SBJ/Sept. 30-Oct. 7, 2013/Research and Ratings

Fan social media use passes a threshold

More than half of avid fans who use social media to follow sports now do so while watching their favorite team’s games, according to the 2013 Sports Fan Engagement Study conducted by Catalyst on behalf of SportsBusiness Journal.
Key takeaways

The influence of social media as a key source of sports information continues to grow among avid sports fans, especially on game day..
U.S. soccer fans are more likely than fans of the NFL, NBA, MLB, college football or college basketball to use social media as a primary source for sports information.
Almost two-thirds of fans use social media sites to receive team offers or promotions..
Fans are willing to connect with consumer brands that align themselves with sports, but fans will turn away if they feel the contact is too frequent or irrelevant.


Which of the following, if any, social media sites or location-based services do you use in relation to sports? (Select all that apply.)

  U.K. soccer fans U.S. soccer fans U.S. sports fans
Facebook 69% 72% 73%
YouTube 55% 78% 54%
Twitter 46% 45% 37%
Google+ 29% 43% 33%
Instagram 7% 25% 18%
Pinterest 3% 12% 8%
Foursquare 3% 13% 7%
Vine 2% 11% 6%

Source: Catalyst

This is the fourth consecutive year Catalyst has conducted a survey of this type. It’s the first time in-game engagement marks have surpassed 50 percent.

Fans’ use of Facebook and Twitter, specifically, during the game has increased by about 10 percentage points over the past year and by 15 percentage points compared with 2011. Pregame use on the two sites saw a 10-point jump compared with last year, while postgame activity surged 15 points. Facebook-owned Instagram saw even bigger gains.

YouTube, however, saw an overall decline in game-day activity.

“Digital engagement and sports is now a social norm,” said Bret Werner, Catalyst’s senior vice president and managing director. “Pre, during or postgame, the sports fan has [a] variety of digital channels to engage in conversation. Social media allows for the game to never end.”

Facebook remains the most used social networking site among U.S. avid sports fans and with Americans in general: 73 percent of the survey’s 2,101 avid fans have a Facebook account and use it in relation to sports. That total is down 8 percentage points from 2012 but is still higher than a Pew Research Center report released last month that indicated that 67 percent of Americans are Facebook users.

The percentage of fans who have a Google+ and/or YouTube account increased significantly over the last year.

Thinking about a typical game day, which of the following, if any, do you use before, during and after the games? (Select all that apply.)

 

 

2012 2013
Twitter Before 38% 48%
During 53% 64%
After 46% 64%
 

 

 

 

Facebook Before 39% 50%
During 45% 54%
After 55% 70%
 

 

 

 

Instagram Before 22% 35%
During 33% 54%
After 26% 56%
 

 

 

 

YouTube Before 23% 15%
During 26% 10%
After 52% 59%

Source: Catalyst

Which of the following, if any, social media sites or location-based services do you use in relation to sports? (Select all that apply.)

Across sports

 

2012 2013
Facebook 81% 73%
YouTube 40% 54%
Twitter 30% 37%
Google+ 17% 33%
Instagram 17% 18%
Pinterest 14% 8%
Foursquare 13% 7%
Vine 0% 6%

Source: Catalyst

According to the research, social media is used as a primary source of sports information more often than newspapers, radio and magazines. Only TV and nonsocial media websites are viewed as more trustworthy sources. Additionally, young fans are the most likely fans of any age group to use social networking in some way to stay connected with their favorite teams or athletes. The study also reveals that Hispanics are 1.2 times more likely than the average sports fan to use Google+.

Looking across the leagues, although a survey-high 78 percent of NFL fans use Facebook in some way to follow the league, those fans are the least likely to use any of the other popular social media sites. NBA and soccer fans, on the other hand, are twice as likely as NFL fans to use Instagram.

