When all is lost and your dreams of a fantasy football championship are torn from your chest, daily fantasy can fill the hole in your broken heart. When you’re almost doing too well and are searching for a greater challenge in the realm of fantasy sports, daily fantasy can set up the pins if you want to try to knock them down. And with the ever-changing, ever-evolving sports world, FanDuel is looking to gain the attention of the legions of fantasy players through humor and by recruiting one of the most recognizable faces and voices in the sports industry.
FanDuel has released a series of videos starring Adam Schefter (loosely based on his real life) documenting the weird run-ins and the heavy burden an NFL newsbreaker has to carry from roughly July through December year in and year out, like a smartphone-wielding Sisyphus.
Adam Kaplan, FanDuel’s Senior Director of Operations, and Kevin Hennessy, Director of Publicity at FanDuel, answered our rapid-fire series of questions about their work with Schefter, as well as how the fantasy season and FanDuel itself shifts as we head deeper into the fantasy playoffs.
As season-long leagues are heading into the fantasy playoffs, there’s always FanDuel and that daily fantasy pal waiting for you. It seems like FanDuel is trying to let you know that.
Adam Kaplan: The beauty of week to week or in other sports with daily fantasy is that you can draft a new team every week. You can play with your friends and really have a great experience in any given week. So, yeah we are definitely trying to capitalize on the time of year, right? Like, the season when season-long fantasy leagues are winding down and people are looking for different outlets to get their Fantasy itch.
So what was the impetus behind bringing in Schefter for these videos?
Kaplan: So the impetus was that he is the dominate NFL reporter right now and we thought he’s got a really interesting personality and really, frankly is an extremely talented actor. We basically showed up at his house and didn’t really give him the scripts too far in advance. He was really an expert. It wasn’t really hard for him to play the part because it’s, you know, his real life is sort of based on real-life events, but, he was a very natural actor as I guess you would expect out of somebody who’s in front of the cameras as often as he is
These are based on real events?
Kaplan: I mean, it’s based on the notion that he can’t go anywhere without someone wanting to get information from him about various teams and players and generally asking questions that can help them in their Fantasy lineups.
Kevin Hennessy: He kinda helped us with some of the content too. So even if the delivery person didn’t exactly happen that way, it was more like he’s had a delivery person that was asking him Fantasy stuff. Do I know for a fact that Christian Laettner has called him at five in the morning to wake him up and ask him what receiver to play? No, I don’t, but I do think that it’s comparable to stuff that he’s had happen in his life.
We also had fun with Laettner because like Jamison Crowder is from Duke. He was kinda like, I need to find a Duke guy. So we had fun even working with Laettner on his picks and stuff like that.
Right and Smith-Schuster was hurt when that was filmed a few weeks ago, so it’s cool to see that you guys are releasing this video that is very, very relevant, as Crowder has really come on these last few weeks. Is that a benefit of marketing via social media in this really high pace world?
Hennessy: It’s no secret that the NFL’s TV ratings are declining or sort of becoming more fragmented. It doesn’t necessarily mean that overall interest in the NFL is down. It just means that people are probably more suspect to the fact that people are consuming the NFL in other ways, right? Like, everybody’s on their phone. So, social media is an obvious channel, an obvious platform that fans are using to get their highlights, or their information or just follow games and players. So I think, yeah, that is the sort of benefit, right? Is that, you know, we can always be relevant, we can sort of be adaptable.
Do you guys find yourselves in these situations like Schefter when people know that you work for FanDuel? Does it bleed into your personal life?
Kaplan: Yeah, definitely.
Hennessy: Yeah, it totally can. Particularly if you’re out and people are doing the same thing Christian Laettner does. Should we pick JuJu or should we pick Jamison Crowder?
Kaplan: It’s interesting. Everybody feels like the people they’re talking to, their friends should care as much about their fantasy team as they do, and because of that we’ve sort of seen this over the years, there’s this onslaught or the mass amount of really, just questions that are out there, right. Like, should I start this guy? Should I not start this guy? Should I add this guy? Should I drop this guy? Should I try to trade for this guy? Buy high? Sell low? So on and so forth. So, you’re a natural target when you are working at a Fantasy company. You tell people what to do and they definitely want to get your take.
Right, and that’s gotta be both gratifying and really frustrating because you’re probably going to end up saying the same thing over and over and over again.
Kaplan: Well, you know, the cool thing is it does change week to week. So, matchups change. Players change. Injuries happen. Some players get increased or decreased rolls out of those injuries, so, you know, it’s not exactly the same thing, but the questions are always, should I start this guy or this guy? Should I trade for this guy? Should I add this guy? Should I drop this guy? If it’s season long, should I draft this guy? What’re the best lineups if its TFS? What’s the best strategy? But, you know, we can’t really comment on those things and so we really have to sort of reserve our comments to stuff that’s not related to FanDuel.
