Fantasy Football Ad Spend Deflates in Paid Search

Judging by media buzz, ubiquitous TV advertising and consumer enthusiasm, 2015 is shaping up to be the year of Fantasy Football, the game of statistics that allows the average fan to become the GM of their own hand-selected team.

According to industry estimates, anywhere from 19 million to 30 million Americans participate in Fantasy Football, with the industry generating $2 billion to $5 billion annually. And in recent months, Fantasy Football advertisers have seemingly taken over the television airwaves; trade publication Legal Sports Report, in fact, says that Fantasy Football TV commercials have been shown an average of once every 90 seconds in 2015.

So we were surprised to find that the Paid Search market for Fantasy Football has actually deflated over the last year.

AdGooroo examined 235 Fantasy Football-related keywords on U.S. Google Desktop Search going back to January 2014 and found that U.S. Google Desktop Text Ad spend on those keywords dropped by 13% in the first eight months of 2015. Between January and August 2015, advertisers spent $3.3 million sponsoring the 235 Fantasy Football keywords on U.S. Google Desktop compared to $3.8 million spent sponsoring the keywords during the same period in 2014. (Mobile Search was not included in the study.)

Significantly, there was an even larger decline in year-over-year spend in the key month of August, when Paid Search spend in the category is traditionally highest, as Fantasy Football advertisers invest in attracting players who are in the process of selecting their teams prior to the start of the NFL season. Year-over-year spend in August dropped by 17%, from $2.9 million in August 2014 to $2.4 in August 2015.

A Closer Look: The Top 5 Advertisers

Fantasy Football Top 5 Spend Declines

To shed some light on this phenomenon, we compared the spend of the Top 5 Fantasy Football advertisers in August 2014 with their August 2015 spend on the same keywords.

The group includes the four traditional major players in Fantasy Football: Yahoo, the National Football League, ESPN and CBS Sports. Of those four advertisers, only ESPN increased its August spend on the keyword group—from $448,000 in August 2014 to $624,000 in August 2015.

In contrast, the top spender on the Fantasy Football keyword group, Yahoo, decreased its spend by 68%, from $856,000 in August 2014 to $274,000 in August 2015. CBS Sports had an even larger year-over-year decline, decreasing its spend on the keyword group by a whopping 77%, from $100,000 in August 2014 to just $23,000 in August 2015. The NFL, the second highest spender on the keyword group, decreased its spend by 5%, from $599,000 in August 2014 to $569,000 in August 2015.

The fifth-ranked advertiser, real-time fantasy sports news site, increased its year-over-year August spend on the keyword group by 64%.

TV Kings Conspicuously Absent from Paid Search

If you’ve turned on your television in the last couple of months, or read the business news, you are probably aware of the two most prominent players in daily Fantasy Football, DraftKings and FanDuel. However, despite their ominpresence in traditional advertising media, you are not likely to find either company in Paid Search.

According to data from AdGooroo parent company, Kantar Media, DraftKings spent more than $22 million on television advertising in August 2015, with an additional $8 million spent on Internet display ads, $4 million on magazine ads and more than $800,000 on radio ads. However, AdGooroo found DraftKings spent only $9,000 in August on the Fantasy Football paid search keyword group studied.

Similarly, Kantar Media reports that FanDuel spent more than $6 million on television ads, $400,000 on Internet display ads and an additional $400,000 on radio ads in August. Yet AdGooroo found FanDuel spent no money at all on the Fantasy Football keyword group studied.

As for why these two advertisers are shunning Paid Search, it is likely that they are simply focusing their considerable resources on so-called "push media" to build awareness with as many consumers as possible and gain as many new users as possible. (Mission undoubtedly accomplished on the former.)

Top Fantasy Football Keywords

Fantasy Football Top 10 Advertisers August 2015

The keywords 'fantasy football' and 'fantasy-football' accounted for more than $1.4 million in Paid Search ad spend in August, or around 58% of total spend on the 235 Fantasy Football-related keywords in the month. Spend on the remaining keywords in the Top 10 ranking dropped precipitously thereafter, from some $48,000 spent on the third ranked keyword, 'fantasy football rankings', to just $12,000 spent on each of the bottom three keywords in the Top 10.

Note: The results of this study are limited to U.S. Google Desktop Text Ad activity on the 235 Fantasy Football-related keywords studied. Advertisers may be sponsoring additional Fantasy Football-related keywords that, if measured, would alter the findings of this report. 

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