Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews recently spoke at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) summer conference in New York City about building and activating partnerships with today’s fantasy sports fan. 

Matthews, a self-proclaimed philosopher, rapper and entrepreneur, was joined by the NFLPA's George Atallah, National Basketball Players Association CMO Jordan Schlachter, DraftKings Director of Strategic Partnerships Adam Barrack, and ESPN fantasy sports analyst and founder of Fantasy Life brand Matthew Berry.

Here are some key takeaways from Matthews that every fantasy sports brand should consider in order to create more engaging connections between athletes and fans.


Add a Personal Spin

Fantasy sports fans truly understand the player-centric appeal of football.  Those who compete on fantasy platforms are rooting for the players they have chosen for their teams—so why not take that kind of interest to the next level.  For many NFL players fantasy sports have broadened their appeal beyond their team market and into a “special interest group” of fans solely focused on their on-field performance. 

Matthews shared that fantasy creates opportunities for players who might not receive the same level of acclaim as higher profile players outside of their team’s city.  “With fantasy football you get to know our names and faces. That’s a pretty powerful tool. There are a lot of marketing opportunities that can come from that kind of exposure,” he said.  “You might not know who Allen Robinson is outside of Jacksonville; however, through fantasy football you do know Allen Robinson and all about his talent.” 

This high level of awareness presents an unparalleled marketplace for athletes and fantasy brands to develop loyal relationships with fans.


Highlight Positive Engagement

“The two words that can create apprehension for NFL players are ‘Fantasy Football’,” said Matthews.  Part of the uneasiness comes from an expectation that fantasy sports fans can be overzealous about player performance.  One poor game can create a firestorm. However, Matthews did share that while there will always be individuals who spread negative and hurtful rhetoric online, the majority of fans are genuinely supportive of their favorite fantasy players. As an NFL veteran Matthews recognizes the impact fantasy sports can have on growing his personal brand – in and outside of Philadelphia.  “As leaders in the fantasy sports industry, it is up to the FSTA to identify even more ways to drive positive engagement and dialogue between fans and the athletes,” suggested Matthews.  “I think we all agree that you want players to be just as excited about the future of fantasy sports as you at the FSTA and your gamers.”


Don’t Sleep on The Defense

Not every marketer has the means to incorporate players into products or marketing campaigns. Many, though, have the ability to use fantasy sports to tap into the potential of different kinds of athletes. “Use defensive players,” quipped Matthews.  Fantasy football in particular has benefited the high caliber offensive players – but there is untapped potential to grow the pool and the fan base around lesser known (but hugely effective) defensive players. It will be exciting to see how the fantasy sports industry explores the opportunities around defensive players, whether through marketing and campaigns or fantasy game development.  “Defensive players are at the core of our game but they can also be underutilized off the field,” said Matthews.

NFLPA licensee Berry said, “Athletes are much more open to understanding the power of fantasy sports, the attention it brings and the engagement it can get them.”

Considering the insight from Matthews and Berry, it is a thrilling time to be in the booming fantasy sports business. Creating partnerships with athletes of all levels – from the starting quarterback to the unsung defensive back – and leveraging their marketing and fan-connective potential is easier than you can imagine.  Marketers and entrepreneurs need to just think about it from the perspective of the player and utilize qualified and easy-to-manage resources such as Player Associations to help identify key opportunities.


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Tags player marketing player activation Licensing Fantasy Football Partnership