NEW YORK – The NFL wants to add even more fans to the millions already following the sport — and is willing to pay $1 million to do it.
The league will run an ad during the Super Bowl introducing the "Perfect Challenge," a deceptively simple new fantasy game.
Each week, participants must pick an eight-player lineup out of the entire NFL. If every selection earns the most fantasy points at their position in a given week, the owner wins $1 million.
The lineups must feature one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one defense/special teams unit. The game is free.
For a sense of the difficulty of picking the perfect lineup, consider that last season 16 different kickers earned the most points (including ties) for at least one week under the standard NFL.com scoring system.
Yes, the hugely popular NFL believes it's missing out on potential fans, so it's making a splash with the $1 million prize. An estimated 15 million to 20 million people already play fantasy football, but then again, last year's Super Bowl was watched by 111 million viewers.
Regular fantasy football requires the organization to set up a league at the start of the season and the commitment to attend a draft and update a lineup every week. The Perfect Challenge requires less time and knowledge, and fans can play as many or as few weeks as they'd like.
For those avid fans already hooked on fantasy, it's an opportunity to compete for something even if that team they drafted in early September is already eliminated from playoff contention.
"Male, female, younger, older — this appeals across the board," said Jeff Berman, the NFL's digital media chief. "Obviously having the prize component gives an extra reason."
The league's hope is that the people who play fantasy for the first time through the Challenge start paying more attention to the sport — maybe they watch the Thursday night game on NFL Network, or buy official merchandise.
"Bringing new players into the fold is good for football overall," Berman said.
Organizations can offer $1 million prizes in initiatives like this with the help of the insurance. For the NFL, having to distribute the big payday would carry the kind of buzz the league wants from this program.
"We'd be thrilled for somebody to pick the perfect lineup and win the prize," Berman said. "That would be a terrific outcome."