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Training Camps and Conventions Take Fantasy Football to Another Level

Scot Chartrand

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An inside look at two of the premier events in the industry.

Photos via Ben Gervin through NBC News (left) and the National Fantasy Football Convention (right)

You have your fantasy football owners that might grab a magazine or a cheat sheet online right before their draft. Some owners might even (gasp) auto-draft online. Then, there are those that have elaborate spreadsheets built up with a laptop on-hand. There are different levels of preparation that go into the game.

Some fantasy football players are always looking for that extra competitive edge. Almost everyone that plays seems to love getting together with fellow owners at the draft or for any reason at all!

They are what draw people to the game — the fun, the competition.

These two elements are also the pillars of fantasy football conventions, training camps, and other events that have been growing in popularity the last decade.

The fun and competition bring together a diverse group of participants and create memories and great experiences at these gatherings while attracting sponsors.

We had a chance to speak with organizers leading two of the more prominent fantasy football events in the industry that are taking similar, yet different approaches. You’ll learn a lot more than not to take a quarterback in the first round.

One has been a fixture with devoted fans both locally and nationally for almost a decade. The other has just begun with additional plans to grow after very public efforts to get off the ground the last few years.

The KFAN Fantasy Football Training Camp in suburban Minneapolis — photo via KFAN Sports Radio

A LOOK AT LEADING FANTASY FOOTBALL CONVENTIONS

Minneapolis has long been a center of the fantasy football universe going back to the 1980s with the some of the earliest fantasy football publications, and Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) Hall of Fame member Paul Charchian (@PaulCharchian) has been in the middle of it all for decades.

His work in founding and producing the weekly, in-season fantasy football magazine, Fantasy Football Weekly, led to launching the first fantasy football conventions in the mid-90s.

Those local conventions were held at notable Twin Cities locations: the Mall of America, Mystic Lake Casino, and even the Metrodome. While the draw of attendees was sizable, it also proved more work than expected on top of other ventures. After five years, the conventions came to a halt.

However, in recent years, the concept of the convention was reborn with the help of the long-running radio show Charchian hosts of the same name, Fantasy Football Weekly, on KFAN Sports Radio (@KFAN1003).

This time it was relaunched in the form of a fantasy football training camp held each August alongside the radio show where he is joined by co-hosts Mat Harrison and Bryan Johnson.

On the radio show, they break down everything from weekly matchups to tough questions while mixing in abundant humor with terms like “peacocking” (bragging about being right in fantasy football) or the possibility of sneet (snow/sleet combo) at a game.

This month’s event will mark the 9th year for the KFAN Fantasy Football Training Camp. It has grown from one sponsor and 200 attendees to a draw of over 1,200 people and five sponsors helping to underwrite the event.

The 2017 National Fantasy Football Convention in Dallas — photo via NFFC

The National Fantasy Football Conference, or NFFC for short (@GoNFFC) debuted this past July in Dallas at the same location the State Fair of Texas is held each fall.

However, its path to finally convening this summer was not easy.

In 2015, the group’s plan to hold the convention in Las Vegas ran into conflicts with the NFL. In 2016, a second attempt in Pasadena, California met the same fate.

Many may remember those headlines in the press as Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (@tonyromo) was heavily involved in trying to make the convention a reality as one of its founders.

Romo (now with CBS Sports) was joined by CEO and Executive Director Andy Alberth (@andyalberth) and ESPN Senior Fantasy Analyst, Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) in founding the convention. Berry is also a member of the FSTA Hall of Fame.

This year, the event took off and received favorable reviews. The location in Dallas provided a prime opportunity for NFL players past and present to participate and featured a three-day schedule of events with a mission to “create the ultimate fan experience.”

After just one year, plans for future growth are already underway.

The KFAN Fantasy Football Training Camp in suburban Minneapolis — photo via KFAN Sports Radio

WHAT GOES ON AT A FANTASY FOOTBALL CONVENTION

Both events are similar in many ways, as you’d expect, but both are just as unique.

Experts and top fantasy sports sites are heavily involved in each.

In Minneapolis, Paul Charchian is joined by his fellow League Safe and Fanball colleagues Mat Harrison and Brian Johnson to host the event alongide the on-site radio broadcast of Fantasy Football Weekly — now in its 23rd season as the longest running fantasy sports show of all-time.

