Fair Catch: Using Unstructured Data To Reach The Fantasy Football Player

According to market research firm Ipsos, 25.8 million people will play fantasy football this year. With a reach that size, it’s no wonder that brand marketers continue to invest in sponsorships and media surrounding the major fantasy football platforms such as ESPN, CBS, the NFL or Yahoo.


Image via Shutterstock

In a recent Advertising Age article, Fantasy Football Players Are a Dream Demographic — If You Can Get Their Attention, we learn that it’s not just the reach that attracts the advertisers — it’s the attractive demographics of the target.

The typical fantasy football player is a college-educated professional, often male, in his 30s or 40s with an average household income of more than $90,000, a substantial amount of which is disposable. To put it simply, fantasy football is to men what Pinterest is to women — a veritable jackpot of educated, affluent potential buyers.

At first glance, reaching this audience looks like shooting fish in a barrel. Just advertise in the barrel: the online fantasy football platform itself. However, most of that inventory is dominated by major brand sponsorships, and the rest is sold at a premium CPM, which means reaching the fantasy football fan isn’t really a level playing field for all brands.

But even if you could access or afford the inventory, the real challenge is getting fans to take their eyes off the ball long enough to see your brand message. Fantasy fans are so engrossed in the game — which they play on their desktops, tablets and mobile devices — that they just tune out the ads all around it. Most marketers would take that as a cue to step up their game with flashier creative, dynamic video, social media integration and other high-engagement (and high-cost) techniques that can’t guarantee conversions.

So, how does a marketer huddle up with a fantasy football target without committing a marketing budget penalty? By using a combination of targeting techniques based on unstructured interest- and intent-based data, you could just follow the millions of players “on the sidelines” of fantasy football to a place and time where they might be more open to receiving your marketing messages.

Demographic Targeting. Fantasy football demographics are pretty homogenous and straightforward. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), the average fantasy sports player is a Caucasian, married, college-educated man in his 40s — as is the average golfer, luxury car buyer and homeowner. Targeting on demographics is a good start, but demographics alone won’t allow you to complete the pass.

Behavioral Targeting. The next step would be to add in some form of behavioral targeting. We know that fantasy fans are devouring football information in all forms. By using category-level contextual targeting, we can locate them across a vast network of domains that cover the sport. Keyword-level contextual can get us even closer by combining “fantasy football” with related terms such as “draft,” “cheat,” “injury report” and “player stats,” or just digging into keywords related to the NFL at the league, team and player level.

Geographic Targeting. Depending on your product and campaign goals, adding a layer of geographic targeting might make good sense — focusing efforts on regions surrounding NFL teams or a particular team or league. Local and regional businesses can take advantage of home team pride by combining geographic targeting with local category contextual or team-related keyword-level targeting.

Retargeting. Both site and search retargeting can be effective tools for re-engaging the fantasy football audience long after game day. Using keyword-level search retargeting, you can deliver your message while the fan is working or paying the bills online — just the time when a fantasy football-related distraction might be more welcome.

Once you’ve found them initially, CRM and site retargeting can help sustain repeat engagements with existing users or Facebook fans all the way to Super Bowl Sunday. And, because three out of four fantasy football fans play with people they know (according to the FSTA), Facebook advertising could also be a smart strategy for extending reach, allowing you to draft their trash-talkin’ friends to join your brand’s team, as well.

Extending Reach With Recency. Experimenting with recency controls can also drive efficiencies into campaigns by reaching the fantasy football target at precisely the right time. Targeting campaigns to run within time windows can help brands reach watchers of specific games, get the attention of Monday morning quarterbacks, or even enable rapid response to interest around breaking team or player news. Other options for extending reach could include pushing the same strategies to mobile and video, two formats known for their ability to effectively reach and engage men.

Using smart unstructured data approaches, reaching the coveted fantasy football demographic isn’t just for beer brands and tire manufacturers. By leveraging the multivariate ability of unstructured data to build fluid audiences, one element at a time, everyone can get in the game.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display Advertising | Display Advertising | Display Advertising Column | Facebook: Advertising | Retargeting & Remarketing


About The Author: is a seasoned online advertising executive, specializing in targeting, optimization, and technology. Frost is CEO and co-founder of Simpli.fi. You can follow him on Twitter @phrossed.

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