Women Playing Fantasy Football…REALLY?

Leger, one of North America’s fastest growing research companies, digs deeper into the characteristics that make up the Fantasy Football players for this year’s 2015-16 NFL season.

With the 2015-16 NFL season in full swing, many of your friends, family members, and co-workers will be talking about their Fantasy Football teams. This is because Fantasy Football is a big deal, mainly because for a majority of players, money is involved. Research from Leger conducted in January, 2014 showed that three in five (60%) of Fantasy Football players were required to spend money to join a league, having spent an average of more than $150 to play. With this in mind, it is not surprising that the estimated value of the Fantasy Football market is well into the billions.

Newly released research from Leger from its August 2015 poll shows that 13% of adults in the United States plan to play Fantasy Football for the 2015-16 NFL season, with the average age of a typical player at approximately 38 years of age. These results align very well when compared with data from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, or FSTA, that indicates 13% of adults play fantasy sports overall, with the average age of 37 years of age.

While the majority of players are men, it may be surprising for many to find that one in four (25%) Fantasy Football players this year will be women. However, this is not surprising to the Leger team.

A slow but steady growing number of women are playing Fantasy Football, and although there have been marginal increases year-over-year, when looking at data with an expanded time horizon, we find that over the course of the last four years the proportion of Fantasy Football players who are women has increased, moving from approximately one-in-five to one-in-four.

Phrased differently, the growth rate in which women are playing Fantasy Football is increasing faster than that of players in general. Yet it is the demographic characteristics of the women who are playing Fantasy Football that make up a niche customer many companies would love to target.

According to the Leger August 2015 poll, women who play Fantasy Football show favorable levels of employment and household income than non-players. First, women who play are more than twice as likely to be employed full-time (players, 66%; non-players, 31%) than non-players, which naturally falls into their higher affluence as well, based on household incomes over $100K (players, 16%; non-players, 11%).

Our poll also shows the majority of the women who play Fantasy Football are older than their male counterparts. At first glance, the overall average ages of Fantasy Football players among men and women are approximately 38 and 39 years of age (respectively), however, we start to see a different story when analyzing how these players are dispersed by age. To this end, just over half (53%) of male players are between 30-49 years of age, among women this jumps up beyond seven in ten (72%). Furthermore, nearly two in five (38%) women players are in the 40-49 age group.

In other words, Fantasy Football players are not a homogenous group.

Fantasy Football players vastly over-index their non-player cohorts in living in a household with children. Nearly three in four (74%) women who play also report having a child under 18 in the household, while among men this drops down to about two in three (67%). This suggests that Fantasy Football either serves as a family activity, or that Fantasy Football provides a vital escape for those adults who have children.

Men continue to be more entrenched with their Fantasy Football play than women, as they are more likely to play in multiple leagues when compared to women. The Leger poll indicated that among players, approximately two-thirds of men (66%) plan on joining two or more leagues this year, among women this drops down to half (50%).
While the demographic characteristics of Fantasy Football players (for both men and women alike), are attractive for prospective companies, the challenge lies in how to best reach them.

For starters, Fantasy Football players are more likely than non-players to be engaged with their mobile devices. This is evidenced by the Leger poll that shows Fantasy Football players are more likely to conduct mobile banking on either a tablet or smartphone, and to do so by using an app on their device.

There is also the marketing implication for those who want to engage with Fantasy Football players, especially through television advertising. The pervasiveness of ‘binge’ or marathon viewing is alive and well among Fantasy Football players, however, the results of the Leger poll show it is the female players in particular who are more engaged in this activity than men. Sundays that would otherwise be spent catching up on favorite shows will be replaced by watching sporting events live, leaving the binge viewing to take place on other nights of the week. This will impact an ever-shrinking number of hours and days in a given week that Fantasy Football players will be watching programs in live time.

With this in mind, advertisers will need to be creative in messaging and engaging this desired consumer, especially women who play Fantasy Football.




The survey was conducted online with 1,006 respondents, 18 years of age or older, among the U.S. population from August 14th through August 17th, 2015, and was balanced/weighted to statistically represent the country by age, gender, ethnicity, and region. Based on this sample size, the results carry a margin of error of approximately ± 3.1% at the 95% confidence level.


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Lance Henik