Seasonal fantasy leagues are long-term commitments. As such, it's customary to award league champs (and sometimes other standout teams) with fantasy football prizes for their dominance.
But if you've ever discussed fantasy football prize ideas with your league, you know that there are many different award options. But how do you go about selecting the best fantasy football prizes for your league?
If you're searching for the perfect fantasy football prize, or even just looking for new award ideas to integrate into an existing league, you're in the right place! Today I break down the most popular fantasy football prize ideas of 2021.
A Comparison of Fantasy Football Prize Ideas in 2021
To earn a fantasy football award in 2021, you need to field an excellent team or an exceptionally poor team. That's because fantasy football prize leagues usually present to both the best teams and the worst teams.
Although it has always been standard practice to award the league champ with a prize, more and more leagues are recognizing their worst teams as well (and not in a good way). Let's compare prize ideas for both fantasy football winners and fantasy football losers.
Comparing winner prize ideas for the best fantasy teams
This table compares the most popular winner prize ideas of 2021, along with my top-rated award in each prize category. This list covers expensive fantasy prize ideas all the way down to free awards.
I'll talk about each prize idea in more detail below (just click the more ideas link). You can also click on any of the top prize links to check their current price.
Pros & Cons
Perpetual Champion Trophies
Cash Payout Prizes
Comparing loser prize ideas for the worst fantasy teams
In the same way that winner prizes promote competition at the top, embarrassing trophies can encourage your worst teams to avoid the league cellar. In a separate article, I cover these funny fantasy football trophies in detail.
Pros & Cons
Perpetual Loser Trophies
Single-year Loser Trophies
Why the Best Leagues Award Fantasy Football Prizes
Fantasy football awards are a crucial component of every successful league because they provide a tangible prize the drives competition. Every fantasy sports league that cares about longevity should award a prize to the most successful team or teams.
Prizes take many forms and can include league perks (like high draft position), money, or a keepsake tangible like a championship trophy, ring, or belt.
Award recipients also vary wildly from league to league. Some leagues choose to only award to the league champion, others give a fantasy prize to both the league champion and playoff teams, and a few leagues award prizes to teams that score the most points.
There's no hard and fast rule, and you should implement a prize structure that works for your league owners and more importantly, your budget.
Let's look at a few of the reasons why fantasy football leagues should always reward their best teams.
Fantasy dominance should be recognized and rewarded
Dr. Jana Gallus, a pioneer in the economics of awards, believe that awards are all about legacy and prestige. And when you think about it, that's a big part of what drives fantasy football enthusiasts.
Every fantasy football owner wants to be known as the guy who dominates the league. That's really why we play. It means we get bragging rights and the privilege of talking shit to the other owners for the entire offseason.
And what is the best way for us to record those owners who establish a legacy of dominance? You guessed it, a fantasy football prize.
The best fantasy football awards are reasonably priced
Unfortunately, free fantasy contests offering big prizes are rare. Most leagues have to raise at least a little cash to be able to award cool fantasy football prizes. If you want all of the benefits that a league prize offers, then a league entry fee is something you'll need to consider (at a minimum).
Many fantasy commissioners researching prize options assume that the best awards are financially unrealistic. The truth is you can purchase even the most expensive fantasy football league prizes with the funds from a reasonable, one-time league entry fee.
For example, the best fantasy football trophy on the market (that can record 24 years worth of league champions) would only require a one-time league entry fee of $12. That's insanely cheap for a prize that will undoubtedly outlast the league itself.
Because of the ability to spread the cost across the entire league, there is no reason not to invest in a quality league prize for your league.
Fantasy prizes help promote league participation
There is nothing worse than playing in a fantasy football league where the owners are not engaged. An awesome championship prize is something tangible that can help motivate everyone to put their best foot forward.
Even better, prizes sprinkles throughout the fantasy season (like weekly prizes) can encourage even more engagement. I discuss weekly fantasy football prizes a bit later.
Fantasy Winner Football Prize Ideas for 2021
Fantasy standouts, whether they be the overall champion or weekly high scorers, should always be rewarded in some form or fashion. For many years, the most popular fantasy prize was the trophy.
But over the years, the fantasy prize market has become more and more diversified. Some of the most innovative awards of 2021 were not even on the market a decade ago.
Next, I present an overview of the most popular fantasy prizes and a few ideas on how to intelligently integrate these prizes into your leagues (and get the most bang for your buck).
1. Awarding fantasy football championship belts
For those leagues in which your owners want to put their championship bravado on display, nothing will get attention like a fantasy football championship belt.
If anyone in your league tries to talk smack about your fantasy belt idea, a DDT be may be in order?
The most popular fantasy football belts
If these belt designs don't appeal to you, check out these fantasy football websites that sell unique and hand-made fantasy belts.
