On Friday last week, there was a great piece by Julia Beizer in the Washington Post Express about a different category of fantasy games that offer an alternative to Fantasy Football.  Now officially giving up on my Fantasy Football team after losing my two star players in back to back weeks to season ending injuries, I may just be seeking an alternative fantasy league myself.  For those readers of my blog unfamiliar with the American phenomenon of Fantasy Football – the premise is very simple: choose a player at each position from any team, and each week your "fantasy team" gains points based on how each of these individual players performs.  In this way, you can combine the best players from multiple teams and have a stake in multiple NFL games as you watch how each of your players perform.  As I have commented before on this blog, it’s a brilliant brand extension strategy for the NFL that keeps it’s brand front and center during the football season, and leverages the statistical element of the game to deepen it’s relationship with NFL fans.

Now, however, the idea of fantasy gaming is starting to travel beyond football … and even beyond sports.  The Tabloid Fantasy League is a great example, allowing people to choose their roster of stars and win points each time a star appears on the cover of a tabloid or gossip mag.  Of course, you lose points if your stars are busted by the cops … or the fashion police.  The rise of concepts like this raises an interesting truth about the power that fantasy games can have to raise an individual’s personal stake in just about anything.  In each case, the core benefit is engagement at a deeper and more personal level.  In a way, this is the reason why online stock trading has become so successful.  By removing the barrier to trading and watching investments, you can come up with your own "fantasy portfolio" with real money, and track your investments real time.  Here are a few other ideas for how fantasy games could be used by real world marketers to extend their brands and engage customers:

  1. AMC Opening Weekend Fantasy – Each weekend, you can bet on the movies that will have the largest opening weekends.  Tie this into movie marketing and viral campaigns already being launched for many movie openings, and this could be a big idea in Hollywood.
  2. Technorati Blog Fantasy – Despite the often discussed inconsistencies in how Technorati reports inbound links to blogs, tying a fantasy game into the currently existing Blog Favourites list could offer a great hook for users to continually check back into Technorati.  Readers could get points based on how many inbound links posts from their favourite blogs get over the course of a week.
  3. AllRecipes/Whole Foods Food Fantasy – One of the best recipe sites out there, AllRecipes, could launch a fantasy game that lets site visitors select products to add to their fantasy lineup and win points based on how many views of recipes that use those ingredients get, or even tie it into sales data from a large grocery chain such as Whole Foods to win points based on bestselling items. 
  4. PRWeek Fantasy Placements – This one is likely to get us in trouble, but what if the entire PR industry could select fantasy teams based on clients, stories, and PR agencies?  All readers of PRWeek could choose which clients, stories or PR agencies are likely to get prominent news placements on online and offline media and win points based on the favorability and prominence of the placement.

I am sure there are lots more ideas for how fantasy games could be used for marketing, though my favourite so far comes from the civic sector.  The Fantasy Congress (mentioned in Beizer’s original piece), is a site where you can "draft" senators and representatives and earn points as they introduce legislation and make law.  As one of the founders of the site says, "if people cared about government as much as they cared about sports, we’d have a much better government."  I’m heading to the site right now to choose my fantasy congress.  Unfortunately, the way my luck has gone for Fantasy Football, I wouldn’t be surprised if I lost my chosen Senator to a season ending sex scandal before too long …