NFL, MLB Fans Differ With Respect To Sponsor Influence

SBRnet’s Sponsorship Influence Index (SSI)
One of the most widely used SBRnet datasets is our exclusive Sponsorship Influence Index (SSI), which reflects the degree to which fans are likely to purchase a sponsor’s product. The Index is developed as follows:

  1. All Fans ages 13+ interviewed in our annual nationwide Fan Survey were asked to rate (on a five point scale, from “Extremely Likely” to “Not at All Likely”) to purchase a product or service offered by a specific sport’s sponsor.

The following steps were used to calculate the SSI

  • The percentages of fans of a specific sport category (NFL, NBA, etc.) that selected either “Extremely Likely” or “Very Likely” to purchase a product or service from a sponsor, were added together. The total of these two percentages is used to calculate the index.
  • The same process was used for fans in all market segments of the SBRnet Fan Survey, for example, in demographic categories such as the 13-17 age group, HH income of $100,000 or more, frequent TV viewers, etc.
  • The Index is created by taking the combined percentages (“Extremely Likely” and “Very Likely”) for a market segment within a specific sport category, and dividing that by the value of fans in that market segment. For example, if 20% of all MLB fans answered “Extremely Likely” or “Very Likely,” and the percentage of 13-17-year-olds in the MLB sport category was 25%, the SSI is 125 (25 divided by 20).

Calculating the index provides the opportunity to determine, within any given fan base, which segments of the market are most likely to purchase a sponsor’s product or service. A summary of the results comparing MLB fans with NFL fans is described below.

Sponsorship Influence Index: MLB vs. NFL

In Chart 1 below, a higher percentage of NFL fans (18.6%) than MLB fans (12.3%) responded that they were “extremely likely” or “very likely” influenced by companies sponsoring NFL and MLB events. This difference is well beyond sampling error (plus/minus 1.3%) for this particular measurement. Discuss higher levels of influence first before “slightly”.

Nearly half of all fans or both leagues indicated they were at least “slightly influenced” by sport sponsors.

Segment-by-Segment Analytics

In Chart 2 below, the SSI is analyzed according to frequency of attending games. The SSI for all fans who attend games is similar among fans for both leagues. However, among fans who attend games on a frequent basis (4+ games/year), MLB fans have a significantly higher SSI (177) than NFL fans (138).

Turning to Chart 3, the SSI for TV viewers exhibit a very different pattern compared with attendees (Chart 2 above). The SSI for MLB and NFL fans are similar on an overall basis (104 among NFL fans vs. 100 among MLB fans). However, occasional and infrequent NFL fans has a significantly higher SSI relative to MLB fans, with the greatest disparity favoring NFL fans who view 1-2 games a year.

Chart 4 below, reflecting the SSI among fans who view games online, portrays a clear advantage for MLB. This advantage exists when comparing all online viewers, as well as for fans who view games online on a frequent basis (3+ games/year).

As would be expected based on findings reported in Chart 4 (above), the SSI portrayed in Chart 5 below significantly favors MLB compared with NFL among Smartphone and Computer viewers. Interestingly, the SSI is comparable among Tablet users for both leagues. This suggests that it is important for sponsors to maximize their activation strategies for Smartphones.

Chart 6 below is a comparison between NFL and MLB fans for a variety of meaningful market segments that are different from those reported above. For most of these segments, the SSI for MLB fans is higher than for NFL Fans.

Summing up…

As we’ve discussed previously in SBRnet Newsletters, fans of different sport categories (NFL, NBA, MLB, etc.) usually don’t have similar consumer behavior for the same measurement. And in the examples above, this holds true when considering the influence of sport sponsorship on their buying preferences.

An overview of the data above suggest that, as a group, NFL fans are more favorable towards their sponsors than MLB fans. While this could be the result of many factors, NFL’s overwhelming national TV audience advantage (averaging midteens for NFL vs. low single digits for MLB), plus the NFL’s sponsorship revenue advantage ($1.5 billion for NFL v. $695 billion for MLB, according to IEG), might be considered to be major factors driving NFL’s SSI advantage.

However, when we look at segments of fans who are highly devoted to their respective leagues (MLB & NFL), such as frequent attendees, online viewers, and social media users, MLB fans are more likely to be favorably inclined toward a sponsor’s product or service than are NFL fans. It is interesting to note that the NFL just concluded a major deal with Yahoo to stream games, receiving widespread sponsor support, suggesting that NFL sponsors are already aware of the value of the online viewing audience. Advertisers signing up include: American Express, Applebee’s, Arby’s, Bose, Burlington Stores, Cadillac, Chrysler, CiCi’s Pizza, Citi,, Dairy Queen, Danone Nations Cup,, Emirates Airline, Esurance, KFC, Kohl’s, Lincoln, Microsoft, Nationwide, Papa John’s, Redd’s Apple Ale, Snickers, Subway, T-Mobile, Totino’s and Toyota.

Could it be that the NFL, recognizing opportunities to generate favorability among sponsors, is beginning a major push into the high-value onlline audience? We’ll see.

Posted: 11/9/2015 9:44:24 AM

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