My favorite fantasy football championship belt idea
If you've decided to spring for a fantasy football belt, I think you should go all the way and create a completely customized belt.
Because a customized belt isn't that much more expensive than a standard belt. And you get to create a truly one-of-a-kind belt.
Undisputed Belt is the only fantasy merchant that sells a belt that can be completely customized, from the center plate to the end-plates. Click on the custom belt below to check out their custom belt gallery for more ideas and inspiration.
2. Presenting a fantasy ring as a seasonal prize
Championship rings for fantasy sports have been around for several years. But until recently, most rings on the market were costly and only offered by companies that specialized in the ring market, like Jostens.
Expensive championship rings are no longer the norm as there are now a plethora of affordable rings available (if you know where to look).
In some leagues, a championship ring will be a hard sell to your owners.
Because peoples' ring sizes vary, sometimes wildly.
As such, it only makes sense to award a ring if you plan on buying a new ring every year. And you'll have to wait until the champ is determined so you'll know their ring size.
Ideas for pitching a fantasy ring prize
The two most common arguments against fantasy football rings are the yearly price and differences in style preferences among your owners. If you want to award rings in your league, you'll have to overcome these obstacles.
Addressing the issue of different style preferences
It's a given that each of your league owners will have their own idea of how a stylish fantasy football ring looks. Some will insist that bling is better, while others will prefer a more modest look.
To solve this problem, simply let the league championship choose his ring. Think about it. You can't buy a ring until you know who the champion is anyway as you'll need to know their ring size.
So choose a set of 5-10 rings that are within your league budget and let the champ pick their championship ring. There are many different fantasy ring styles available in 2021.
How to raise money for rings in a tight league
Raising funds for a new ring each year means you'll have to generate new yearly funds from your league owners. Some owners are stingy and more fees will be a tough sell.
Here are some ideas you can utilize to garner some support:
- Put a cap on the ring price, say $70. My top-rated ring of 2021 is cheaper than that.
- Explain that a $70 ring spread across an entire league isn't much, less than $6 per owner in a 12 man league.
- Award a weekly prize, but delinquent owners must forfeit their payout to help finance the champ's ring.
- Charge a small amount for league trades, say $5 per owner. Use this to finance the champion ring.
- Play a free NFL pick 'em as a side-game for $10 per owner. Winner gets half the money, other half finances the yearly ring.
3. Fantasy football trophy ideas for traditionalists
Although trophies are losing popularity in fantasy circles, they're still a great way to recognize your top players. The best fantasy football trophies are very cool and can be a smart choice for a few reasons:
- Trophies are inexpensive compared to other fantasy prizes
- Trophies typically have more space to engrave more league champs
- Trophies are the most agreeable fantasy football prize
Let's look at a few ideas for how you can integrate trophies into your leagues.
Pass a perpetual trophy among league champs
If your league is budget conscious but also likes the idea of rewarding the league champion every year, then a perpetual fantasy trophy is your best option. A perpetual trophy front-loads the price of the championship prize.
But it's also a one-time purchase as it can be passed to the new champion each year.
Want to gain an edge in your upcoming fantasy football draft? An informative 2021 fantasy football magazine can act as both a refresher and a way to learn about new rookies entering the league. I reviewed the best football magazines, so you don't have to.
If you've never seen a perpetual fantasy league trophy, they are usually larger than standard trophies. The extra space allows them to have one large or many small engravable plates for recording the team and owner names (and sometimes the fantasy team logo) of many league champions.
The trophies featured below support the engraving of 10 to 18 champions.
Award champs a single-year trophy to keep each year
Some owners don't like the idea of sharing their championship prize with others. If most of the owners in your league feel this way, you can opt to award a different fantasy trophy every year.
The prices for trophies have come down substantially in recent years, so it isn't out of the ordinary to find a great one-year championship trophy for under $40. Even if your league is comprised entirely of penny-pinchers, a nominal entry fee of $5 should be more than enough to purchase a different trophy each year for the champion to keep.
Below are some of the best single-year trophies available from Amazon.
4. Deck out your best owner in championship gear
Fantasy football championship gear has been around for a while. Gear can be a cheap alternative to a yearly fantasy trophy if your league is on a budget but still wants to award a tangible prize.
Fashionable championship attire can include shirts, hats, sweatshirts, hoodies, jackets, and more. Here are a few of the most popular championship gear on Amazon.
This type of fantasy gear can also make a cool fantasy football gift idea.
5. A Contemporary League Prize with a Classic Twist
Leatherhead crafts vintage leather footballs the way they used to be made, with care and precision. In addition to footballs, they also make classic basketballs, baseballs, even medicine balls.
In addition to being an incredible example of expert craftsmanship, these football can also make a stellar prize for your fantasy football league. That's because you can request that each football be personalized with your league's details: the league name, the year, and the champion's team name.
