Sports Fantasy Camps: Offering Fans a More Immersive Experience


Today’s sport organizations have multiple ways of connecting with their fans, including social media, fantasy leagues, facility tours, and others.  Many are developing Sports Fantasy Camps to allow fans an opportunity to fulfill their sports dreams.  Here, for example, a Duke University basketball fan experiences a behind-the-scenes look at the basketball program including the opportunity to play actual games in Cameron Indoor Stadium.  Fans benefit from the social interaction, networking and dream fulfillment of such experiences. Conversely, sport organizations are able to create a tighter bond with both fans and supporters while generating additional revenues by providing such immersive experiences.   The purpose of this paper is to discuss the use of Sports Fantasy Camps as a form of Sports Experience Tourism.   Current practices among camp providers are discussed, the benefits for both participants and provides are offered, and the opportunities for growth (such as new markets served, new programs, and new formats) as provided as are the relevant NCAA limitations to ensure collegiate programs offering such fan experiences remain in compliance with NCAA regulations.


In June 2012, Americans celebrated Father’s Day.  In addition to the usual Father’s Day gifts (such as clothing, tools, or children’s art work), dads were treated to more experience-driven gifts.   The National Retail Federation’s annual Father’s Day Survey found that 44% of consumers had planned a special outing for Dad, including special dinners, a ball game, or possibly a sports fantasy camp (13).  Consistent with this trend, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Texas Rangers) offered their fourth annual Father’s Day Baseball Fantasy Camp for Dads.  Here is how it was described in a press release for the event (22):

MYRTLE BEACH, SC – Are you a dad? Have you ever wanted to feel the heat of a fastball and euphoria of a homerun? This Father’s Day is your chance! The Myrtle Beach Pelicans are hosting a Father’s Day Fantasy Camp on June 17th at Field at Pelicans Ballpark.

The Fantasy Camp will give all fathers the chance to play a round robin tournament on the same field as the Pelicans.
Participants will be divided into teams, coached by Pelicans players, and will play against each other at 9AM on Father’s Day. Registration begins at 8:15.

Participants will receive an official Pelicans New Era hat, official Pelicans batting practice pullover, an opportunity to hit in the batting cages at Field at Pelicans Ballpark, four field box tickets for that night’s game against Potomac at 6:05pm.

The clinic also includes free lunch for all participants. The Father’s Day Fantasy Camp is just $125 per person.

In September 2012, University of Kentucky (UK) men’s basketball coach John Calipari will host his first “John Calipari Basketball Experience” at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY (25).  Participants will pay $7,500 for a 4-day immersion with the defending men’s NCAA National Champion UK basketball program.  Participants will receive the following benefits:

  • Experience a weekend in the life of a UK basketball player
  • Enjoy unprecedented access to Coach Cal and the inner workings of UK basketball
  • Play in historic Lexington Center’s Rupp Arena – Get introduced and enter the court with the fanfare of a UK player
  • Compete in championships games, tournaments, and contests
  • Attend private social functions
  • Receive exclusive swag bag of NIKE branded UK apparel and gear
  • Hotel accommodations for three nights (single occupancy)
  • Ground transportation to all events
  • All meals
  • 8 tickets to the Ultimate Basketball Fantasy Champion game with the UK Alumni Basketball Game in Lexington Center’s Rupp Arena to follow The UK Alumni game

Proceeds from the event will go to the Calipari Family Foundation (making part of the enrollment fee tax deductible for participants).  The University of Kentucky and Coach Calipari are following the lead of other successful NCAA basketball coaches who have developed Sports Fantasy Camps, including Duke University (Mike Krzyzewski’s K Academy), Syracuse University (Jim Boeheim SU Basketball Fantasy Camp), University of Kansas (Bill Self Basketball Experience), Indiana University (Tom Crean and the IU Basketball Family Fantasy Weekend), and others.

The purpose of this manuscript is to examine the growing presence of (and concurrent fan interest in) Sports Fantasy Camps.  First, an overview of this form of Sports Experience Tourism is provided.  Second, the benefits of these fantasy camps to participants, the providers, and other stakeholders are explored.  Third, areas of growth for Sports Fantasy Camps are discussed.

Overview of Sports Experience Tourism

Today’s sports fans have a variety of ways to interact with their favorite teams and sports. They can follow their favorite athletes and coaches on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.  They can subscribe to relevant news feeds on their smart phones.  They can compete in online fantasy sports leagues.  They can watch and/or listen to their teams on local television or radio.  Yet, some fans seek a more direct and personal interaction and connection with their favorite teams and athletes.  The Sport Journal previously provided an overview of “Consumer Experience Tourism” in sport-related industries (20).  In that piece, the authors highlighted tourism opportunities centered on company plant tours, visitor centers, and museums in sport-related firms.  Since the time of that writing, there has been a dramatic increase in more immersive fan experiences to now include stadium tours, fan fantasy camps, video games (e.g., Tiger Woods Golf, Major League Baseball, NCAA football), equipment trials, online fantasy sports leagues, and other highly interactive and personalized experiences.

It is suggested here that the term “Sports Experience Tourism” best captures this growing form of Sports Tourism and fan “connectedness” to their favorite teams, athletes, sporting venues, equipment providers, and other related parties.  For example, a baseball fan can tour the Louisville Slugger factory (and take batting practice) in Louisville, KY, take a tour of the Great American Ballpark (Scotts Field) in nearby Cincinnati, OH, and, coming full circle, head to Spring Training for a Fantasy Baseball Camp with the Cincinnati Reds in Goodyear, AZ.

Public tours of sports stadiums, race tracks, and arenas have become very commonplace as fans wish to see the inner-workings of these venues.  For instance, fans can tour the stadiums of all Major League Baseball teams.   Some tour operators organize fan fantasy trips to allow fans to catch a series of games on consecutive days but in different cities.  Diamond Baseball Tours offered the following itinerary for their “West Coast Swing 2012” package (7):

  • Wednesday (June 13), LA Angels @ LA Dodgers
  • Thursday (June 14), Houston @ San Francisco
  • Friday (June 15), San Diego @ Oakland
  • Saturday (June 16), Arizona @ LA Angels
  • Sunday (June 17), Tour LA and San Diego
  • Monday (June 18), Texas @ San Diego
  • Tuesday (June 19), Seattle @ Arizona
  • Wednesday (June 20), Grand Canyon National Park

In fact, there are websites and books dedicated to helping fans plan the most efficient route to catch a game in all stadiums in defined periods of time (see 2,26).
A number of venues have team or facility museums that tie together the history of the venue and franchise with a tour of the operation.  For example, visitors to Yankee Stadium will visit the New York Yankees museum as well as Monument Park honoring Yankee greats of the past (23).  Visitors to Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY can enjoy the Kentucky Derby Museum on the grounds in addition to their tour of the racing facility (5).  Similarly, visitors to the Daytona Speedway will enjoy the World Center for Racing (6).  Each of these sport organizations uses different elements of their brand to showcase a new experience for the consumer.  The uniqueness of the facility, the nostalgia of history, and details of operations are all aspects not normally experienced through the purchase of regular admission to an event.

A Focus on Sports Fantasy Camps
While Sports Tourism is a multi-billion dollar business and one of the fastest growing areas of the $4.5 trillion global travel and tourism industry (33), little research has been conducted to examine the impact and participation rates of the various elements of Sport Tourism such as Sports Fantasy Camps.  Since the first Sports Fantasy Camps were introduced in 1996, there has been tremendous growth in the number of programs available as well as the number of fans participating in them (12).  Typically, fans are offered the opportunity to immerse themselves in a favorite sport with current or retired players and coaches and to do so (ideally) in the venue where they currently watch the team play.  Holly Rowe (29), a reporter for ESPN, describes her entry to Basketball Fantasy Camp at the University of Kansas as follows:

It gives me chills every time I turn on to Naismith Drive. You must travel this road in Lawrence, Kan., to reach one of basketball’s most storied gyms, Phog Allen Fieldhouse. I have covered many games here as reporter for ESPN. But today, I will be in a different role, assistant coach at the Bill Self Basketball Fantasy Camp.”

Ronca (28) describes Sports Fantasy Camps as “a cross between vacation and training camp.  You’re paying for the privilege to spend a few days hanging out with your idols – mingling, meeting-and-greeting, learning more about the game and even playing alongside your hero.”   Zullo (38) suggests the challenge for providers is to find the right balance between hospitality and reality.   Heydari (14) notes that fantasy camps are neither the ease of summer camps nor the rigor of training camps.

An interesting aspect of the Sports Fantasy Camp experience is that fans can use the camps to, in fact, remove the “fantasy” aspect of the sport and become actual participants in games and organizations they enjoy and admire.  These fans are able to both watch and participate in the experiences of players, coaches, and administrators of sport organizations, thus removing the mystic of the experience as viewed from the stands or television.  Without Fantasy Camps, the fan’s perception of what players and managers experience is left to the imagination, speculation, or rumor (again, given their indirect participation).  The Sports Fantasy camp experience gets the fan “out of the seats and onto the playing field” to become active participants.  As such, the term “Sports Fantasy Camp” may be a misnomer as fans are shown the reality of sport rather than the fantasy of sport.

Sports Fantasy Camps are used by Sport organizations for a number of reasons, including: (a) creating more brand loyalty; (b) generating additional revenue; (c) getting involved in philanthropic ventures; (d) providing additional sponsorship opportunities; and (e) stimulating sport tourism in the local economy.   Table One provides a list of example Sports Fantasy Camps from both Collegiate and Professional sports.  Note, Table One is meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive.  All camps were active in 2012.  Table Two provides the websites for all camps profiled in Table One.

Table One – Example Sports Fantasy Camps (active in 2012)



Brief Description


Basketball Rick Barry Hoops Fantasy
  • 3-day residential camp in Sonoma Valley Wine Country (Rohnert Park, CA)
  • Coaching and competition
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided


  Dwyane Wade
  •  4-day residential camp in Miami, FL
  • Coaching and competition provided
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided


  Mike Krzyzewski
  • 5-day residential camp in Durham, NC (home of Duke University)
  • Draft, training, and tournament competition in Cameron Indoor Stadium
  • Leadership development
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided

(includes a $4,000 tax deductible contribution)

  John Calipari
  • 3-day residential camp in Lexington, KY (home to the University of Kentucky)
  • Play in Lexington Center’s Rupp Arena … including player introductions
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided.



($1,500 discount for Citi Card members)

Football Pittsburgh Steelers
  • 3-day residential camp in both Latrobe, PA (home of Summer Training Camp at Saint Vincent College) and Pittsburgh, PA
  • Tour of Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on FRI, then camp in Latrobe for SAT and SUN.
  • Skills Competitions
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided


  Dabo Swinney (Clemson)
  • 3-day residential camp in Clemson, SC (home to Clemson University)
  • Skills competition and training
  • Rub Howard’s Rock and Run down the hill into Death Valley stadium
  • On-field All-in Bowl Game in Death Valley Stadium
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided



($1,400 tax deductible)

  Notre Dame
  • 5-day residential camp in South Bend, IN (home to the University of Notre Dame)
  • Skills competition and training
  • On-field flag football game in Notre Dame Stadium
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided



Source:  Original.  Information gathered from camp websites.

Table One continued …



Brief Description


  • 2-day residential camp in Auburn, AL (home to Auburn University)
  • Auburn Game Day experience in Jordan-Hare Stadium
  • Includes lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided.


  Michigan State
  • 2-day residential camp in Lansing, MI (home to Michigan State University)
  • The non-contact practice sessions  held in Spartan Stadium, including player introductions
  • Camp-ending dinner with distinguished alumni and former players
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided.


  • 2-day residential camp in Ann Arbor, MI (home to the University of Michigan)
  • Scrimmage in Michigan Stadium
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided.

($4,250 is tax deductible)

Baseball Cincinnati Reds
  • 8-day residential camp in Goodyear, AZ (Spring Training location)
  • Competition among teams
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided.


  New York Yankees
  • 6-day residential camp in Tampa, FL (Spring Training location)
  • Games among teams
  • Dream Games against former Yankee players
  • Yankee Stadium Camp reunion the following summer (in New York)
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided.


  Boston Red Sox
  • 9-day residential camp in Fort Myers, FL (Spring Training location)
  • Games among teams on local fields
  • Dream Games against former Red Sox players in Hammond Stadium (spring training stadium)
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided.


  Minnesota Twins
  • 8-day residential camp in Fort Myers, FL (Spring Training location)
  • Games among teams on local fields
  • Games also played in Hammond Stadium (spring training stadium)
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided.



Source:  Original.  Information gathered from camp websites.

Table One continued …



Brief Description


Hockey Wayne Gretzky
  • 6-day residential camp in Las Vegas, NV
  • Skills competitions and training for team who then compete in a championship tournament
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided.


Soccer Sports Fantasy Camps featuring Brandi Chastain and others
  • 5-day residential camp in Santa Clara, CA
  • Coaching and drills from active and former professional players and coaches
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided.


Tennis John Newcombe
  • MEN: 6-day residential camp at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, TX
  • MEN-AND-WOMEN: 4-day residential camp at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, TX
  • Team practices with retired pro players
  • Match play among participants AND against the pros
  • Lodging, meals, and ground transportation provided


$4,745-$4,975 (Men’s Camp)

1,470 – $1,850 (Men-and-Women’s Camp)

Golf Professional Golf Association
  • Single-day residential experience in Ponte Vedra, FL (home to the TPC Sawgrass Golf Course)
  • VIP locker room privileges
  • Personal professional caddie with name on bib
  • First tee announcement and introduction
  • One-evening’s lodging included


$1,385 – $1,525
NASCAR Richard Petty Driving Experience
  • Programs offered at 23 different locations: Atlanta, GA; Madison, IL; Brooklyn, MI; Bristol, TN; Homestead- Miami, FL; New Loudon, NH; Fontana, CA; Indianapolis, IN; Orlando, FL; Charlotte, NC Newton, IA; Phoenix, AZ; Joliet, IL; Kansas City, MO; Fountain, CO; Darlington Raceway, SC; Sparta, KY;  Richmond, VA; Daytona, FL; Las Vegas, NV; Fort Worth, TX; Monroe, WA; and Martinsville, VA.
  •  Single-day experience
  • Drive and Ride programs both available
  • Non-residential program (lodging and meals not provided)


$109 (ride) to $2,699 (full racing immersion)

Source:  Original.  Information gathered from camp websites.

Table One continued …



Brief Description


Motorsports Mario Andretti Racing Experience
  • Programs offered at 11 different locations: Atlanta, GA; Fontana, CA; Charlotte, NC; Joliet, IL; Darlington, SC; Homestead-Miami, FL; Sparta, KY; Las Vegas, NV; Myrtle Beach, SC; Richmond, VA; and Fort Worth, TX.
  • Single-day experience
  • Both NASCAR (closed-wheel) and INDY (open-wheel) experiences available
  • Drive and Ride programs both available
  • Non-residential program (lodging and meals not provided)


$129 (ride) to $464 (drive)
Drag Racing Frank Hawley
  • Programs provided at 7 different locations: Gainesville, FL; Las Vegas, NV; Indianapolis, IN; Baytown, TX; Norwalk, OH; Reading, PA; and Denver, CO
  • Single-day and multi-day experiences provided.
  • Drive and Ride programs both available
  • Participants can earn their NHRA licenses which allows them to compete at NHRA tracks


Varies based on program
Rodeos Sankey Rodeos
  • Programs provided at 10 different locations:  Derby, KS; Van Wert, OH; Penrose, CO; Buhl, ID; Zolfo Springs, FL; New Caney, TX; Humansville, MO; Summerville, GA; Centerville, IA; Martin, TN
  • 3-day and 4-day Rodeo School and instruction
  • Non-residential program (lodging and meals not provided)


$410 (3-day)

$435 (4-day)

Skiing Phi & Steve Mahre
  • Multi-day non-residential program delivered in Deer Valley, UT.
  • 3-day and 5-day options
  • Coaching, training, and competition provided.
  • Video analysis of skiing technique
  • Evening social programs


$840 (3-day)

$1,290 (5-day)

Soccer LA Galaxy
  • Multi-day non-residential program delivered in Los Angeles, CA.
  • Training, Coaching, and Competition
  • Daily Meals
  • Tickets to Galaxy Game(s)
$1,095 (Children’s camp)

$1,500 (Parent’s Camp)


Table Two – Websites for Sports Fantasy Camps Profiled


Team or Provider


Professional Basketball Rick Barry Hoops Fantasy
  Dwyane Wade
College Basketball Mike Krzyzewski
  John Calipari
Professional Football Pittsburgh Steelers
College Football Dabo Swinney (Clemson)
  Notre Dame
  Michigan State
Professional Baseball Cincinnati Reds
  New York Yankees
  Boston Red Sox
  Minnesota Twins
Hockey Wayne Gretzky
Women’s Soccer Brandi Chastain and others
Tennis John Newcombe
Golf Professional Golf Association
NASCAR Richard Petty Driving Experience
Motorsports Mario Andretti Racing Experience
Drag Racing Frank Hawley
Rodeos Sankey Rodeos
Skiing Phil & Steve Mahre
Soccer Los Angeles Galaxy

Source: Original (addresses active as of August 2012).

The camps listed in Table One typically combine lodging, meals, coaching, competition, social events, and other activities in a multi-day immersion.   The prices for these camps can change annually based on the number of days, single- or double-occupancy of rooms, and demand based on recent success of the team and/or organization.
Prices also reflect the exclusivity of the fan experience.  Many Sports Fantasy Camps are expensive in relation to other sports experiences (such as a single game ticket) and, therefore, appeal to a smaller segment of the overall consumer base.  Exclusivity is also enhanced by purposefully limiting the number of participants in a camp so attendees get more personal attention.  For example, the University of Michigan only accepted 116 participants for the 2012 Michigan Men’s Football Experience (19).  This smaller number of fans creates a ‘private club’ feel where members are privy to the exclusive experience, knowledge or networking opportunities provided by the camp.
In addition to the camps outlined above, many active and retired players host individual one-day camps.  These camps are usually provided for free and target children.  Many use an umbrella organization such as ProCamps to organize and market their camps (27).

The Fantasy Camps highlighted in Table One are multi-day residential camps at fixed locations.   Notre Dame Football campers, for example, want to run onto the turf in Notre Dame Stadium.  They want to experience of slapping the ‘Play like a Champion Today” sign that has become part of Notre Dame tradition and lure as they’ve seen in the movie, “Rudy.”  Kentucky Basketball fans want to run the court in Rupp Arena.  The same can be said for Duke basketball fans and their desire to shoot a basketball in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Single-day camps, such as the program offered by the Myrtle Beach Pelicans presented in the opening, represent a low-cost market entry strategy for a school, player, or coach interested in introducing Sports Fantasy Camps to their camp programs. The Charlotte Bobcats (and majority owner Michael Jordan) introduced a one-day fantasy camp for premium season ticket holders only (31).  There are also ‘road-show’ fantasy camps where the camp is brought to participants.  Rowdy Gaines, Olympic Champion and NBC Swimming broadcaster, travels the world providing swimming and stroke clinics for children and master swimmers alike (9).

Benefits for Stakeholders from Fan Fantasy Camps

The Fan Experience
In a sports-crazed culture such as the United States, it is not surprising sport fans would be interested in a Fantasy Camp experience.  Hyman (15) notes that some people just never lose their sports dreams and Sports Fantasy Camps enable them to fulfill their dreams.  Participation in Sports Fantasy Camps allows participants to build their skills, meet like-minded people, and/or get inspired from a personal hero (34).  Imagine life-long fans of Wayne Gretzky or Cal Ripken getting the opportunity to interact personally with these sports icons.  Fantasy camps also provide the opportunity to both relive and re-write the past (10).  For instance, a person who aspired to play for a certain team but never achieved that goal can fulfill that dream in a fantasy camp.

Loyal supporters of a collegiate athletic program can further connect with their favorite teams, coaches, and universities by participating in their Fantasy Camps (38).  Participants benefit from the sense of connection or fraternity that develops through the shared immersion experience (4,29,36).  The connection with like-minded people (i.e., fans of the same University or professional sports team) provides a networking opportunity for business professionals as well (36).

