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The Shortest Route to Measuring Sports Fan Engagement

Marketers targeting sports fans as the focus of their various campaigns don’t show any sign of slowing down. From cryptocurrency companies putting their names on stadiums and arenas to traditional marketing powerhouses like Gatorade and McDonalds, sports fans are now a more sought after audience than ever.

However, the sports market is incredibly cluttered. The digital marketplace and streaming have fragmented what was previously a traditional media landscape. And that has made it tougher than ever for marketers to determine beyond a shadow of a doubt whether they are getting the best and highest return on their investment.

Moving past traditional media measurements, SBRnet has developed a new KPI for measuring sports fan engagement that features among other key categories, sports travel. In fact, sports travel jumps off the page as a prime indicator of fan engagement. SBRnet’s annual consumer study of sports fans shows that sports fans traveling to another destination to attend a game involving their favorite teams, professional, college or otherwise are among the most engaged in terms of their levels of fandom, versus those that do not. Simply said, engaged fans are better fans and they spend a lot more money to support their fandom.

Sports fans present a target rich environment for travel in one or more of the three main areas of sports travel: travel to support their favorite teams, travel to play or take part in their favorite sport, or travel to support a family member that plays in a sport.

According to Jason Gewirtz, Executive Editor and Publisher of Sports Travel Magazine, “Sports-related travel is an enormous part of the economic picture of sports events that often goes unnoticed. Local and regional sports commissions and convention bureaus around the country dedicate staff and resources to attract events to their communities because they know these events have real economic impact.” Sports fans show without question they are a force to be reckoned with for travel spending according to the 2021 Study of Sports Fans from SBRnet. In this year’s study, SBRnet surveyed a representative sample of over 6,400 sports fans, 13 years and older across the USA, covering 18 sports and 56 separate categories.

Below shows the total number of fans that participate in one or more of the sports travel categories including:

  • 13% travel to support a team
  • 7.5% travel to participate in their favorite sport or activity
  • 6.6% travel to support a family member that plays travel sports

According to the survey, 41 Million USA sports fans travel for sports. On average, given the fan crossover, those fans that travel take 2.5 trips yearly. As we will see, sports fans that travel represent a huge opportunity for all sorts of products and services related to sports travel:

  • Lodging
  • Air travel
  • Quick service restaurants
  • Credit cards
  • Sports gambling services.

Let’s take a look at fans of the NFL that travel to support their favorite team. The chart below shows the number of fans that travel by sport represented by the line in blue. The orange line represents the percentage of fans that travel for the respective league. So, while some sports have a lower number of fans that travel, it represents a niche target that is easier to reach.

Sports Fans that Travel by League/Sport

Surprisingly, those with the largest fan bases and thus the largest number of fans who travel, are among the lowest when it comes to the proportion of fans who travel. This makes sense as there are varying levels of NFL Football fans, from the most die-hard to the casual sort of fan.

Sports fans that travel are:

  • 13% more likely to have a household income over $100K than the average NFL fan.
  • 24% more likely to purchase licensed merchandise than the average NFL fan.
  • 14% more likely to be extremely influenced by sponsor messaging than the average NFL fan.

There are a few ways to measure audience size and behavior that are well known and universally accepted. However, given the varying degrees of sports fandom, traditional audience measurement may no longer be the best way to capture the true size and value of today’s sports fans. At SBRnet, we place a premium on fans that are highly engaged with their teams. They reach into their wallets to attend games, buy merchandise and travel to see their favorite teams. In an effort to better understand and value the modern sports fan, SBRnet has created the new FanVerse audience measurement tool that combines eight separate active engagement categories into one easy to use and understand KPI. The FanVerse is all about measuring fans that are willing to put their money behind their support of their favorite teams, something that is not captured in traditional media measurements.

Neil Schwartz is President and Chief Data Officer of SBRnet, a leading provider of data covering the business of sports. Neil has over 25 years of experience in marketing research with the bulk of it in the sports business. SBRnet currently provides sports business data to over 240 colleges and universities together with leading advertising, marketing, and sponsorship agencies. To reach Neil, email:

Posted: 9/28/2022 12:08:14 PM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments