Latest Sports Fan Market Trends Reflect a Changing Environment


In many ways 2015 can be considered a landmark year for the business of sports. It was a year featuring rapid technological advances at sports venues, substantial growth of online viewing, substantially increased social media activity, an expanding market for sports logo apparel, and increasing involvement in fantasy sports, all occurring while the total fan base remained relatively stable.

Updating SBRnet’s Fan Market Report content is progressing on schedule, with all 2015 information to be posted on or before February 15. Most information for all individual sport categories has already been posted. Some summary tables have been completed (attendance, total fan market trends, fantasy sports, tv viewership, total logo apparel trends and the Sponsorship Influence Index.

Here are some of the more interesting trends from our 2015 study:

Total Fan Base

The fan base for major sport categories remained generally stable in 2015, rising or falling negligibly, while niche sports such as IndyCar, high school football and MMA achieved strong gains. Some major sport categories grew between 2014 and 2015, but the number of fans for every major sport category in 2015 was less than the number during at least one of the four previous years.

Chart 1: Trends in Number of Sports Fans, 2011-2015, by Sport Category

*A Fan is defined as an individual who attended and/or watched at least one game/event during the year.

Attendance: Trends in Number of Fans Attending at Least One Game/Event

As reflected in Chart 2 below, the number of fans attending games has either remained steady or declined for most sport categories between 2011 and 2015. The number of fans attending at least one game during the year in 2015 equaled or exceeded the number attending in 2011 only for NFL fans and MLS fans. Also, the number of fans attending high school football increased significantly between 2014 and 2015 (HS Football was not measured before 2014).

This is not an exact reflection of total attendance trends because the number of fans frequently attending games can change from year to year, but it does reflect a lack of growth in the number of fans who attended at least one game.

Chart 2: Trends in Number of Sports Fans Attending at Least One Game/Event, 2011-2015, by Sport Category


Social Media Trends: Facebook and Twitter

Facebook and Twitter both experienced explosive growth in 2015, reflecting the same trend as that for online viewing, which was reported in our previous newsletter (check out blog to locate if you haven’t already read our January 18 issue). The increasing significance of both social media and streaming by sports fans suggests, among other things, that college students seeking a career in sport management will be well served by developing as much knowledge and expertise as possible in these two forms of communication.

Chart 3: Trends in Number of Sports Fans Using Facebook For Major Sport Categories, 2011-2015

Chart 4: Trends in Number of Sports Fans Using Twitter For Major Sport Categories, 2011-2015

Fantasy Sports

The increasing popularity of Fantasy sports is reflected in the Chart 5 below, which indicates dramatic growth each year over the past five years, particularly in 2015, of the number of players. Although fantasy is most popular among NFL and college football fans (primarily because of their large fan base), growth has been significant across the entire sports fan marketplace.

Chart 5: Trends in Number of Fans Played Fantasy Sports (for any sport) Among Fans, by Sport Category, 2012-2015


Post-Season Success Boost’s Favorite MLB Team Ranking in SBRnet Fan Study

In 2013 we reported the popularity of major professional sports teams based on the percentage of fans rating each team as their “favorite.” We repeated this measurement in our 2015 study, and results provide an interesting documentation of how post-season success can affect a team’s favorability ranking, as reflected below for the KC Royals, New York Mets, and Chicago Cubs (rankings improved) vs declines for the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals.

Table 1: MLB Team Favorites Rank, 2015 vs. 2013, Top 15 Teams

Rankings for all teams in all five major leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, MLS and NHL) are updated in the “Favorite Team” link for each league on the website. To locate the rankings, click on the sport ie baseball, etc., then find the link “MLB Favorite Team Ranking,” etc.

Next Issue

In the next issue, we will introduce a valuable new sponsorship feature, that is, our Brand Penetration Index (BPI), which provides detailed brand preferences for a wide range of consumer products from leading sports sponsors.

Posted: 2/1/2016 2:29:06 PM

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Only SBRnet provides nationwide analysis of statistical trends in each major segment of the sports market and the extent to which they interrelate.

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