The Team and Organizational Benefits
The providers of Sports Fantasy camps have a wonderful opportunity to promote and achieve goodwill among their fan base.  By doing so, they are encouraging fans to become or remain brand loyal.  This higher level of brand loyalty may lead to increased sales opportunities for the organization (8).  For example, a partial season ticket holder may upgrade to a full season package.  Or, a ticket holder may upgrade to a different type of ticket, such as box seats, floor level, or a suite (depending on the sport and stadium configuration).  To reward fan loyalty, many sports camps provide discounts to alumni campers returning for another year.

Providing Fantasy Camp experiences can create fundraising opportunities for the school as well (8).  For instance, a collegiate ticket holder may increase their level of athletic donation as a result of the increased connection they feel to the University as a result of their Fan Fantasy experience.    For the 2012 Coach K Academy, $4,000 of the $10,000 participation fee represents a charitable contribution to Duke University (16).  Dabo Swinney’s 2012 Fantasy Camp will raise money for Clemson’s Call Me MISTER (“Mentors Instructing Students toward Effective Role Models”) Program, an effort to increase the diversity of teachers working in the state’s elementary schools (32).

The Fantasy Camp itself may serve as a fundraiser for an organization outside the university or athletic department (36).  All the proceeds of the John Calipari Basketball Experience will go to charity through the Calipari Family Foundation (25).  Dabo Swinney directs a portion of each entry fee for his Ladies Clinic to Breast Cancer awareness and treatment (32,38).  The Michigan Men’s Football Experience has raised for than $1 Million for the University of Michigan Health System’s Prostate Cancer Research Fund since its founding in 2006 by then-Coach Lloyd Carr.  The 2012 camp raised over $355,000 of the cumulative $1 million total (19).

A team can strengthen its connection to important stakeholder partners by offering the Fan Fantasy camp experience as an incentive for employees to improve performance.  In its promotional literature, the Rick Barry Hoops Fantasy Experience suggests companies offer their camp as a reward for high performing employees (such as a prize in a sales contest for sales people) (3).   The ability for a sport organization to positively influence the revenue generation of another organization can be very impactful in establishing a long-term relationship between the two groups.  These win-win relationships have the potential to becoming more impactful by transitioning into more financially-bound contracts such as sponsorships.

Opportunities for Growth

More Sport Organizations Providing Sports Fantasy Camps
The expectation is to see continued growth in fan immersion experiences in the years to come.   Zullo (38), writing in Athletic Management (a trade publication reaching College and High School athletic administrators) notes that Fantasy Sports Camps should not be solely for marquis athletic programs.  He encourages smaller colleges and even high schools to set up Fantasy Camps.  Some high schools sponsor alumni sports games and alumni games between rival schools. In fact, Gatorade sponsors their Replay Series to support these types of reunion rivalries.  15,000 fans turned out to watch the cross-border showdown between Easton, PA and Phillipsburg, NJ as the two schools played a rematch of their 1993 rivalry game (11).

More Single-Day Programs
Most programs outlined here are multi-day experiences.  As noted earlier, single-day camps represent a low-cost market entry strategy for schools looking to introduce Sports Fantasy Camps to their camp programs.  The lower price-point allows such camps to appeal to a broader audience.  As such, issues related to lodging, meals, and ground transportation are minimized as the school tests fan interest in these experiences.

More Immersive Experiences
Zullo (38) notes the challenge to balance reality with hospitality when delivering a Fan Fantasy Camp.  Coaches need to adjust their approach and tempo to connect with this fan audience.  Participants want time with coaches, the opportunity to put on a game-day uniform, the opportunity to make a grand announced entry into the arena, and other memorable moments not available to the casual fan.  Further, given the desire to connect with die-hard fans who may participate every year, the Fantasy Camp experience may need to be expanded each year to provide a differential experience for camp alumni.

More Game Day Experiences
Along with more immersive experiences, it is likely that sport organizations will develop more game-day fantasy activities as well.  While limiting the intrusion to game-day routines, Fantasy Campers want to enjoy a pre-game meal with their team, listen to the coach’s pre-game pep talk, possibly play in on-the-field or on-the-court scrimmages at halftime, or act as an invited coach to engage in in-game sideline activities.  These experiences may be very easily developed at Universities using often lower-attended games such as non-conference games or games while students are away (i.e., mid-December basketball games, Labor Day football games, Spring Break baseball games, and others).

