Patrick Morgan’s fantasy football draft party has outgrown his house. It was one thing to have a mid-August barbecue with a few friends. But the group swelled to 20 or so guys picking their teams and planning their annual fantasy trip. His budget for the gathering, meanwhile, swelled to around $700. Couple that with a recent flooding of his basement and he’s now looking for a new location.
“It’s time,” says Morgan, a Chicago resident. “The group has gotten larger over the years. I’m excited about switching it up.” His wife is excited about not having to help with the cooking for all those guys.
Restaurants and bars are eager to help. Fantasy sports are now estimated to be a $7 billion industry, according to an Ipsos study for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA). That figure includes more than $1 billion spent on ancillary costs like travel, TV packages and, of course, beer, wings and mixed drinks.
“We’ve been focusing on doing Fantasy Football draft parties for the last four or five years,” says Joel Sorinsky, the managing partner of the popular Chicago restaurant and bar, Theory. The restaurant waives the food and beverage minimum for draft parties, which is a strong incentive to get consumers into the space for drafts and smack talk. “The reason we are so adamant about trying to get the word out there is it’s a good way for us to generate business before the football season starts. It’s a good way for us to advertise and introduce our business to football fans.”
“The draft party can’t just be sitting around and having beverages,” says Allsopp. “It’s renting out a room, it’s getting entertainment, food or hosting it at a golf course or a number of different things encompassing that ancillary spend. We’ve really only scratched the surface on that.”
By The Numbers
Fantasy sports are growing in numbers as well as dollars spent. Now, 59.3 million people take part. Football is by far the largest segment, but fans sweat over picks and performance in baseball, basketball and even golf. The 2017 study found that Millennials are entering the fantasy world faster than any other group, and that they are more likely to have full-time jobs and are more likely to earn $75,000 or more a year.
That said, it’s no longer a game for sports nerds or ultra fans. Fantasy has expanded into a social and a betting experience, especially as groups wager, create clubs and travel to games as part of their leagues.
“Fantasy is no longer just picking a team and watching the games and being done with it,” says Allsopp. “Fantasy has elongated the experience. A lot of industries can learn from it. You go to bars or pubs, order food, and have draft parties and draft merchandise. It’s more than just picking a team. This is the untapped potential of fantasy sports with many different bars and restaurants.”
The majority of fantasy drafts are held at private homes and, increasingly, at restaurants. Almost all include food and liquor. And 79% include a draft board, or a large monitor to view how all the players fare in their draft picks. Theory, for example, offers a way to project the draft board on a big screen. That’s a key desire for draft party planners as they look for locations to host, says Sorinsky.