In Dallas, ESPN’s Senior Fantasy Analyst, Matthew Berry, and Injury Analyst, Stefania Bell, joined Yahoo Sports’ Brad Evans and Liz Loza, and first lady of fantasy sports, Stacie Stern, in headlining festivities along with fantasy websites Fantasy Alarm and RosterWatch.

Photo via Ben Gervin through NBC News

The KFAN event spends the first two hours on the air in a simulcast of the training camp. The remaining two hours after the radio broadcast go into a “deep dive” of topics, but the communication isn’t all one direction as Charchian pointed out.

“Our hosts learn things from other people all the time, whether they’re knowledgeable fans or other industry experts. There’s so much data available now, no one person can digest it all. I love it when other people educate me.”

So, what type of edge are fans looking to gain from the experience?

“They want the kind of information that their competitors aren’t getting. We offer two hours of off-air content that is exclusive to those who attend the event. This information is deep and strategic — to the point that it’s hard to convey over the air. We use visual aids (charts, graphs, powerpoints, etc.) to illustrate that data.”

The 2017 National Fantasy Football Convention in Dallas — photo via NFFC

Both events hold a live, expert fantasy draft. Andy Alberth, Executive Director of the NFFC event, gave an example: “You can see Matthew Berry — how he thinks in making his selections. How long he waits before he takes a quarterback.”

At the National Fantasy Football Convention, 50 current and former NFL players also made appearances. Several shared the experience on social media such as current stars Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson as well as former Cowboys legend Drew Pearson. One even made a little bit of news as Johnny Manziel was there and continued his efforts to work his way back into the league.

Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson at the 2017 National Fantasy Football Convention — photo via NFFC

Alberth was quick to point out that while there were a number of players on-hand, this was not an autograph show — although, some do sign.

“We want everyone to walk away with a memory. You can even bring your kids — it’s a family event where you can make memories that everyone can remember for the rest of their lives.”

(Writer’s note: I started playing fantasy football at age 11…so yes, kids.)

One unique example he remembered involved a giant football field they had built inside of the host building in Fair Park. Ezekiel Elliott was running around, playing with the kids on hand.

“I think the event really opened the players’ eyes. They want to be a part of it again next year.”

The Dallas convention took place over three days with standard admission and special admission that includes perks like the Kick-Off Party. Additionally, there was a Kids Pass available.

Alberth also noted the timing was intentional to help provide an edge after many of the NFL magazines came out — yet three weeks ahead of any NFL action.

Social media, sponsors, and attendees are all heavily relied upon to promote the event both before and during.

The NFFC event in Dallas saw promotion online from hosts and athletes as well as local outlets. Andy Alberth himself joined Stacie Stern on local television to promote the event in the Metroplex.

During the festivities, athletes and attendees were using the convention’s Twitter handle of @GoNFFC as well as related hashtags to promote what was taking place from photo walls to selfies. Even a Snapchat account was in use.

The KFAN training camp in Minneapolis does much the same as the hosts, radio station, venue, and sponsors promote the event across social media platforms and have used the #KFANFFTC hashtag to share the experience along with this photo wall sensation.

The sponsors are a key for KFAN as much of the event is underwritten, and thus is free for fans to attend.

SO, YOU WANT TO ATTEND A CONVENTION?

We asked Paul Charchian for his best advice to those thinking of attending the event, and he recommended that fans arrive early for the best possible seat and bring a laptop or notepad.

He also shared something unexpected for those attending later this month, “My new company, Fanball, is going to offer a lucrative free contest exclusively for those who attend.”

While the training camp in Minneapolis continues to grow as an established property, many attendees at the NFFC in Dallas wanted to know about the future of that convention.

Andy Alberth confirmed that the event would return to Dallas next summer. Beyond that, he shared that the group may explore additional, regional locations in the future. Additionally, the NFFC plans to increase the number of NFL players attending from 50 this past year to 150 the next time around.


Fantasy football conventions and training camps like these play a major role in continuing to grow both that sport’s popularity and the NFL’s while engaging experts, sponsors, and fans alike.

In the end, fantasy football is all about the experience, and it’s no different here. Interacting with fellow fans of the sport, experts in the field, and even some players, make events like these a unique offseason opportunity.

When next summer rolls around, you may want to mark your calendar for the return of the National Fantasy Football Convention in Dallas or the annual KFAN Fantasy Football Training Camp in Minneapolis (hey, there’s still one ahead on August 19th).

Not near either location, wanting to fly in, or interested in a Clark Griswold-style drive for the summer?

