10 Minutes with Matthew Berry
ESPN’s Fantasy sports savant recently dropped in at the 2015 Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show.
Matthew Berry is a well-documented senior Fantasy sports analyst for the planet’s most popular sports network, ESPN, an Emmy award winner and New York Times best-selling author for his book, Fantasy Life.
He’s the authoritative face of Fantasy sports.
But as for the sports licensing world, he admittedly is learning the lay of the land. His goal is to find some synergies between the Fantasy sports and licensed sports product worlds. “Right now, there are very few products that speak directly to the over 40 million people that are fantasy sports playing consumers,” he says. “We speak our own language, what’s important to us is not always important to other sports fans and, as a result, there’s an underserved audience there.”
What better way to get educated on the licensed sports product world than to attend the 2015 Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show? Berry dropped by the SportsFan Retailer booth and spent a some time discussing a few Fantasy-related topics, including its tie-ins for our industry.
SportsFan Retailer: Do you see a relationship between Fantasy Football and the licensed sports product industry?
Matthew Berry: My mission here is more educational than anything else. It’s to learn more about this space. I’m a front-facing talent for ESPN and I interact with Fantasy fans all the time. I’m a hard-core player myself for over 30 years. I’ve been playing professionally for 15 years. And as a consumer, I believe there’s not a lot in the retail space that speaks to me as a Fantasy Football player. It’s a passion of mine and it’s something I love. It consumes my life and I don’t think I’m alone. The numbers are off the charts in terms of the number of people that play and the demographics of the people that play, in terms of their age, buying habits and their discretionary income. It’s a sweet spot for retailers. So I believe there’s an opportunity there and it’s an untapped market. As somebody who has developed an audience and a fan base and credibility within the Fantasy sports area, specifically Fantasy football, I just wanted to meet a bunch of people, learn more about the space and explore potential opportunities.
SFR: Explain Fantasy Karma by Matthew Berry.
Berry: It’s a working title. The idea behind it is that Fantasy karma is a real thing. You want to be on the right side of it. If something good happens to your Fantasy team, it’s because you’ve appeased the Fantasy gods. Whereas, doing some squirrelly things within your league can sometimes cause you to lose. It’s sort of a play on that. I think the important thing here is that the people who are reading this who don’t play Fantasy sports are probably wondering what that means. The ones that play Fantasy sports know exactly what that means. Where some retailers have sort of stumbled in the past is that they try to speak to that audience and they do it from a voice that’s not authentic. The people that play Fantasy sports comprise a large community that’s specific, with its own language and traditions. Authenticity is something that’s very important to that audience. I think, in the past, when people have tried to use professional athletes who have a disdain for Fantasy sports or don’t understand what it’s about, it hasn’t completely worked because Fantasy fans don’t respond to that.
SFR: What can leagues like the NFL or NFLPI do to further the Fantasy cause?
Berry: I think of all the sports leagues, the NFL is one of the best, as well as the NFLPA. They both are really forward thinking, in terms of embracing the Fantasy fan and they put a lot of resources and thought behind it. I think their ads are great. They’ve gotten more players involved. My advice to them would be to keep doing what you’re doing, and do more of it.
SFR: Explain how newer sites like Fan Duel may be changing Fantasy sports.
Berry: They’ve brought a new style. What’s exciting about companies like FanDuel and DraftKings is they’re making the tent bigger. They didn’t just come in try to take a portion of the pie. They’re making the pie bigger. We’ve seen studies showing a lot of people that have never played traditional year-long Fantasy sports, that now are big, hardcore daily Fantasy players. So we see some overlap, but not a ton. But that’s exciting for people in the Fantasy industry. It’s a whole new area of growth and revenue streams. So I think those companies, and just the idea of daily Fantasy play, have opened up new avenues and excitement to the industry of Fantasy sports.
SFR: Going forward, what do you see as the next big development in Fantasy sports?
Berry: I think technology continues to play a big part. The game is the game. Daily Fantasy is innovative, but ultimately at the end of the day, you’re picking players and how well they do in their games determines how well your Fantasy team does. So the game hasn’t changed in over 40 years. I think the advances will involve helping fans enjoy the game more, win games, connect with friends better and have better relationships with players on the teams. So I think the advances will be more about integration between players and the actual game. I don’t think there will be a lot of innovation in the game itself. That’s certainly one of the things we’re exploring because we think there’s an opportunity there.
SFR: Who was the top player for you in your Fantasy Football league?
Berry: I had a couple of different players that helped out. Odell Beckham Jr. was one. He helped out a great deal. Matt Forte worked out very well for me. Rob Gronkowski, I believed in him staying healthy and that paid off.
SFR: Who are your Top 5 Fantasy Football players for next year?
Berry: Everything can change because players can leave teams and that kind of stuff, but my Top 5 for next year are:
- LeVeon Bell
- Jamaal Charles
- Eddie Lacy
- DeMarco Murray
- Adrian Peterson (assuming he is back and eligible for 16 games)