More For-Parents-of-Player Camps
Million Lacrosse Camps is hosting the first-ever Lacrosse Fantasy Camp in September 2012 in Baltimore, MD.  This 3-day camp is targeted, among other groups, parents of youth lacrosse players who never played the game themselves.  Promotional materials offer the camp as a great bonding experience for athlete and parent (18).  This model may work for other sports, particularly those sports that have increased in participation and popularity in recent years (such as Volleyball, Soccer, and others).

More Diversity among Participants
The Sports Fantasy Camps outlined in this manuscript are largely targeting male fans.  As such, is likely that the number of Sports Fantasy Camps targeting female consumers/fans will increase.  Currently, the New York Yankees do offer a Women’s Mini-Fantasy camp that runs concurrently with a session of their men’s camp (3-day camp versus the 6-day men’s camp) (23).   The John Newcombe Tennis experience offers separate Men’s-only (6-day) and Men’s-and-Women’s (4-day) tennis fantasy camps (24).  The benefits of targeting the female consumer include expanding the current brand loyal fan base, reducing the cost to participants (particularly when a shared registration and lodging are included), connecting with more members of a brand loyal family, and providing a bond experience for a couple when male-female camps are run concurrently and/or combined.

Many universities run “Ladies Clinics” to teach female fans more about the games, teams, and programs (38). These events tend to be single-day and even partial-day experiences (such as an Evening gathering).   Here is an overview of the Dabo Swinney Ladies Clinic held at Clemson University in July 2012:

  • Presentations by Coaches in the West End Zone facility including the Tiger weight room, locker room, team meeting room, and Death Valley.
  • Meet and Greet Photo w/ Coach Swinney.
  • Interaction with all the Tiger Football Coaches and families.
  • Shopping with Clemson Tiger vendors.
  • Lunch provided by Wendy’s.
  • Silent and Live Auction items.
  • Special Guest Speakers and Entertainment.

The day runs for 7 hours (9:00 AM – 4:00 PM) with a cost of $60 ($15 of which goes to breast cancer research) (32).  In the future, such events may be expanded to include more physical experiences of playing the game (as the New York Yankees provide to female fans).   Another option is the development of a separate event for the audience interested in more of an athletic-immersion into College football.

As noted earlier, participation in Sports Fantasy camps creates a great bonding and social experience for participants.  Looking ahead, schools may elect to target defined groups for their camps rather than individuals.  Such groups could include Father-Son, Father-Daughter, Mother-Son, and Mother-Daughter (38). The University of Evansville provides a 2-day Father-Son Fantasy Basketball camp (30).  In their marketing literature, they describe the camp as a “great bonding experience.”   This positioning (the bonding experience) can be used by others to provide a memorable camp experience for couples and groups.

Children’s Sports Fantasy Camps are commonly delivered but tend to be developed for the larger ‘revenue sports’ such as Football and Basketball.  Baseball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, and other camps could allow an institution to connect with a broader group of its fans. The Los Angeles Galaxy offers both a Youth Fantasy Camp as well as an Adult Fantasy Camp experience (17).

Additional Considerations

Change in Plans for Providers
In recent years, some providers of Sports Fantasy Camps have discontinued their operations.  Basketball great Michael Jordon previously welcomed interested fans to Las Vegas for his Michael Jordan’s Senior Flight School at a cost of $17,000 for a 4-day experience.  Miami Heat Guard Dwyane Wade, a fellow Nike athlete, has filled that void left by Jordan’s departure (due to his duties with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats) to provide the Dwyane Wade Basketball Fantasy camp ($12,500 for a 4-day experience) (35).  It is interesting to note that the Bobcats did introduce a single-day fan experience for premium ticket holders after Jordan joined their leadership and ownership team.  Similarly, Bill Russell used to provide a fan fantasy camp in Las Vegas but it has discontinued operation.

Coaching changes can affect the availability of a university’s Football Fantasy program.  Penn State University had provided its Penn State Football Fantasy camp for six years before suspending the camp for the 2012 year (assumedly given the NCAA sanctions, pending lawsuits, and the passing of legendary Coach Joe Paterno).  It will be interesting to see if the new coaching staff elects to reintroduce this popular program in years to come.  Similarly former coach Pete Carroll provided the USC Trojan Flashback Camp experience for fans of the University of Southern California.  Later, his successor (Coach Lane Kiffin) briefly offered the program but it has since been discontinued (it has not been offered since 2010).  The same dynamic occurred at the University of Oklahoma where Coach Jeff Capel’s dismissal led (assumedly) to the cancellation of the Fantasy Basketball Camp held at the University.

Ideally, fans are supportive of the Fantasy Camp experience and will not wane in their interest with coaching changes.  However, teams and organizations must be aware of this possible dynamic.  Zullo (38) notes that some coaches may wish to direct all profits away from the university.  He encourages athletic administrators to contractually tie camp revenues to the athletic department (to make camp disruptions less likely when coaching changes occur.

Caution to Fans
Attending a Sports Fantasy Camp can be expensive.  The camps profiled here tend to cost from $2,000 to $12,500 for a multi-day immersion experience.  As noted earlier, spots are often limited so interested fans must act quickly to ensure their participation.  The K Academy of Duke University accepts only 80 participants per year at a cost of $10,000 per participant in 2012.  The same is true for Coach Calipari’s Basketball Experience at the University of Kentucky which cost $7,500 per participant in 2012.
As noted earlier, Sports Fantasy Camps offer participants more rigor than Summer Camps but less rigor than Training Camps.  Injuries do occur (21).  For example, attendees to Sankey Rodeo Schools do ride bulls and can be injured.  The Andrews Institute (1) recommends participants should train for 12 weeks before attending such events.  ESPN reporter Gene Wojciechowski participated in the Coach K Academy at Duke University in 2010.  He describes his physical state at the end of camp below (37).

DURHAM, N.C. — My right knee is the color of Duke’s alternate road unis and puffier than a croissant. The back of my calf feels like it’s been thwacked with a car antenna. And you don’t even want to know about the goop under the nail of my smashed middle toe.

 I’ve got more bruises than a week-old banana. The four on my left arm form a Hawaiian Islands-like chain of black and blue. The three on the right are bundled together like the Belt of Orion. Just for fun, there’s one on my left rib cage and another on my left hip.

 Meanwhile, scabbing has commenced on the two semi-juicy strawberries on my left elbow and on the three below the knee. There’s a four-inch scratch mark near my right shoulder and my wedding band does a U-turn every time I try forcing it over the cotton ball-sized knuckle on my ring finger.

 In short, I look like I went body-surfing on a gravel road. Forget about the Miracle On Ice; how about the miracle of ice? During a recent five-day span I spent more time with frozen cubes than a cocktail straw.

… And yet, here I am trying desperately to figure out a way to play in next year’s K Academy. That’s how ridiculously and torturously fun it was.

The development of Sports Fantasy Camps can represent a win-win relationship for sports teams and their fans.  Through their participation in such programs, fans get a behind-the-scenes look at their favorite teams and the facilities supporting the program.  They are able to connect with like-minded sports fans while fulfilling their sports fantasies.  These memorable experiences have a bonding effect on the participants.  Further, fans often get the satisfaction of having helped raise money for a worthy charitable cause.

The teams providing such immersive Sports Fantasy Camp experiences are able to promote brand loyalty among their fans.  Doing so may open up new sales and/or donation opportunities in the future.  Athletic administrators are urged to consider the development (or expansion) of such programs in the future.  In particular, they are advised to consider the addition of more immersive experiences where fans play the games or compete in drills rather than simply touring their facilities.  The development of single-day fantasy camps is a cost-effective way for a team to ‘test drive’ the concept on their fans.  Such new formats may attract new consumers given their lower costs to fans.
To date, with notable exceptions, Sports Fantasy Camps have largely targeted male fans.  Teams are encouraged to look to other groups such as female fans, complete families, or parent-child pairing to expand the reach of their Fantasy Camp programs.  Successful Sports Fantasy Camps must strike the balance between fan reality of competition and fan hospitality as guests of the program for the day or week.  Satisfied buyers will likely become brand allies by encouraging others to attend in the future.  These satisfied fans may be more likely to buy more, give more, tell others more often, and be willing to do similar camps in other sports.  This connection represents the desired win-win by sport marketers and their fans.



 Source:  Original.  Information gathered from camp websites.