Tackle a fantasy football story on any business beat

by August 19, 2014
Guys drawing players for fantasy football teams

A foam hat and a Bud Light help get this fan in the spirit during the fantasy football draft. Photo: dabruins07 on Flickr

With both professional football and college football about to kick off their 2014 seasons, the myriad  businesses that depend on gridiron action to generate revenue, from hot-dog sellers to TV advertising executives, are counting down the moments to the first big plays.

But a lot of buzz this pre-season is focusing on the growing industry of fantasy football, and that’s one way you can tackle the topic even if your regular beat doesn’t intersect much with the business of sports.   It’s got technology angles, consumer and personal finance facets, workplace and human resources ties and related issues that can be applied to just about any sector of the economy.

As Fortune reports, the consulting firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas guestimates that at two hours a day of play, this focus on imaginary teams can cost businesses $895 million a week, or more than $13 billion over the course of the season. Some articles and columns pooh-pooh the downside of the distraction, like this piece from a human resources professional association, which says the pastime promotes employee morale, teamwork and good customer relations.  I’m sure there are managers skeptical of that stance and of course the potential ills of distracted working vary by industry; you don’t want your surgeon fretting over her picks but it probably does little harm if the cable guy takes a few minutes to calculate standing.   I suggest talking with local employers, from large to small, about any workplace policies or expectations as the big season looms.  I have heard of some people receiving annual memos from employers reminding them not to play on company time; is that becoming more or less common as the fantasy play industry grows?

And of course, the personal finance angle is of interest, especially as more and more companies get into pay-to-play fantasy football with real prizes.  As Forbes reports, entities like Yahoo!, CBS and even the NFL itself are entering that arena.  Why not enlist a handful of players from among your audience and ask them to track their spending against eventual payoff?  And of course, don’t forget the income tax angle; local CPAs or enrolled agents can elaborate on the points in this Taxbrain blog post, reminding people how to report winnings as income when they file next spring’s return.

As the Fantasy Sports Trade Association notes in its media kit, imaginary play is about more than football, though it remains the most popular fantasy game.  Stats like average player age (34) and other demographic data are available in the kit, which notes the average player spends more than eight hours a week “consuming fantasy.”

To find local companies involved in the business of fantasy sports, try the member search engine on the FSTA site; you can query by state to find your area’s biz players.  What is their annual ebb and flow of business?  How is the market changing?  How is mobile technology affecting the software requirements and player demographics?