Every August, millions of people--typically men ranging from 18 to 49--take long lunches, attend extended happy hours and otherwise disappear in the name of that cultural oddity known as the fantasy football draft. Wives are temporarily widowed, productivity takes a breather, business minds are focused on entirely different categories of spreadsheets and everything--and I mean everything--is focused on football.
It's part of a phenomenon in this country that truly warrants further examination. Here's the thing: The mashup of sport, passion and enthusiasm equals business opportunity. For fantasy sports, it equals a $1 billion opportunity, with a target of 27 million enthusiasts in the U.S. alone--and, as with many cultural phenomena, the fervor for fantasy sports extends far beyond our borders. This is an audience fanatically eyeballing online odds sites, downloading mobile apps, socially networking and otherwise engaging in their fantasy sports obsessions. It's a marketer's dream. There's even a fantasy sports trade association with 110 member companies. This is big time.
So we decided to dig into the business of fantasy sports to survey the opportunities surrounding this hotbed of enthusiast activity. Turns out there's not only plenty of anchor for a fantasy sports business, it's also relatively recession-proof: While the rest of the country experiences a precipitous economic downturn, fantasy sports has netted a 20 percent to 25 percent growth year over year, driven largely by the internet. Despite--or more likely because of--its peculiarity, fantasy sports is a real, sustainable business.
Jason Ankeny's in-depth feature on the fantasy sports business (see "The Reality of Fantasy Sports") takes a close look at the history and the making of this quirky, lucrative niche. I personally wouldn't have believed it, but the hard data is hard to ignore--even for a fantasy. More proof that where there's passion, there's profit.
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Amy C. Cosper,