Digital Audio

Preview: The Sports Audio Report from SiriusXM Media, GroupM, and Edison Research

Melissa Paris, Vice President, Sales Research & AnalyticsApr 16, 2024
  • 2 in 3

    Americans 13+ consider themselves sports fans

  • 6h 26m

    Sports fans spend 2+ hours more time with audio content each day

From the media frenzy around the Kansas City Chiefs’ Swiftie-filled NFL season this fall, to last week’s nail-biting finish to Caitlin Clark’s college basketball career, to the upcoming Summer Olympics, sports stories are making headlines daily and keeping fans on the edge of their seats. Marketers have many ways to engage with sports fans through media, but one way that may not be top of their mind yet (and should not be overlooked) is sports audio.

SiriusXM Media, GroupM and Edison Research recently conducted the first-ever Sports Audio Report to dive deep into sports fandom in the US and understand the role that audio content (across sports podcasts, satellite, and radio shows) plays in fans’ engagement with sports and leagues. Through a massive online study of over 3,500 Americans ages 13 and older who self-identify as sports fans (a four or higher on a 10-point scale), we built a solid bench of insights with which to arm brands.

Catch the Wave: The Changing Face of Sports Fandom

Two thirds of Americans consider themselves to be sports fans, which works out to a massive 186 million people—enough to fill the 30 NFL stadiums in the US about 90 times over. Of course, as with anything, sports fandom is a spectrum. About one third of Americans are more casual spectators, while about one in five are enthusiastic fans, and 15% are the die-hards or super fans—a 10 out of 10 on the fan scale.

While sports fans do still skew towards being white and male overall, sports fandom is diversifying. The more intense, die-hard fans are also more likely to be younger and more diverse than more casual sports fans. Younger generations and diverse audiences are consuming sports content differently (more on that later), and they have distinct affinities in terms of which sports they follow closely.

While baseball is known as “America’s favorite pastime,” the reality is that virtually across the board, the NFL dominates as the most popular sport or league—90% of sports fans ages 13+ are NFL fans, with 59% saying they follow it closely. College football is not far behind, with 74% of those surveyed identifying as fans and 37% following closely. Though football is dominant, we do see some differences by demographics.

By generation:

  • Older generations follow the NFL more closely than Gen Z fans

  • Millennial sports fans are 38% more likely to follow the NBA closely

  • Both Gen Z and millennials over-index for following soccer and all fight sports (boxing, UFC/MMA, and WWE)

By ethnicity/origin:

  • Black sports fans are more likely to be fans of basketball (both NBA and NCAA)

  • White and Latino fans over-index for following the MLB closely

  • More Asian fans follow the NBA closely than the NFL

  • Black and Latino fans are more likely to closely follow all fight sports

  • Latino and Asian fans over-index for following soccer

Even their relationship to the players is unique. While 43% of all Sports fans say they closely follow the personal lives of the athletes they like, young sports fans are much more likely to be invested in players’ lives (52% of Gen Z sports fans and 57% of millennial sports fans). They’re also more likely to be loyal to players vs. teams—70% of millennial fans and 62% of Gen Z agree that they often continue to follow athletes if they are traded to a new team, compared to just 50% of boomers and 59% of Gen X.

Who Run the (Sports) World? Girls!

What else is changing in the sports world? Look no further than the historic number of eyes on the NCAAW games this year to get a sense of the country’s skyrocketing interest in women’s sports. Even before Caitlin Clark fandom hit a fever pitch, we found in our study that fans were taking notice of female-led stories.

One in three sports fans (32%) say they currently follow a women’s sports team or a female athlete. Gen Z and millennials sports fans have an even higher interest (37% and 38%, respectively), as do diverse audiences: 39% of Latino fans, 40% of Asian fans, and 42% of Black fans. Sports fans also identify a growing interest—29% say that they are following women’s sports more now than they were five years ago. Again, younger generations (particularly millennials at 35%) and diverse audiences (with Black and Asian at 37%) are driving the field forward here.

Sports Audio: The Sound of Victory

Audio is a key part of the daily lives of all Americans, and this is true for sports fans, as well. In fact, sports fans spend six hours and 26 minutes with audio content each day—that’s over two hours more than the average American spends listening to audio. And over 90 minutes of sports fans’ daily audio time is spent listening to sports content specifically. While sports radio leads for Gen X and boomer fans, sports podcasts lead the way for Gen Z and millennials.

Both video and audio content are crucial to fueling fans’ appetite for sports coverage. A massive 89% of sports fans say they frequently or occasionally watch sports content, while 64% say they frequently or occasionally listen to sports content.

Audio provides sports fans with:

  • Differentiated content: 66% of sports listeners say they listen to hear unique perspectives on sports that aren’t covered in other media, and 60% listen to get exclusive content.

  • Community and connection: 86% of sports listeners say they listen to stay connected to their team or sport, 58% to be part of a community of fans, and 56% to feel more connected to friends/family/colleagues.

  • Intel and competitive edge: 52% of sports listeners say they listen to be a more informed sports bettor, and 44% to be a more informed fantasy sports player.

Another slam dunk for audio? Compared to sports video viewers, sports audio listeners are bigger spenders. They spend an average of $262 on sports merch/memorabilia in a year (even higher for sports podcast listeners at $321), compared to just $185 for sports video viewers. Looking at SiriusXM sports listeners and sports podcast listeners, they are more likely to be employed, highly educated, and affluent compared to sports AM/FM radio listeners and sports video viewers. And if you’re looking to connect with the most fervent fans, SiriusXM and podcast sports listeners have a higher composition of die-hard fans compared to sports video viewers.

From Cereal and Fast Food to Sneakers and Cars, Sports Sells

Endorsements and advertisements are a huge part of athletes careers and a league business models, and for good reason—they are incredibly effective. Two in three sports fans say they like hearing or seeing their favorite athletes in ads, and this is much higher among those who listen to sports content on podcasts (81%) or SiriusXM (76%). Almost half (46%) of sports fans say they would be more likely to buy a product or service if it were advertised by an athlete they like. Again, it’s even higher among those who listen to podcasts (68%) or SiriusXM (64%). Sports video viewers are notably lower than audio listeners, at 48%.

Sports fans have inherent trust in their favorite players, with two in three saying they trust the products or services used by the athletes they like or follow. This trust is not reserved just for athletes—64% say they trust the products or services used by a sports commentator or announcer they like or follow. And these trusted relationships lead to effective ads—over three in four sports fans have taken an action after hearing an ad on a sports podcast or sports audio program, with over half saying they have purchased a product or service that was advertised.

Athletes are celebrities in their own right, but their star power can be amplified even further when they’re part of a sports power couple (also, never underestimate the Taylor Swift Effect). You couldn’t escape headlines about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s budding relationship in the fall, and they took the crown in our study when respondents were asked to choose their favorite sports couple over time. Travis & Taylor led with 19% of sports fans selecting them, followed by David Beckham & Victoria Beckham at 15%, and Joe DiMaggio & Marilyn Monroe at 13%.

There is a deep connection between listeners and the audio content they consume, whether it’s music, sports, talk shows, books or podcasts. Many times, audio audiences find content related to their interests and passions, and we know sports fans' zeal is unmatched. Audio is a critical component of holistic media investments, and it needs to be a top consideration for brands looking to extend their reach and overall presence in sports

Jen Soch, Executive Director, Channel SolutionsGroupM US

Keep that Bench Warm: There’s More to Come

All of the insights we just threw your way are just our first pitch from this study. We have many more plays in our sports audio playbook, so stay tuned for even more insights on how to engage with today’s sports fans through audio!

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