If you don't like their standard customization options, you can design your own custom football prize from the ground-up. For those older leagues looking for a more classy prize (Hey Boomer!), this could be the perfect award for your league champ.
6. Pay your league owners in cold, hard cash
When it comes to considering awards of any type, it's hard to go wrong with cash. Money makes the world go round, and no one has ever been disappointed when someone places a stack of bills in their hand.
Yes, it's true. A beautiful, shiny perpetual trophy can add character and a touch of class to your otherwise embarrassing and dysfunctional fantasy league.
But a trophy can't help make it rain, can it?
If money is what all of your league owners are after, you should check out fantasy football cash leagues. These types of leagues specialized in organizing, filling, and managing seasonal leagues with only cash payouts. They do take a portion of the entry fees, but they also handle all of the commissioner duties.
Fantasy football league payout ideas for your champ and playoff teams
In addition to awarding the league champion, some leagues award the other teams that make the playoffs. Prizes for playoff teams that didn't win the championship are almost always a cash prize of some sort.
While cash prizes for playoff teams are generally quite small compared to the champion's payout, it's customary to award playoff teams with enough money to (at least) cover the cost of their league entry fee.
Naturally, paying all playoff teams becomes more expensive as the size of your playoff bracket grows. As such, monetary prizes are much more applicable to a 4-team playoff than a 6-team playoff configuration.
Choosing the best cash payout structure for your league
I think the best fantasy football payout structures become possible when the entry fee is roughly $100 per owner. A $100 entry fee is enough to ensure you can pay your champ handsomely and each of your playoff teams wins their entry fee back.
Here are three fantasy football payout ideas that you can use as a starting point based on your league configuration. I based each payout structure on 12 teams with varying entry fees and playoff pool sizes.
Payout Scenario 1
12 team / 4 team playoff / $100 entry
- Champion - $600
- 2nd Place - $300
- 3rd Place - $200
- 4th Place - $100
Payout Scenario 2
12 team / 6 team playoff / $100 entry
- Champion - $425
- 2nd Place - $225
- 3rd Place - $175
- 4th Place - $150
- 5th Place - $125
- 6th Place - $100
Payout Scenario 3
12 team / 4 team playoff / $10 entry
- Champion - $120
This structure doesn't seem nearly as enticing, does it?
Encourage participation with weekly fantasy football prizes
If your league entry fee is substantial ($100 or more), then you should strongly consider presenting fantasy football weekly awards to owners with the highest point total each week.
The idea behind weekly prizes is to encourage league participation late in the season. A weekly prize provides poor teams with an incentive to improve their team and start their best players.
In leagues without weekly prizes, teams without playoffs hopes frequently stop actively participating. This can lead to a situation where other teams get an easy win toward the end of the NFL season when teams are vying for a playoff birth.
No fantasy owners (especially those fighting for a playoff spot) want to see other teams get an easy win because of the lack of participation from bottom-tier teams. By incorporating a weekly prize, you're encouraging everyone to stay active and give their best effort throughout the entire fantasy season.
Payout scenario ideas for weekly prizes
Let's expand on the previous payout scenarios to include a weekly prize award.
Weekly Prize Scenario 1
12 teams / 14 week season / 4 playoff teams /$100 entry
- Champion - $400
- 2nd Place - $225
- 3rd Place - $125
- 4th Place - $100
- Weekly Prize - $25
Weekly Prize Scenario 2
12 teams / 14 week season / 6 playoff teams / $100 entry
- Champion - $325
- 2nd Place - $200
- 3rd Place - $175
- 4th Place - $140
- 5th Place - $120
- 6th Place - $100
- Weekly Prize - $10
Weekly Prize Scenario 3
12 teams / 14 week season / 4 team playoff / $10 entry
- Champion - $120
A weekly prize is not practical in this scenario. A better option would be to use final standings as a basis for the following year's draft order.
One final note regarding giving cash prizes to weekly high scorers: some owners will protest taking any money away from the playoff teams' or champion's prize pool. Just remind them that the law of averages says the best teams will naturally win the most weekly prizes.
7. Award league perks in free or low-budget leagues
I can't imagine playing in a league with no championship prize, but I'm sure they exist. If you run a league that doesn't have much cash flow, you'll need to brainstorm some league perks to encourage participation.
Let's look at few examples of free fantasy football league awards.
- Higher draft positions - Base next year's draft positions to the outcome of the current season.
- Higher choice of draft position - Better yet, let the top-seeded teams have the first choice of draft position.
- Top Waiver Position - Give the better teams higher waiver positions the following year.
- Team Naming Rights - The champion gets to pick the team name and logo of the last-placed team.
- Owner Invite Rights - The best teams get to appoint new league members before other teams.
- League Configuration Rights - The champ is allowed to change one rule each year.