Sports are becoming increasingly interactive, giving fans more ways to engage with their favorite teams and participate through fantasy leagues, legalized sports betting and esports. Now, the new Fan Controlled Football League (FCF) has plans to take it a step further.
The indoor football league, planned to launch in 2021, aims to put fans in control in every way. They’ll be able to call actual plays in real time, like they can in a game of Madden NFL. They will decide who starts, who is traded, and even what the jerseys look like.
The league is an interesting experiment, and brand partners have already signed on without ever seeing a fan-controlled snap. On Dec. 3, the FCF announced a partnership with Champion.
“Champion is a brand that embraces sports and innovation, and that is why we are excited to team up with an organization that is redefining football,” said Tyler Lewison, general manager of Champion Teamwear.
The legacy athletic apparel brand will take the logos designed by members of the FCF community and create jerseys for each of the four teams (with names like the Zappers, Wild Aces, Glacier Boyz and Beasts). Today, the FCF also announced a deal with Progressive.
“Because we are creating this league from scratch, we can also create the brand integrations from scratch,” said Jennifer Rottenberg, CMO of Fan Controlled Football. “That’s a blessing and a curse. We don’t have to pull sponsorships from the bucket of traditional assets that usually go into a [sports sponsorship deal], but folks are used to looking at those packages when they get pitch decks. We don’t have those; we have conversations. It’s a more complicated sale, but after brainstorming we came back with four ideas and Progressive loved them all.”
The unique nature of the league leads to added opportunities. The Progressive deal includes a branded moment called the Progressive Fifth Down. Once a game, fans can earn the ability to vote on a play where they would like to take an extra down after a failed fourth down conversion. It’s added insurance—a nice tie-in with the brand’s category—to take a risk on a fourth down.
There’s also FCF Protection by Progressive, a weekly segment interviewing offensive linemen, the built-in insurance policy for quarterbacks. Outstanding Coverage of the Game focuses on plays from the defense, and the Progressive Snapshot Badge provides perks, rewards and access to premium content.
“Progressive has made a commitment to innovation, to having people looking for things that are a bit different,” Rottenberg said. “In Season 1, they aren’t going to commit to an eight-figure deal. They want to test it and see how it goes. Hopefully it goes great and they want to come back for bigger, better, more.”
While FCF is testing a new format for sports, the league hasn’t had any trouble getting big names to buy in. Team owners include former NFL stars Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch, hip-hop trendsetter Quavo and former boxing champion Mike Tyson. They also have MLB players, pro wrestlers and YouTube stars in various ownership roles.
The six-week season will begin in February 2021 at FCF’s custom facility in Atlanta. The games will be fast-paced, with only seven players on each side compared to 11 in the NFL and college football. The field will also be shrunk in half from 100 yards long to just 50, with the width dropping from 53 yards to 35. The result will be quarterbacks who can easily sling the ball into the end zone from anywhere on the field, less room to work with for the remote play callers and a style of football similar to the now-defunct Arena Football League.