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Gymnastics, Figure Skating, Men’s Golf and High School Sports Rank High in Fan Interest

Scarborough Sports Marketing Study Reveals Top American Sports by Fan Avidity
Oct 06, 2011
New York, NY
Market Highlights

American consumers have typically shown unwavering support for the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, College Football and Basketball, NASCAR and the Olympics. In fact, the latest study from Scarborough Sports Marketing shows over half (53 percent) of American adults are “Avid Fans” of one of these sports. When we eliminate these time-honored sports from the conversation, we are left with an intriguing list of fan favorites which include sports like Figure Skating, Gymnastics, Men’s Golf, High School Sports and Pro Boxing.* Scarborough Sports Marketing defines “Avid Fans” as consumers who are “very interested” and “Fans” as respondents who are “very, somewhat or a little interested” in a given sport.

American sports fans have been opening their minds and wallets to a host of diverse sports. Avid Fans of these sports are often characterized by distinct audience demographics. For instance, 73% of Avid Gymnastics Fans are female and 81% of Avid Figure Skating Fans are female.  This is a unique demographic makeup since Avid Fans of sports like the Olympics, Women’s Tennis and the WNBA – classically “female friendly” sports – are only about 50% female. This notable demographic base helps explain findings such as:  Gymnastics Fans are 53% more likely than all American adults to schedule a spa day, 30% more likely to visit a jewelry store and 33% more likely to visit a bridal store. Similarly, Figure Skating Fans are 28% more likely to visit a florist and 27% more likely to visit a dry cleaner.

 Another demographically interesting sport is Pro Boxing. Though European Soccer, Major League Soccer and Mexican Soccer are all leagues with large Hispanic fan bases, Pro Boxing is the non-soccer sports league with the highest percentage of Hispanics among its Avid Fans – 35%. Avid Pro Boxing Fans are also 58% more likely than all American adults to use their smartphones to: listen to or download music, 67% more likely to check sports scores and updates, and a staggering 110% more likely to watch free TV programs.

When we look at the ever-growing domain of competitive Motor Sports, we see another differentiating demographic. Formula One Racing attracts the highest percentage of Avid Fans with $100K in annual household income, more than any of the eight Motor Sports measured. Overall, Formula One Racing Fans are 7% more likely than other motor sports Fans to own homes with $500K+ market values, yet Formula One Racing Fans are also 25% more likely to hold blue collar jobs. 

 “Looking beyond the obvious can represent new possibilities for advertisers, marketers and other sponsors to reach targeted or key demographic groups,” said Bill Nielsen, vice president, Scarborough Sports Marketing. “The major sports, of course, allow marketers to reach the masses, but if you only focus there you are missing an important opportunity to market to the 37% of Americans who are very interested in sports that fall outside of the usual suspects.”

A local market look shows West Palm Beach, FL represents the top local market◊ for Figure Skating, with 43% of adults characterized as Fans of the sport. Salt Lake City was overwhelmingly supportive of Gymnastics with 45% Fans and Harlingen, TX is the top market for Pro Boxing with 37% of the market considered Fans.

Scarborough Sports Marketing measures avidity levels for 41 different sports, and the table below summarizes the percentage of American adults who are “Fans” of each. Highlighted in blue are the sports that are consistently high ranking.

* Interviews were conducted between March and August 2011 and therefore may be influenced by seasonality.
◊ Top local market among the 77 measured markets for adults 18+. For a full listing of measured markets please visit

Scarborough Sports Marketing Fan Rankings for American Adults, Age 18+

Sports Leagues Total % (Very, Somewhat or A Little Interested)
National Football League 62%
Olympics 58%
Major League Baseball 49%
College Footbal 45%
National Basketball Association 35%
Gymnastics 34%
Figure Skating 34%
College Basketball 33%
High School Sports 28%
PGA Tour (men's golf) 27%
National Hockey League 23%
Horse Racing 20%
College Baseball 19%
Extreme/Action Sports 19%
Pro Boxing 19%
Women's Tennis 18%
Men's Tennis 18%
Major League Soccer 16%
Ultimate Fighting Championship 16%
Pro Bull Riding 15%
Minor League Baseball 15%
IndyCar Series 14%
Pro Rodeo 13%
NHRA Drag Racing 12%
Monster Trucks 12%
LPGA (women's golf) 12%
European Soccer 12%
Supercross/Motocross 12%
WNBA 11%
WWE (pro wrestling) 11%
Formula One Racing 11%
Arena/Indoor Football 11%
AVP (pro beach volley ball) 9%
College Hockey 9%
Mexican Soccer 9%
AMA Pro Racing (motorcycle/ATV) 8%
Grand-Am Road Racing 8%
Minor League Hockey 6%
NBA Development League 5%
Pro Lacrosse 3%

SOURCE: Scarborough Sports Marketing, 2011. Scarborough USA+ Study, Release 1 2011 (current six months)

New Additions to the Scarborough Survey
The following avidity measures are new as of Release 1 2011 for Scarborough Sports Marketing: Gymnastics, Figure Skating, College Baseball, Pro Boxing, Formula One Racing, Arena/Indoor Football, College Hockey and Mexican Soccer.

About Scarborough: 

Scarborough (, brings the local market to life like no other company. Our consumer insights reflect the shopping patterns, media usage behaviors across multiple platforms, and the lifestyle trends of American adults. Media professionals, marketers and agencies use Scarborough insights to: create a smarter, more informed marketing mix; conduct market-competitive analyses; plan event sponsorships and partnerships; geo-target prospective consumers; increase product sales, grow customer loyalty and for overall marketing strategy. Scarborough’s core offering of individual local-market studies spanning 120+ markets (including Puerto Rico). 77 local markets are MRC accredited. Other products and services include Analytics (customized research and express analysis) Sports and Hispanic insights and attitudinal data to help our clients address the why behind consumer behavior.  Scarborough surveys more than 210,000 adults annually, and studies more than 2,000 consumer categories. Scarborough has been in business for 40 years and is a joint venture between Arbitron Inc. ( and The Nielsen Company (