Hennessy: Everyone wants an edge when they play Fantasy because it’s, you’re about beating your friends, right? And it’s bragging rights and stuff like that, so that was kind of one of the reasons for the hyper-reality of Scheftner because he gets it too.
Everyone is really into talking about the news before the draft, August is the best time of year for Fantasy. It’s way better in a lot of senses than playing. Especially if you drafted David Johnson first overall.
Kaplan: August is the best time for season long because of the draft experience and the cool thing, obviously is, you know, about Fanduel, you can recreate that draft experience every weekend so if you do lose David Johnson in your season-long league, you know, there’s a place for you to go where you don’t have to worry about having David Johnson on your bench or cutting him, or filling his spot. It’s a new team every week with fresh match ups.
Or if you miss out on a waiver wire that you can still have that satisfaction of playing a major sleeper and possibly doing well against the field.
Kaplan: Absolutely. And, you know, play multiple lineups, play as many lineups as you want. You could play the sleeper and that stud wide-receiver that you expect to have a big game.
These videos remind me of the bizarre ESPN commercials that started it all. Now that FanDuel is providing not only a statistical service but like you said, satisfaction for the heartbroken league player, the season-long player, is FanDuel looking to become more than a service and more of an institution hitting all of these pillars, kind of like ESPN is or was?
Kaplan: I think for us, we’re always looking for ways to grow our business and speak to many sports fans and really, ultimately meet sports fans everywhere they are, right? And so I think we have this amazing Daily Fantasy product that has been wildly successful, but I think in our minds there’s a lot of opportunities to grow the media and entertainment side of our organization even more than we have. These videos are one example of that. I think you’re going to see a lot of other cool videos and originals that we’re going to be doing. We also have other great content that’s, you know, whether it’s podcasts on Number Fire or content on Number Fire and some of the stuff we’re doing with Scout. But we have a lot of other stuff in the pike. We’re really excited about the future where media and entertainment are going to be an increased focus.
Would you say the increased focus on entertainment from something that is, for lack of a better phrase, extremely nerdy statistics? Dungeons and Dragons for jocks? How do you balance that and continue to grow?
Kaplan: We’re always thinking about ways to appeal to more fans, right? And, I think you’re going to see some of those things play out over the coming months. We did introduce several lighter weight formats that are less statistically heavy, sort of like mini or mix-up. We can send you information on some of those offerings I’m sure, after, but they’re sort of more aimed at casual users and ensuring that everybody has a place to play on FanDuel. Everybody has something that interests them whether it’s regarding their favorite players or teams or cool games on FanDuel.
Hennessy: We always have contests for a quarter. So you can kind of jump in and play there. It isn’t all about big money plays or anything along those lines, too.
Right, sometimes people just want to get in on the action.
Hennessy: Yeah, and so we have that too.
Do you see a major influx Week 14 of people showing up to play on FanDuel?
Kaplan: Yeah, we see people coming over. I think, you know, we see people coming over all the time.
Hennessy: Right. So I think the interesting thing is, and you pointed this out earlier in our conversation, I think you said you had Gronk and who else was on your team?
I had Aaron Rogers and David Johnson and Gronk. Yeah.
Kaplan: So you lost the best player on your team twice, right? That would create an entry point for somebody who wasn’t already introduced to FanDuel like you are. They lost Aaron Rogers they thought their season was over, picked up a quarterback to kind of get through the next few weeks. Then you lose David Johnson or vice versa. It was David Johnson first, but I think you get the point that people are, it could be injury focused as well or just ebb and flow of the season as well. So I don’t think we see like a crazy influx like we would necessarily like Week 1 of the NFL. Those two things aren’t in the same ballpark, but we definitely see people constantly coming over every week of the season and, you know, it could be dependent on the week it’s because of a variety of factors.
Hennessy: And they also show up for the other reason that they’re dominating their league and they want to come and try to dominate on FanDuel, too. It fills a lot of gaps, but it can also be the main course.
Watching sketches and knowing that you guys are becoming just more and more of this well-known entity, what is this chapter marketing campaign really ground zero for? Where do you see this going over the next few years as social media attains more reach?
Kaplan: We’re looking to make things best in content and bringing media to the platform more generally like I think we see the impact that it can have on our user base, whether we’re talking about engaging them or growing it. We’re very interested in bringing all different types of content to FanDuel. That’s definitely been a focus for us. Although I think now we’re at a point where it’s becoming an increased focus.
Any thoughts on neutrality and whether that could lead sites like yours if they’re potentially throttled underneath an internet service provider?
Kaplan: You know, on the official end, I should probably say no comment. I think on our end we’re a company, the one thing I’ll say is we’re 100% for consumer protection. And I think that it’s only right to extend that to information as well, personal information. I guess that would be our comment. We’re 100%, in every single situation, we’re 100% on the side of the consumer. For us, it’s about what’s best for the consumer. I have my own opinions on that. Kevin may have different opinions on that or other folks around the organization, but at the end of the day, we’re going to side with what’s best for the consumer.