many are really considered so-called “real fans” who follow their favorite team or teams even if they don’t go to games. A Chicago-based social media analytics firm recently answered this question with data that shows gender, age, income and racial background of NFL fans.
StatSocial examined over 50 million social media users from 60 different sites and put together a top-down listing of NFL teams. “We looked at every single person [who uses social media], all the different races and ethnicities” in compiling the reported data, said CEO Michael Hussey in a recent MSR phone interview.
His firm found only 12 percent was Black, and a similar percentage was Latino. “We are looking at these people on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest — 50 different social networks — and then we organized the accounts they follow,” he said.
New England is first with 5.5 million fans, and Arizona is last (30th) with 1.3 million — Minnesota is 10th with 3.8 million fans, reports Hussey. “I thought that the [Dallas] Cowboys would be number one because they are ‘America’s Team,’” he continued. “But we find that Boston-based teams are pretty much close to the top. I think that’s because of how connected the younger college student, the younger social media fans who use it, are.”
Over a third of NFL social media fans are ages 25-34, and 16 percent are ages 18-24, adds StatSocial.
However, no NFL player made the top five in athlete popularity on social media: NBAers LeBron James and Kevin Durant are one and two, and retired player Shaquille O’Neal is third.
“I think the reason is the NBA is much more a star-driven league versus the NFL, which is more team-driven. There are stars in the NFL, but they aren’t promoted,” surmised Hussey.
The Atlantic magazine in September found that NFL fans on Facebook tend to be regional. Minnesota, for example, is mostly favored by in-state folk, but also in North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. Wisconsin, as expected, is Green Bay country, and Michigan belongs to the Detroit Lions with the exception of the southern Upper Peninsula, which leans more toward the Packers.
“Data like this is always fun and helps us get at questions that are otherwise unanswerable,” wrote Atlantic Associate Editor Robinson Mayer.
Sports Business Journal late last year noted that the NFL “has seen consistent growth” among its female fan base, especially those women who watch NFL games on television over the last decade.
Hussey told the MSR that his research usually is used by media, PR companies and sports agents “who use this information for leverage for endorsement deals” for their athlete-client, but it’s also available to the public for “general interest.”
Unequal distribution of the wealth
According to the Football Bowl Association (FBA) fact sheet, “No conference loses money on bowl games… Bowl games paid out $309,915,067 in gross payouts to institutions last year, and revenues in excess of institutional expenses totaled over $212 million.” And what benefits “beyond the playing field” did the players receive?
U of M sophomore player Isaac Hayes told me after his team played in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando Fla., “We got a Best Buy gift card, a real nice watch, T-shirt, and a Visa gift card,” which is the NCAA-allowable gift each player can receive from bowl organizers. Going to the Universal Studios Theme Park “was more fun than anything,” he added.
With the issue of fair compensation for college athletes still being discussed, is something economically imbalanced here?
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.