Remember, there are other great fantasy football events around the country. At the rate these events are growing, one could be at your doorstep now or headed there soon.


Front Office Sports is a leading multi-platform publication and industry resource that covers the intersection of business and sports.

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Scot Chartrand is a contributor with Front Office Sports and has worked in program management driving strategic initiatives at a corporate level. He has a passion for helping clients and corporate stakeholders achieve strategic goals while providing change management and optimizing process that drives repeatable results.

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How The UNC Tar Heels Organized Roy Williams’ Court Dedication

To celebrate the dedication of Roy Williams Court, UNC staff were tasked with putting together a special reunion dubbed Carolina Family Weekend.

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(*Teamworks is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

The history of the NCAA Tournament can’t be told properly without the inclusion of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels and head men’s basketball coach Roy Williams. Now in his 16th season as Tar Heels head coach, Williams has guided UNC to five Final Fours and three national championships alongside a host of individual coaching awards.

To honor Coach Williams and his impact on UNC basketball, the university dedicated the court inside the Dean E. Smith Center to him with a ceremony in August of 2018. To celebrate the occasion, men’s basketball staffers were tasked with putting together a special reunion dubbed Carolina Family Weekend that included hundreds of UNC’s greatest players from Williams’ time as a student, assistant coach, and head coach in Chapel Hill as well as the current team and members of Williams’ family. This mainly fell on the shoulders of administrative assistant Cynthia Friend and business operations/special events manager Kaye Chase.

READ MORE: Mississippi State Volleyball Camps Run Efficiently While Building for the Program’s Future

To help notify all the invitees about the event and maintain their contact information, Friend and Chase needed an effective communication tool in Teamworks. UNC’s athletic department had already been utilizing the software for two years for a number of internal logistics like messaging, compliance related tasks, distributing travel itineraries, and document sharing, but found another use for it in Teamworks’ mass communication abilities.

“There were multiple parts to the reunion including the unveiling of the court, dinner, a golf outing, and pick-up games on Saturday. We needed to get all that information to the lettermen as well as get their RSVPs in the most time-efficient way that we could,” says Friend.

The two then were able to set up different profiles for each prospective guest within the program that included their respective contact info and their eventual response. To maximize likelihood of a response, Friend and Chase used Teamworks to send both emails and texts to all prospective attendees.

“Going into this, we really were not sure how we were going to handle RSVPs,” recalls Chase. “So we made a form, which auto-populated into an Excel spreadsheet. That saved us quite a bit of time.”

Friend and Chase then were able to efficiently let the hundreds of attendees know where they were expected to be for each event as well as other key logistical details. If and when small changes to the schedule occurred, all attendees could be notified easily through Teamworks. The end result was a very smooth weekend that had many of the former players raving on social media both during and after the weekend.

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READ MORE: Miami Hurricanes Leverage Technology To Prepare For Actual Hurricanes

Moving forward, the Tar Heels plan to hold more reunion events, particularly for their teams that won national championships or reached the Final Four. 2019 marked Roy Williams’ 29th season in the NCAA Tournament as a head coach. It is only a matter of time before one of his legendary teams is honored with a special return trip home to Chapel Hill. When that time comes, UNC administrators will have the procedures in place to make it happen after acquiring the contact information for nearly every letterman in program history through setting up Carolina Family Weekend. 

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“It’s great to have these processes and this information already in place for smaller events and reunions,” Chase says. “Having all of our lettermen organized into this database has been really great for us. We’re looking forward to finding more ways to use it and more reasons to bring our alumni back to campus.”

To learn more about how Teamworks helps empower the sports world’s best, visit Teamworks.com today.

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Decoding 2.0: Receptivity Theory and the Power of Niche Sponsorship Strategies

New study unveils unique findings when it comes to sponsorships.

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Earlier this year, global lifestyle marketing agency MKTG and sister agency, marketing analytics company, SRi, released The Receptivity Story, as part of Decoding 2.0.

Decoding 2.0 is a unique study, as it acts as one of the few sponsorship-specific studies in the industry. To date, it is also one of the most intensive ones as well.

There’s a ton of great stuff here, but I’ll focus on a couple of my favourite findings, and one thought:

  1. Receptivity Theory
  2. Niche Sports
  3. Firm-Level Differences

Receptivity Theory

Initially unearthed in the original Decoding study in 2012, Receptivity Theory is the idea that, more than the passion associated with a property, the receptivity of fans towards branding is more predictive of sponsorship success.

