Fan base complexity sets up intense competition for attentionPublished June 27, 2011
1. American sports interests are dominated by three sports.
“What is your favorite sport?” is asked as an open-ended question on The ESPN Sports Poll, and more than 100 sports or varieties of sport are mentioned every month. But football, basketball and baseball account for 68.9 percent of all mentions, and 87.9 percent of Americans are fans of at least one of those three sports; 51 percent are avid fans of at least one. And the 11 sports listed in Chart 1 have dominated the interest for the 17 years of Sports Poll and account for 92.5 percent of preferences in sports today.
2. But Americans like variety.
Thirty-three sports properties can claim at least 15 percent of the population in their fan base. And on average, Americans follow nine sports as a fan. Few people are dedicated to one sport, let alone one specific league within a sport. There is no such thing as an “NBA fan” (a sport picked at random for illustration, in Chart 2).
Sports to a fan is like food to a human. As eaters, humans like variety. We have favorite foods and foods we eat more often than others and foods we never eat, but nobody eats just one kind of food. In the same way, sports fans, on average, carry a potential menu of nine sports.
But notice that far fewer NBA avid fans are avid fans of other sports. This suggests sponsorship strategies, like T-Mobile and basketball, that cross the spectrum of one of the big three sports are casting a wider net and may be getting greater success than those that focus on a single property.
3. The bigger the fan, the greater the competition for the person’s time.
Sports fan avidity peaks between the ages of 12-17, when we have lots of time and little responsibility. So they spread their interests over more sports. As we age, we have higher priorities in life than sports and we start to cut back on the number of sports we follow. But it gets worse. There is no such thing as a “sports fan.” We are just people with limited free time and resources, and it turns out that the bigger the sports fan, the greater the interest in activities outside of sports (movies, concerts, outdoor activities, etc.).
Chart 3 shows the differences in free time priority by level of sports fan avidity. Only true avid sports fans have sports fan activity as a high priority. But avid fans also give the highest priority scores for every one of the eight traits compared with all other Americans. And from current Sports Poll data, avid sports fans also index significantly higher than the rest of Americans on hours spent social networking, going to movies and concerts, and on other non-sports activities. So avid sports fans are also America’s most active segment of the population.
The good news, in addition to sports being a top social priority, is that avid fans are also the most frequent sports spenders and are aware of and appreciate what sponsors do more than the rest.
Bottom line: There is a LOT of competition for your fans’ time and money. While the competition for avid fans is even greater, it’s clear the greatest payoff comes from taking care of them first. That starts by thinking more about the complete fan experience.
Rich Luker (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the founder of Luker on Trends and The ESPN Sports Poll.
Marketing and Sponsorship
Labor and Agents
BeRecruited.com buys Fanvibe, names Prabhakara CEO
FanVision makes push with PGA Tour
Fox nearly sold out for game, and ESPN’s in the same neighborhood for Home Run Derby
Asking 40 cents a subscriber, Longhorn Network looks to round up distribution
NFL shops new 8-game package
Polar to build apps for MLBPA, NFL Players
Goal: Versus’ new name on-screen by Jan. 1
Versus expands, links Tour coverage to NBCSports.com
Events and Attractions
It’s all about the activation
Bigelow makes tea manly through spots
Chase delivers the rewards
Cisco brings it home
Coke, NASCAR get the party started
Comcast connects with Hispanics
Head & Shoulders reinvents the brand
Hugo Boss likes the look
Mercedes-Benz hits the social highway
Nike 6.0 throws the ultimate house party
State Farm goes to bat
Taco Bell goes mobile with truck, activation