Nearly 75 million adults are fanatical participants in this “hobby” – here’s how to use it to win new business and bond more deeply with clients.

It’s been called a silly little game, but fantasy football was played by 75 million adults across North America in 2015, and participation continues to skyrocket year after year.

And when you dig a bit deeper into the data behind who plays fantasy football and how much time and money they spend on the “hobby,” you quickly realize there’s a massive business and networking opportunity awaiting you.

Studies have shown that as many as 34 percent of fantasy football players are women, for example, and that 66 percent of fantasy footballers have a college degree – or higher.

Trust me – some (if not many) of your ideal prospects, clients and customers are playing fantasy football this season.

How To Use Fantasy Football To Win New Business

One of my favorite approaches when prospecting for new business on LinkedIn is to use a personalized, 1-on-1 approach when connecting with potential customers and clients on the platform.

It’s easy enough to scan someone’s profile and see where or she lives, where he or she went to school, or even what hobbies or interests he or she has.

By warming up prospects online with small talk and ice-breaker type conversations around those types of topics, it takes the pressure off and begins building a rapport and non-work related type banter that you can go back and forth with.

Here’s where fantasy football comes into play.

Imagine inviting some top prospects that you want to “warm up” more into a special fantasy league that also contains other professionals who your prospects might be interested in networking with or getting to know outside of work.

If your prospects are rabid fantasy players, they’ll jump at the chance to show off their fantasy football acumen, talk trash and embrace the unique culture that makes up fantasy leagues.

More importantly, it gives you an excuse to stay in touch with these top prospects, exchanging messages, talking about the games each week and so on.

It’s no different than taking potential clients out to dinner or a ballgame, really.

Fantasy football is just a cheaper, easier and longer-lasting way to build up the “Know, Like and Trust” factor that is foundational for any successful business relationship.

How To Use Fantasy Football With Existing Clients

One of the best ways to keep your existing clients happy is spend more time bonding with them outside of work.

After all, it’s much harder to walk away from a business relationship with someone you genuinely know and like than it is some random company or corporation who never asks for you for anything other than a payment.

Invite your top clients to a special fantasy football league that you set up and run. Offer some of your top products or services as a prize for the winning teams. Your clients will love the idea of “winning” more of the exact products and services they already enjoy paying you for.

It will build goodwill, deepen relationships and make running your business more fun at the same time.

Give it a Shot

There’s no reason you can’t quickly set up and run a fantasy football league right now. The NFL has free leagues where everything is automated and tracked, so your time and effort is minimal.

So does ESPN, which is so all-in on fantasy football that they recently aired 28 straight hours(!) of fantasy football coverage on the network.

Bottom line: If you’re tired of sending customers and prospects coffee mugs, pens or other tchotchke in hopes of winning new business and increasing loyalty, try fantasy football this year instead.

You might just be surprised at the result!