In 2017, more than 60 of the top 100 most-watched television events were sports-related, a dominance that has led to advertisers concentrating a heavy portion of their attention and spend on live sports broadcasts.
But, as with all live television, viewership numbers are generally declining across the board: NFL, NHL, MLB and more. A McKinsey study shows that today’s viewers aren’t less interested in sports, they just don’t want to watch long games on the same screen — highlight reels and “second-screening” are increasingly common.
Ed Trimble, an Atlanta-area entrepreneur who most recently co-founded e-commerce marketing software Kevy, began to see an opportunity in those second screens. With the frenzy over daily fantasy games like FanDuel and DraftKings, Trimble knew there was growing interest in enhancing sports with gaming, but unlike pick-em fantasy games, he wanted to tie his game into the sports match itself.
Trimble and his team built FanBeat, a free live-action game where users are asked questions during breaks in the action in a specific sports event. Played on either mobile or desktop, FanBeat asks fans to make predictions about the game (will this player make this move? Who will the first foul go to?) or answer trivia questions about the team, players, league and more.
“The concept behind Fanbeat was to create a fan gaming experience that aligns with the event itself; that gets fans more excited to watch the game whether from the venue or from the living room,” Trimble, FanBeat’s CEO, tells Hypepotamus. The questions are developed by a game production team, which Trimble says leads to more engaging questions that those that could be produced by machines.
“The game has a real personality,” he says. “By giving players an actual stake in the action, we’ve proven that fans enjoy the game more, and end up watching more of the game.”
When Trimble refers to their proof, he’s referencing their rapidly upward-trending user numbers. In 2018, 295,0000 FanBeat games were played, a 1400 percent increase from the year before; the same year saw 130,239 unique players in an almost 2,000 percent increase from the previous.
“It really does encourage viewers to spend more time with the event, and ultimately that can impact Nielsen points and lift all boats in terms of the value of programming to the advertisers,” Trimble says.
Of course, those advertisers are also the ones financing the free-to-play FanBeat games. During their first real test run in 2016 with the Atlanta Braves, the brand partner was the Georgia Lottery. Current challenges with the Chicago Bulls and the Golf Channel are being underwritten by AT&T and Callaway Golf, respectively.
The brand partners provide prizes, such as memorabilia, tickets, sports equipment, and cash, for viewers that gain points from answering questions correctly and quickly. In return, the brand gets exposure through methods such as questions featuring one of their products or pre-recorded video questions.
For example, right now Callaway Golf is sponsoring a FanBeat challenge being run during four 2019 PGA TOUR events. Prizes during “Callaway’s $1 Million FanBeat Challenge” include products like drivers, putters, golf balls and GPS rangefinders. Any player who answers all the questions in one round has the chance to win $1 million.
“The platform is very flexible in the way it allows our partners to have a meaningful one-to-one dialogue with their fans during the live event,” says Trimble. FanBeat then charges the brands based on player engagement statistics.
The startup has raised about $2.5 million to-date in angel funding to finance technology development and initial sales and marketing activities. Now, they’re in the midst of a small crowdfunding campaign on the MicroVentures platform, largely to generate exposure for the brand and the game.
As part of that crowdfund, the startup has put many of its cards on the table, revealing specific revenue, expenses, and income figures, as well as their traction thus far. Trimble calls the campaign an “experiment.”
Beyond the up to $100,000 they could raise in the crowdfund, Trimble says the company intends to do a larger institutional raise later this year to finance additional partnership-building and marketing.
With the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning a blanket ban on sports betting, Trimble foresees a large opportunity arising in allowing FanBeat players to place wagers during the game. He’s now in active conversations with gaming operators, along with the sports leagues and brand partners.