During the Fall 2014 semester, Associate Professor of Sport Management Brian Wigley, Ph.D., led his Sport Consumer Behavior class in an exciting experiment playing fantasy football.
The course melded consumer behavior theories and concepts with the growing field of sport fan behavior to address marketing and management implications for the sport industry. The class emphasized social and psychological theories and their implications on understanding and predicting sport consumers’ behavior.
For the experiment the class created, drafted and participated in the Fantasy Football League on ESPN.com in order to see whether, and to what extent, participating in fantasy football changes the way students consume the NFL product. Participation in the class Fantasy Football League was completely voluntary. No money or other incentive was offered.
The results revealed a remarkable change in the viewing habits of students who previously had a limited engagement with the NFL. Brittney Mason used to only occasionally watch the NFL, however now she reports that, “I actually watch football games now and I added an NFL app to my phone. I’ve never played [fantasy football] before, but even though I won’t be in this class next year, I’m going to find a league to join!”
John Wilt found that “playing fantasy football makes watching football that much more exciting. Also, I became more interested in other teams’ success other than my favorite team because of players on my fantasy football team.”
The experiment clearly showed that fantasy football participation increases fan participation. Fans with fantasy teams watch and follow more games than fans who do not participate.
The class discussed the results and explored marketing mechanisms and strategies that could be employed with increased viewership. The class also addressed how teams, leagues and media outlets could benefit from understanding fantasy football participants as consumers.