. Microsoft Excel 2007 and Access will drive the projections that our staff will then alter manually because of a lack of algorithmic capability like the top industry competitors have. Opportunities The Wolf has an opportunity to separate itself from the rest of the Fantasy Football advice sites that already exist by offering a more sophisticated marketing appeal. The potential to be the first company to use an investment house allure within the fantasy football advice industry is extremely attractive. The possibility of rapid word of mouth marketing is also an opportunity. Threats The biggest threat is going to be competition and lack of initial cash flow, which creates a going concern. The Wolf’s competitors can see what we are putting forth and clone the concept. Also we are selling advice as our product; therefore, we can’t protect it as intellectual property.
Customer Analysis Target Market Our target market is comprised of those fantasy football players who play for money, seek professional advice, are willing to pay for advice, invest in the stock market (or would like to), and who may be brand/logo conscious. The 80/20 rule is directly applicable here, as the top 20% of players are typically the ones who win most often, pay for advice, and play for the most money. Geographic Characteristics The geographic customer characteristics are the same throughout the United States, as the NFL rules are the same in all regions. Regardless of the cultural disparities in the North American NFL market, the demand for advice is similar. There is no possibility of a fan in the South being offended by a wolf, or a fan in Edmonton who likes the Chicago Bears, dismissing a stock market concept. As the NFL expands, the geographic reach of The Wolf is capable of being global as the game is played on the World Wide Web. Demographic Characteristics The demographic of The Wolf’s target market assumes the following statement is valid: “With data from online market researchers comscore.com and Hitwise.com, the average income of fantasy participants was $60,000 to $100,000 per year.” [12, The Examiner]. This happens to be a highly coveted target market for advertisers. “Those numbers aren’t lost on advertisers eager to court an especially attractive demographic – men under the age of 35. About 86% of the participants in fantasy leagues are male and 63% are under age 40.” [5, Business Week] Marketing research has shown the average fantasy football player is “married, in a high income bracket and more likely to do research or make purchases online.” [6, CNN Money] Psychographic Characteristics The psychographic customer characteristics are men who have a sophisticated lifestyle, interests in stocks/finance, and a desire to know more about football than everyone else. This psychological aspect of football knowledge amongst men is amazingly prevalent, and The Wolf will provide the means to capitalize on it. Their lifestyle will be that of a hard worker, who earns his play time. A competitive nature will exist, and bragging rights will be important. The right to say that he is more knowledgeable on the topic of football is a key point. He won’t ever allow himself to be embarrassed when tested on his ‘fan-hood.’
Marketing Objectives The Wolf’s marketing objective is to be superior in brand equity and brand personality via the logo and a high quality content and context. By using a search engine optimization strategy, our promotional costs will be minimized. The addition of a public relations and word-of-mouth approach will help build brand loyalty and a healthy subscriber base over time. As the website traffic increases, we will partner with fantasy football host sites to advertise our company in exchange for a fee based on additional subscriber revenue generated. Our sales expenditures will be percent of sales based, allowing more exposure as revenue increases. Points of Difference and Positioning Strategy What the customer wants is an advice source that has (appears to have) an edge in projection ability and we will give it to them. In the long run, all projections are relatively similar, and each player must use advice only as an addendum; therefore, marketing our logo and building brand equity to create a point of difference is paramount. If the customer can get the sense that The Wolf appears to have forecasting superiority, we have successfully pointed out our difference. As previously mentioned, the subliminal aspect of a stock newsletter and stock brokerage company business model will be powerful. We recognize that as a service, branding is extremely important. Marketing Program – Marketing Mix Intense analysis of competitors offering similar services has provided direct information regarding customer wants and needs. Results of this research have contributed to the overall concept of The Wolf and provide the positive foundation for growth. This subscriber focused concept structure will be continually maintained to allow The Wolf to evolve as users’ wants and needs develop. Currently, users of web based fantasy football advice services appear to be extremely detail oriented and interested in factual information. The Wolf appeals to these individuals and this may be seen in its overall aesthetics as well as, its functionality.
Evaluation of Effectiveness of Marketing Campaign and Control The relative increase in website traffic will allow the objective measure of marketing effectiveness. Data provided by Google, for example, can be analyzed to ascertain what percentage of key word searches occurred in total. These numbers can then be compared as a percentage of traffic attracted to Fantasywolf.com, which in turn, can be analyzed to determine what portion of total hits actually pay for a subscription. This information will then be input into our flexible budget to determine future marketing actions as the percentage of sales can be surmised.