Social Media, Online Viewing, and Logo Apparel Purchasing Increased for NFL Fans in 2015

The most recent results of SBRnet’s 2015 Fan Market Study are in the process of being posted, however, we would like to share an interesting preliminary analysis of data from NFL fans. For these fans, several major segments of the market exhibited strong gains, notably online viewing, social media engagement, logo apparel purchasing, and favorable attitudes toward sponsors. This Newsletter is the first in a series of three issues that will feature 2015 SBRnet Fan Market Study highlights.


The chart below reflects the dramatic growth of viewing NFL games online between 2011 and 2015.  The number of fans viewing games online more than doubled from, 11,000,000 in 2011, to more than 25,000,000 in 2015.

Of all NFL fans viewing games online, the age demographic with the highest growth rate between 2014 and 2015 was the 35-49 age group, as shown in Chart 2 below.

While Online Viewing Grows, Attendance and TV Viewing of NFL Games Remains “Constant” from 2011 to 2015

While the number of NFL fans viewing games online has more than doubled over the past five years (Chart 1 above), the number attending games and/or viewing games on TV, see Chart 3 below, has remained relatively constant during the same period.

Online Viewing vs. TV Viewing of NFL Games

However, while the percent of NFL fans viewing four or more games a year on TV increased steadily from 2011 to 2014 (see Chart 4 below), the percent declined slightly in 2015. Whether or not the decline will continue in the future remains to be seen. However, even if the decline continues, the cause of the decline may or may not be a function of the increase in online viewing, but from some other market dynamic. What might be some of the reasons for the decline?

Which Segments of the NFL Fan Base Most Frequently View NFL Games Online?

We examined the detailed statistics report (to be posted to the website on or before February 15) for NFL fans in order to determine which market segments most frequently view NFL games online . Results of this analysis, summarized below in Chart 5, illustrate the wide range of market segments that frequently view games online.  Online viewers are clearly above-average, when compared with all NFL fans, with respect to social media engagement, logo apparel purchasing, attending games, currently play football, use online devices to purchase tickets, and are in the 18-49 age demographic.

*Calculating the Index: The Index for each of the market segments above was calculated by dividing the percentage of online NFL viewers by the percentage of all NFL fans in that specific segment. 100 Represents the average for each market segment.

Critical Thinking Questions Related To Online Viewing

  1. Over the long term, will online viewing have a neutral, negative, or positive effect on NFL game attendance? On viewing NFL games on TV? What are the assumptions on which you are basing your response? Are they valid? What alternative scenarios do you possibly see occurring with respect to online viewing?
  2. What impact, if any, do you believe increasing engagement with social media will have on online viewing levels? Will this occur within most demographics or just with the younger demographic.
  3. How important do you think the introduction of smaller sized tablets will have on the growth of online viewership? Again, what are the assumptions on which you based your response.
  4. What activation strategy recommendations would you suggest for NFL sponsors interested capitalizing on the rapid expansion of viewing NFL games online? Should sponsors move advertising dollars from other media, i.e. TV, social media, and radio to online NFL broadcasts? Would they risk losing loyal consumers if they reduce media expenditures on TV and social media?

SBRnet 2015 Fan Market Update Schedule

SBRnet Fan market reports are now being updated with 2015 statistics. The schedule is:

  1. NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS and NHL reports are updated.
  2. NASCAR, College Football, College Basketball and Minor League Baseball will be updated on or before January 25th.
  3. IndyCar, Minor League Hockey, and MMA reports will be updated on or before February 1.
  4. Remaining categories (Soccer (non-USA), Tennis, WNBA, Running, Golf, plus summary tables, will be updated on or before February 15, 2015.
  5. A new series of tables covering online viewing has been added to MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, College FB, College BB, NASCAR, Golf, Tennis and running. These tables are identified in each Menu on the Sport page as “Online Viewing Profile.”

NEW Content:

  1. As previously announced, consumer brand preferences for 14 different consumer product categories (automobiles, automobile insurance, credit cards, car rental agencies, airlines, soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, basketball shoes, running shoes, cross training shoes, cell phones, cell phone services, and brokerage services) will be reported on a category-by-category basis on or before February 15.
  2. Favorite team rankings for 2015 for major league teams also were captured in the most recent study, and have been added to the “Favorite Team Ranking” section for each League (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS).

Posted: 1/15/2016 12:38:42 PM

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