About one quarter of NBA fans and soccer fans said they will view and/or respond to content created by a nonsports brand that was linked in some way to their favorite sports. That response rate is higher than the rate posted by any other measured group: college basketball fans at 20 percent; MLB, NFL and college football fans all at 16 percent.

Overall, two-thirds of fans said they have “liked” a brand on Facebook, and half say they have “followed” a brand on Twitter based on having seen a particular brand’s promotion during a sporting event or broadcast. More importantly to marketers, one-third of these fans said they purchased or used the brand’s service after connecting with the brand via the sports platform.

Soccer fans were the most receptive to such opportunities, with 72 percent of that sport’s respondents saying they’ve taken such steps through Facebook, and 60 percent via Twitter.

But fans across sports say it is still a fine line: More than half indicated that they had “un-liked” or “un-followed” a brand because the company was either “posting/tweeting too often” or was sending “irrelevant information.”

“Sports fans are willing to take an action that has business impact, such as making purchases or recommendations,” Werner said. “Brands need to earn their right to be part of the community, by having the right dialogue, offerings and content to engage them, or [fans] are more likely than ever to disengage. The fan is smart enough to know when a brand is not part of the authentic sports conversation.”

This year’s survey was for the first time replicated in the U.K. and Brazil during the same time period, targeting exclusively avid soccer fans in those two regions. Full results from those studies were not available as of press time, but according to Catalyst, results that have been compiled indicate that Facebook and Twitter use among soccer fans in the U.K. was almost identical to the use by their U.S. counterparts. However, U.S. fans were far more likely to use YouTube, Google+ and Instagram than U.K.-based fans.

Which of the following, if any, social media sites or location-based services do you use in relation to sports? (Select all that apply.)

By sport (for 2013)

 

Soccer fans NBA fans College basketball fans College football fans MLB fans NFL fans
Facebook 72% 70% 71% 72% 72% 78%
YouTube 78% 60% 63% 51% 42% 37%
Twitter 45% 39% 41% 36% 36% 32%
Google+ 43% 40% 37% 31% 33% 25%
Instagram 25% 25% 19% 14% 17% 12%

Source: Catalyst

How do you use social media in relation to sports? (Select all that apply.)

  All sports fans NBA fans Soccer fans College basketball fans College football fans NFL fans MLB fans
View/respond to content created by other fans/friends 54% 54% 52% 53% 57% 58% 52%
View/respond to content created by sports media 53% 54% 53% 56% 58% 49% 51%
View videos and photos with friends 49% 48% 51% 49% 51% 48% 44%
Post original content that I created 32% 31% 29% 33% 31% 34% 33%
View/respond to content created by athletes 30% 40% 41% 27% 24% 29% 30%
View/respond to content created by brands 20% 25% 26% 20% 16% 16% 16%

Source: Catalyst

About the research

Catalyst, an IMG Consulting subsidiary, conducted national online consumer surveys between July 29 and Aug. 9. Those surveys gained responses from a sample of 2,101 avid sports fans ages 16 to 64 in the United States and 502 avid soccer fans ages 16 to 64 in the U.K. — all of whom follow, discuss or engage with sports using digital media.

The data collection was administered by Repucom International.

Fans were able to participate in a survey for a maximum of two of the following leagues/sports: MLB, NBA, NFL, professional soccer, college basketball or college football. The results here represent data from at least 500 respondents for each of those groups.

Fans were asked, “How big a fan are you of the following sports leagues? Please respond using a 1-5 scale, where 1 means you are not a fan and 5 means you are an avid fan of that sport.” Fans who selected a 4 or 5 qualified for the survey. As an additional qualifier, those fans were later asked to indicate how many of their favorite team’s games they watch or listen to during the course of a typical season. A response of less than 25 percent of games played in any respective sport terminated the survey.

To be included in the final results, respondents also had to select at least one of the 10 sites listed when asked, “Which of the following, if any, social media or location-based check-in services do you use to engage” for following their favorite teams.

The percentage responses listed have been rounded. The margin of error for each survey is +/- 4.4 percent.

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