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.
As 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.
“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: