The Rise of Fantasy Movie League: A Case Study in Digital Marketing

We work hard to create a fun corporate culture, here at Wallaroo Media. We have a game area in the back of the office with a dart board, foosball table, shuffleboard and big screen television. We sit together at long tables instead of divided cubicles to foster collaboration and a positive environment. Regularly, the employees and their significant others are treated to movie premieres on the company’s dollar, and we have even fielded a company soccer team that wins once in a while. We are a family here and that’s part of the magic of the place we work and the success we have. No challenge is too big for us to handle. No inner-office drama can tear us apart. Well, until Ant-Man’s poor box office opening.

The weekend of July 17-19, Ant-Man was hitting theaters, Minions was onto its second weekend and Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck was also debuting. Ant-Man was a veritable flop compared to early tracking numbers and Trainwreck raked in way more than expected. Our latest office competition involves betting on the box office success of movies and that particular weekend, pride, glory and victory belonged to the guy who banked on Trainwreck…and that guy was an intern. Though we all get along really well (see above), office hierarchy does state that interns are not to beat their superiors, but when Ant-Man failed to meet its lofty expectations, that’s exactly what happened. An intern won our game.

What game you ask?

The Fantasy Movie League.

You have probably heard of fantasy football or fantasy baseball, but if you haven’t heard of Fantasy Movie League yet, consider this your wake-up call. Launched on May 15, the league now boasts more than 10,000 active users and shows no sign of slowing its growth. Wallaroo’s employee league represents only one of more than 1,700 communities under the Fantasy Movie League Umbrella.

fantasy movie leagueAs an early adopter of the Fantasy Movie League (I commissioned a league shortly following the launch of the site), I’ve had a front-row seat to the stunning growth and popularity of the league. Of course, my digital marketing side was vastly curious as to how this site was able to pick up so much traction so fast. As luck would have it, I was able to get in contact with one of the league’s co-founders and the Talented Mr. Roto himself, Matthew Berry, graciously agreed to a phone interview.

Matthew Berry is the King of ESPN Fantasy Sports. Between hosting podcasts, signing copies of his best-selling book and spending time on various ESPN shows, Berry was masterminding his newest fantasy venture, The Fantasy Movie League.

“Over the past decade or so, I have played every possible version of [fantasy box office games]. To those of us who created FantasyMovieLeague.com, the most fun part of any of these leagues was always picking the movies. So my friends and I developed an offline game where we could pick movies weekly and have a lot of friends. We thought to ourselves, ‘this could be a lot of fun to take to the world,’ but we had a major obstacle: How could we make this a scaleable business? This game was fun in a small group, but how could a large group play and have fun?”

Berry went on to tell me that the next step was finding the right people to help him launch a game he played with a small group of friends to a game being played by millions worldwide.

fantasy-movie-league

“I needed to find quality people to do this with. I had no intentions of doing this project halfway. It’s scary to put something out onto the web with your name on it. It had to be done right.”

So Berry teamed with Larry Tobin (former director of Yahoo! Fantasy), Eric LaVanchy and O’Kelly Design and Sly Trunk (the web design agency who designed Yahoo! Fantasy Games and NFL.com’s fantasy football game). The site was designed and tested and then came the big moment, marketing and launching the new site.

“Our strategy was to use me.” Berry said. “Our strategy was to connect with an audience. I have an audience who plays fantasy sports. Movie buffs might be the first thought for a target audience, but I was an influencer over a group of people who understand fantasy sports. This was initially a beta launch, remember that, we didn’t plan a huge following, we just did a low-budget, social launch and then we decided to let it go by word of mouth and social spread. The beauty of fantasy is that if people like it, they will share it, get their friends involved and then it just grows from there.”

So with that, on May 19, Berry sent out this tweet:

He followed with this tweet and a mention on his podcast that week:

By the end of the week, the site had 3000 registered users.

Then the Hollywood Reporter, IMDB, the Huffington Post and Slashfilm all wrote articles too.

“I also invited Rich Eisen to play too. He’s a fantasy freak and has over a million Twitter friends. Let’s be honest, it helps when your friends host a national TV and radio show.”

Here is a clip of Berry talking about the new site on Eisen’s show:

As of this month, the league has more than 10,000 people signed up and is looking to close out its first season and open its second season next month. If you’re curious about the engagement level or power of this site to advertise to its registered users, here’s a fun set of stats:

The site’s email list currently boasts a 75% open rate with a 45% click-through rate.

Neither of those numbers are typos. The key, Berry tells me, is to email infrequently. “Only the best stuff when it’s the most necessary. You don’t want to give your audience email fatigue.”

This information is awesome. I loved chatting with Berry and learning about this endeavor. I’m a big-time fantasy sports guy myself, so talking to a celebrity in the industry was a lot of fun. Outside of the fantasy aspect of this though, Berry’s project piqued the digital marketing side of my brain.

How did this site get to be so popular in such a short amount of time?

Clients come to us all of the time, here at Wallaroo, with a fledgling idea and they want to know how they can get their brand out there. The rise of the Fantasy Movie League is a great case study in site launch that any new venture can follow.

First, get your product right. As the Fantasy Movie League shows us, if you’re an Internet-based business, you’ve got to get your website right. Find a great web design company and give your site the home base it needs. (Shameless self-promotion, Wallaroo has a great team of designers and programmers).

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Once your site is ship-shape, reach out to people with influence across the web. In the case of the Fantasy Movie League, social media was a great launching point, but the team there also received mentions in podcasts, TV shows, radio shows and online publications. Ask yourself, “Who is interested in the type of site I’ve launched?” Then go to work finding influencers in that sphere. One of my personal favorite tools is BuzzSumo. They deserve that link for the great product they’ve created to help marketers and entrepreneurs find real-life influencers and the types of things they’re interested in on the web. Don’t underestimate the power of a single tweet in your favor.

After influencer outreach and support, look at inexpensive ways to reach your target audience. The Internet is the perfect place to market to niche demographics. If you’ve never tried Facebook advertising, then you’re probably missing out on the most powerful advertising platform I’ve ever seen. And the cost of the campaign is not much more than your child’s allowance. Don’t know how it works? Find someone who does. (Second shameless plug. Contact us here at Wallaroo–we’re REALLY good at social media advertising).

Once your site is in the hands of influencers and your target market, it’s time to increase its value. Content is king in the SEO world, the social media world, and the Internet as a whole. Berry employs a team of Box Office savants to regularly produce great movie-based content for the Fantasy Movie League. Make sure to produce high-quality content regularly to keep your community engaged and give them something to share with their friends and keep them coming back for more. BuzzSumo again, is a great tool you can use to find out what types of content are being shared by the influencers you need.

Once you’ve got an audience and you’re adding value to them and your industry, making money is a cinch–even for sites like the Fantasy Movie League, where the product is free. In the words of Berry:

“You’d be surprised who comes knocking when you have a site with a highly engaged audience visiting thousands of times per week.”

Amen, Mr. Roto, amen.

At the time of posting, the inaugural season of the Fantasy Movie League has three weeks left. Three weeks for us to recover from the disaster that was Ant-Man. Three weeks to de-throne the intern we’re certain cheated (or offer him a job so we can beat him next season). Three weeks for you to launch your own wildly successful site. Just like the Fantasy Movie League.

Author

Adam Durfee

Social + PR