You don’t have to be a sports fanatic to know how much sports fans love to share updates about their teams on social media. Fantasy sports have played a huge role in shaping fans’ communities and conversations on social platforms.
What are fantasy sports?
Fantasy sports are a game where participants build imaginary teams. The teams are made up of real-life players. You compete based on the statistical performance of the players you’ve selected. So, if you pick Cam Newton, and he scores a touchdown, your fantasy team earns points.
Despite popular belief, fantasy sports actually got their start in the 1960s. With pencil and paper, a few folks from the Oakland Raiders outlined the beginnings of what turned into modern fantasy football rules.
Fast forward to the 1980s, a group of journalists developed the Rotisserie system for fantasy baseball. Fantasy sports have been popular in the media since baseball’s big strike in the 80s. In 1981, when Major League Baseball went on strike. Solution? Write about fantasy baseball.
Today, football makes up 37% of fantasy teams, that’s more than 2X the percentage of any other sport. This isn’t a surprise. Americans are obsessed with the sport—over 20 million people tune in each week for televised games during the season.
Let’s take a look at how social media helped make fantasy sports into the craze that they are.
How mainstream media and social media created fantasy hype
Fantasy sports were growing in popularity before social media was a thing. When the Rotisserie system (still the most popular scoring system today), was invented by a group of journalists & covered during a big baseball strike, fantasy sports got major media attention. Fantasy exploded and mainstream media was conditioned to cover fantasy sports starting in the 80s.
By the time the Internet came around in the 90s, people started moving from pen and paper to online games. This led to an even more massive increase in fantasy sports popularity. From 500k people in 1988 to a whopping 15.2 million in 2003. Why? Because people could place bets online.
What about TV viewership?
To nobody’s surprise—65% of fantasy sports participants watch more televised sports because they’re participating in fantasy leagues. 61% read more about those sports (online, on social media, blogs, on ESPN, etc.).
And what did social media and fantasy sports?
So in early 2003, we’ve got over 15 million people playing fantasy sports online. The following year, Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook. In 2006, Twitter is born.
Now, sports fans have multiple platforms where they can share with other sports fans and fantasy players. They can update each other. Talk strategy. Poke fun. Whatever suits their fancy. The point is — they can share. Social media makes fantasy sports a global, connected community.