While this seems like an intuitive finding, the industry, without the necessary data, could only use passion or exposure as a proxy for predicted success.

Really — what we are doing here is shifting the inflection point. Rather than having brands place a premium on number of passionate fans, we can now shift to a brand-specific view, where meaningful attention to branding is being measured.

Niche Sports

Through this study, SRi discovered that there are three types of fans: Receptives, Selectives, and Non-Receptives. Niche sports, which suffer from a lower total number of fans, benefit from a greater percentage of Receptive fans.

From a sponsor’s perspective, the math here has always been simple: would you prefer to reach many, but impact a lower percentage? Or, alternatively, would you prefer to reach few, but impact a greater percentage?

What’s easy to determine is relative exposure at the extremes — i.e.: the NFL is clearly more popular than swimming. The middle is more difficult to measure, and even tougher, the relative willingness to pay of fans.

For instance, assume the following, for average brand X:

  • Sponsorship for Sport A will reach 1,000 fans per game, with fans, on average, valuing branded sponsorship at 1
  • Sponsorship for Sport B will reach 500 fans per game, with fans, on average, valuing branded sponsorship at 2

Under this scenario, if return is value, X would be indifferent between the two options at the same price.

Scenarios like these are where receptivity is powerful. It provides perhaps one of the best estimations of reach — just because your branding is at a baseball game, does not mean that everyone will see it!

In addition, it lays the groundwork for potentially being able to measure predicted value of sponsorship, or “willingness to pay” — which would vary, whether you are a Receptive or Non-Receptive fan.

Borrowed from economics, willingness to pay is the idea that each consumer has a maximum price that they are willing to pay for a good. For this application, I will treat attention as price — the scarce resource.

Thus, the equation becomes closer to this:

Where i would act as categorical variable for category of fan. n would represent number of fans falling within the given category. Return would represent willingness to pay.

Because fans are heterogeneous, the brand will experience a different return for each “unit view” — meaning that even if one person’s receptivity differs from another, there will be subgroups within categories of fans, separated by willingness to pay. While we can assume that the return from a Receptive fan will be greater, meaning that variable return exists, we would still be uncertain as to the degree that this exists.

Importantly — this study clearly shows a greater percentage of surfing fans falling under the “Receptive” category than the NBA, but does the willingness to pay for Receptives, Selectives, and Non-Receptives differ between the two sports? It’s still early, and there will be ongoing studies, but these are questions that immediately come to mind.

One interesting note: if receptivity proves as powerful as this study suggests, it may become an arbitrage opportunity for the first brands who successfully adopt it. And, while the long-run equilibrium should theoretically be one in which all brands adopt this strategy, it may take some more time for sponsorship to get there — meaning that the early adopters could reap massive gains.

In speaking with Julie Zdziarski, VP of SRi:

“Brands do recognize that the scope is much smaller. But the key piece here is that the smaller sports are more lifestyle focused… they’re a more intimate environment”

Firm-Level Differences

Plenty of this is dependent on the firm, as well. In my earlier example, I assumed that a fan’s assigned value for branding (or willingness to pay) being greater was always a good thing.

For some firms, this isn’t necessarily true — and in fact, many firms pursue strategies in which they are unconcerned about reaching high-value customers. This leads to an advantage in number of customers, rather than one in revenue per customer. Think Google, or the telcos.

For these firms, receptivity still matters. Even if you want to be everywhere, you want to be sure that people are noticing you. But what matters less is the degree to which fans are willing to pay, whether they are Receptive or not.

Good Data Is Always Good

In an industry that suffers from a dearth of public data and dispersed data sets, this study acts as one of the true landmark pieces of research.

But here’s the thing: marketing data is tough, and it will never be as easy as it is in industries like finance to find information. And that’s why stuff like this is important.

To be sure, firms like MKTG enable people like me, who study the industry, to make better and more informed analyses, but it also benefits companies and other stakeholders. And understanding the consumer does more than just help brands make money — it provides consumers with an opportunity to gain more as well: leading to (hopefully) an optimal outcome.

It’s still early days, but MKTG has promised to release more stories in the future. When it comes to research and available data, sponsorship looks more promising than ever.

 

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Building Brands Through Content

A deep-dive webinar presented by INFLCR that takes a look at how some of the biggest names in the world are using content to build their brands and bring in endorsement deals along the way.

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A deep-dive webinar presented by INFLCR that takes a look at how some of the biggest names in the world are using content to build their brands and bring in endorsement deals along the way.

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