As we kick off this year’s football season, advertisers and marketers are keen to reach sports fans. One emerging and evolving gateway to this digital audience is through the world of Fantasy Sports. What was once a singular demographic, consisting of young men checking stats at work on their desktop during the day has expanded.  The Fantasy Sports market now draws a diverse audience that—according to a recent online study of 633 US-based respondents conducted by RhythmOne Insights—includes a substantial segment of females and is becoming more multi-generational.

Our study also found that the “new” fantasy sports fan consumes content across devices during all parts of the day, and throughout all sporting seasons of the year.  This emerging fan profile presents marketers with a unique opportunity to leverage fantasy sports content in new ways to reach and engage highly targetable audience segments outside of traditionally expected content channels.  However, to be successful it is essential for advertisers to understand the unique usage patterns these emerging fantasy sports audiences exhibit when consuming fantasy sports content and tailor their digital advertising campaign’s placement, creative, and messaging to the unique characteristics of their intended consumer segment.

Women on the Field

Traditionally, men have been the main participants in the Fantasy Sports market and this remains true, as men are more likely than women to participate in Fantasy Sports leagues, 22.8% vs. 5.7%, respectively. Among men, the most active Fantasy Sports league segments are respondents aged 25-34 years (33.3% participate) or 35-44 years (35.7% participate). But the gaps are closing, especially among new players. Here, women are increasingly leveling the playing field in Fantasy Sports league participation.  Whereas nine-out-of-ten (89.7%) participants who have been playing Fantasy Sports for a year or more are men—among new players, in their “first season,” nearly half (47.3%) are women.

Beyond the Fantasy Football Market

Football rules among Fantasy Sports participants – widely outpacing, more than double, all other leagues for participation. 71.9% of Fantasy Sports participants have been active in a fantasy football league in the past 12 months.  This includes 76.1% of male Fantasy Sports fans and 54.1% of female Fantasy Sports fans.

However, Fantasy Sport play extends beyond football, which means it is a year-round event for many participants. Baseball is second with 23%, and hockey isn’t far behind with 19.9% of Fantasy Sports participants having done so in the past 12 months. Other Fantasy Sports leagues include:

  • Professional wrestling, 13.9%;
  • Basketball, 12.8%;
  • Auto racing, 10.3%;
  • Golf, 9.9%;
  • Boxing, 7.5%;
  • Surfing, 7.4%;
  • MMA, 3.4%; and
  • F1, 2.7%.

An Engaged Audience: Consuming Content Across Devices, All Day Long

No matter what sport, it is clear that Fantasy Sports participants are an incredibly engaged group of Internet users. More than one-half (56.4%) of Fantasy Sports participants go online daily to check fantasy league stats, rankings, or scores—16.5% check more than 10 times a day! 

One-third (37.4%) of Fantasy Sports participants cite online content sites as a primary source for Fantasy Sports league news and information. Mobile and video are emerging as the key resources for digital content. Overall, 52.5% of Fantasy Sports participants watch some form of Fantasy Sports video content online.  Men are significantly more likely than women to watch online Fantasy Sports video content—57.7% vs. 32.4%, respectively.   Men aged 18-34 years are uber-consumers of online Fantasy Sports video content with fully four-out-of-five (82.5%) doing so.   Among all respondents, 48.7% watch live-streaming Fantasy Sports content.

Laptop computers (71.5%) and smartphones (63.2%) are the two most frequently used devices to access sites, online video, apps, and other digital media related to Fantasy Sports. Interestingly, among women, tablet devices rule with 75.3% saying they use the platform frequently to access Fantasy Sports content—significantly higher than men (37.3%).

Across devices, participants are checking in on their team frequently throughout the day. This environment now extends beyond traditional work hours, with participants checking at home during family time, at night and on all devices. More than one third (33.4%) of respondents say they are most likely to visit Fantasy Sports league online resources during the evening from 9pm or later.  One-fifth (22.9%) are most likely visiting Fantasy Sports online resources between 9am-5pm, 15.2% visit online resources before 9am, 8.7% go online between 5pm-8pm and 23.1% don’t have a preferred time.

Advertisers Get In The Game

The Fantasy Sports enthusiast audience now represents a broad marketing opportunity that persists year-round, due to all sporting seasons being in consideration. As the demographic becomes more cross-generational and has a stronger female presence, marketing can be more family-oriented. Moreover, fantasy sports’ advertising is no longer limited to sports related products and apparel; a broad array of advertising categories can now, within this content environment, tout their product aimed at a variety of audience segments, including the female chief household decider or baby-boomers. This expansion is especially well-timed with Q4, traditionally a high period for CPG, Auto, Retail advertisers. This shift, coupled with the emergence of the cross-screen experience, means that the full day-in-the-life is now available to marketers for messaging, expanding the timeframe for engagement beyond work and into the home and absolutely across all devices.