Off Topic: Who Are NFL Fans?

Today is the first Sunday of the 2016 NFL season. (Go Pats!)

So I tapped into our Q1 2016 benchmark of U.S, consumers to look at the make-up of NFL fans, examining the consumers who say they like watching the NFL (and other pro sports) on TV. As you can see in the chart below:

  • NFL is the king of U.S. pro sports. The appeal for football is more than 20-points higher than baseball and basketball.
  • Older males love the NFL. Males of every age like to watch football more than their female peers, and the level of interest increases with every increase of age. For females, 45 to 54 is the prime time for NFL interest.
  • Gender gap jumps at 35. For consumers who are 35 and older, the gap between male and female NFL fans is more than 20 points.
  • More income means more NFL. Consumers who earn $100K or more are considerably more active fans of the NFL on TV than are those who earn less.
  • Sheraton’s customers are NFL fans. We examined the customer bases of 318 companies across 20 industries. The level of NFL fandom ranges from a high of 74% of Sheraton’s customers down to 48% of Empire BCBS’ customers.

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Off Topic: Young Adults Turn Off Baseball, Turn On Soccer

One of the things I noticed at this year’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is that teams were not as focused on the issue of losing younger fans. So I decided to see if there’s anything to worry about. While we don’t have data on kids, we do have lots of data on young adults.

I tapped into our 2012 and 2016 consumer benchmark studies to examine the percentage of of 18- to 24-year-olds who enjoy watching sports on TV. It turns out that:

  • The top 3 major league sports across all U.S. adults this year is football/NFL (56%), baseball/MLB (35%), and basketball/NBA (33%). For young adults, the top three are the NFL (46%), the NBA (38%), and soccer/MLS (23%).
  • Over the past four years, young adults have lost some interest in five of the eight sports we examine.
  • MLB has dropped the most (down 3.4 %-points) followed by NASCAR (down 2.6 %-points).
  • MLS has increased the most (up 7.1 points) followed by the NBA (up 2.5 points).

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14 Highlights From the 2016 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

This week, I made my 5th annual pilgrimage to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. As always, I really enjoyed hearing players, owners, general managers, members of the press, and experts discuss two of my favorite topics: #sports and #analytics.

This was the 10th year of the conference. I want to say congratulations and thank you to the two co-founders and leaders of this great event:

  • Jessica Gelman (VP of Customer Marketing & Strategy, The Kraft Sports Group)
  • Daryl Morey (General Manager, Houston Rockets)

Moneyball Reunion

The conference opened up with a session called Moneyball Reunion, looking back at the book that fueled the sports analytics movement. Jackie MacMullen led a panel with Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball), Bill James (godfather of sports analytics), and Paul DePodesta (key player it the Moneyball story and now Chief Strategy Office of Cleveland Browns). Here’s one of my favorite scenes from the Moneyball movie:

Interesting comments from Michael Lewis:

  • He started out researching an article on financial inequities in baseball, wondering what the Oakland Athletics’ right fielder (who made $100K/year) felt about the fact that the right fielder was making $4M/year.
  • Bill James referred to a picture of the baseball diamond that was on his wall as a “field of ignorance.”
  • “Billy Beane had to learn not to trust his intuitive judgement.”
  • When he looked at the Oakland Athletics coming out of the shower for the first time, he was shocked at how fat and un-athletic they looked. He went on to say that the trick was to “find people with some defect that was overvalued.”

Interesting comments from Bill James:

  • I was just trying to get from a question to an answer. I never thought of the use of the data by baseball professionals.”
  • There was a lot of discussion about what people can’t do, which is irrelevant. What’s important is what people can do…. You win games with what people can do.”
  • When MacMullen asked how to speed up the game of baseball today, James said to get rid of the balk rule. He said the balk rule slows down the game the same that basketball would be slowed down if the fast break was eliminated.

14 Key Highlights From the Conference

Here are some other key themes that I heard during the conference. They don’t represent a full view of the event, because I only attended a subset of the sessions.

Read more of this post

11 Highlights From the 2015 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

This week, I attended the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Once again, I really enjoyed hearing players, owners, general managers, members of the press, and experts discuss two of my favorite topics: #sports and #analytics. Here are 11 highlights from the sessions that I attended:

1) The Van Gundy family is entertaining. My highlights from last year’s conference included several memorable quotes from Stan Van Gundy (Coach of the Detroit Pistons). While Stan didn’t speak at the conference this year, his brother Jeff Van Gundy (ESPN Analyst and Former NBA Coach) who said that his brother “Stan has steel balls” filled the void with his very outspoken approach. One of the funniest moments was Van Gundy’s rant about how to coach a 4th grade girls basketball team [in response to something that I heard Vivek Ranadivé (Majority Owner, Sacramento Kings) say last year]. He pretty much said that the trick is to get two of the lower performing girls not to show up so that you can have your two best girls play for most of the game.

2) Shane Battier was basketball analytics’ ground zero. Let me start by saying how impressed I was with Shane Battier (College Basketball Analyst, ESPN; Retired NBA Player). Not only was he styling some sharp green pants (see below), but he was incredibly smart and articulate. Daryl Morey (GM of the Houston Rockets), who traded for Battier, said the trade was the first one based on analytics and he got killed in the press for it. While Battier didn’t have great numbers, Morey could tell that his game was a strong complement to the Rockets’ key players, Yao Ming and Tracey McGrady. Michael Lewis, who wrote a great exposé on Battier in the New York Time called The No-Stats All-Star), described Battier as a “lab rat who understood the experiment.” Battier refined his game to focus on the places where the analytics said he added the most value to his team, defending opponents’ best player and shooting 3 point shots. Read more of this post

Female Sports Enthusiasts are the Happiest

In recent posts I explored the demographics of sports enthusiasts and the demographics of happiness. So why not  look at those two topics together? I dug into our U.S. consumer benchmark and examined the happiness of males and females who enjoy watching sports. As we know from the previous analysis, females are happier than males. But this analysis also shows that:

  • Females who enjoy golf are the happiest consumers.
  • The happiest males are those who enjoy golf, soccer, or tennis.
  • Consumers who enjoy sports are much happier than those who don’t.
  • The largest female-male happiness gap occurs with consumers who don’t enjoy sports. When it comes to sports enthusiasts, the largest gap is with golf, basketball, and football.

SportsHappinessGenderThe bottom line: Sports enthusiasts are happier people

Off Topic: Pro Sports Appeal To Different Ethnic Groups

Tomorrow and Saturday I’ll be attending the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. It’s an amazing line-up of the biggest names in sports. And they’ll be talking my language: sports, statistics, and analytics.

In honor of the conference, I did some of my own analysis of pro sports, digging into our recent consumer survey to identify which US consumers prefer watching eight different professional sports. As you can see below, the sports have strongholds with different ethnic groups:

  • Football appeals the most to African Americans
  • Basketball appeals the most to African Americans (basketball has the largest ethnic gap, 38 percentage points between African Americans and Caucasians).
  • Baseball appeals the most to Hispanics
  • NASCAR appeals the most to Caucasians
  • Hockey appeals the most to Caucasians
  • Golf appeals the most to Asians
  • Tennis appeals the most to African Americans
  • Soccer appeals the most to Hispanics

The bottom line: Analysis matters in sports, even on the business/marketing side

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