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Dr. Dae Kwak, University of Michigan -- Fantasy Sports and Effective Marketing

How will your fantasy baseball team do this season?

In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Dae Kwak, assistant professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, discusses the psychological impact fantasy sports advertising has on even experienced players.

Dr. Dae Kwak is an assistant professor of sports management at the University of Michigan’s School of Kinesiology. Specializing in media psychology and sports management, he earned his PhD in kinesiology at the University of Maryland in 2009. Dr. Kwak is also the co-director of the Michigan Center for Sport Management.

About Dr. Kwak

Michigan Center for Sports Management

Dr. Dae Kwak - Fantasy Sports and Effective Marketing

Most fantasy sport players overestimate the role of skill and knowledge in building a winning team. This inflated sense of control is closely tied to gambling psychology, and there are millions of dollars at stake.

Now these games are readily available on mobile devices, and easily accessed by college or high school-aged players who are vulnerable to advertising ploys. This merits a closer look.

Fantasy sports players spend hours analyzing player statistics and hundreds of dollars in entry fees to manage virtual teams that don’t exist. Certainly, building a winning fantasy team involves strategic decisions, but control over team building does not necessarily increase control over athletes' on-field performance. However, our study showed that the wording in fantasy sports service ads heavily influenced whether players thought they’d build a winning team, even before they tried the service.

We assigned experienced fantasy sports players to one of several fake fantasy baseball service ads. We found that when ads promised players more control over things like team building or expert analysis, players believed they had a better chance of winning. These experienced players made these snap judgements after only one exposure to the ad.

This ease with which marketing manipulation yielded an inflated sense of control in even experienced players is great news for fantasy sports services. Higher ratings from players could lead to new subscribers and higher revenues. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, fantasy sports is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, with nearly 8 percent annual growth projected over five years. Last year, roughly 36 million players in North America participated in fantasy football, baseball, basketball, and hockey.

In light of these statistics, we should take a close look at how these ads affect young players, and assess just how vulnerable they really are.

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