BY Pete Starr
The FANZO Sports Report: Summer 2023
Twice a year FANZO surveys thousands of fans to identify the most valuable insights and upcoming trends in out of home sports viewing.
In this first report, covering the UK only, a number of key - and sometimes surprising - learnings jump out of the data:
- Pub viewing doesn’t cannibalise home TV subscriptions. In fact, it’s the opposite.
- There’s a big difference between events that drive footfall and those that extend dwell time. The type of "atmosphere" fans want for each differs, too.
- Men struggle to maintain friendships as they get older. Watching sport together is a key antidote to this.
- There are huge wins available for operators that embrace gamification. Most are getting left behind.
- After football and rugby, there are at least seven sports that offer considerable growth opportunities in 2023/24.
- Seven out of ten sports fans under 35 are using digital products to make choices on where to watch sport out of home.
- Women are just as interested in darts as men…
Over time, these reports will cover more countries and assess how sports interests are evolving, helping operators, broadcasters, brands, and rights holders maximise the opportunity presented by a (still) largely untapped out-of-home viewing market.
This report is intended to touch the surface of what is available in the data. If you would like to learn more, dig deeper into specific data points, or contribute to future editions, please contact [email protected].
- Don’t divide fans into “home” and ‘out-of-home” viewers
- How venues can tease people off the sofa
- Addressing the male “friendship recession”
- Pubs are still way behind the betting gamification trend
- Men are from Mars and women want darts
- You’ve got the schedule sorted. Now what?
- Methodology and learning more
1. Don’t divide fans into “home” and “out of home” viewers.
There’s a popular suggestion by TV company executives that focusing too much on showing sport in pubs and bars will have a negative impact on home subscriptions.
The (admittedly logical) argument goes - if fans can watch sport regularly in their local pub, they will be less inclined to pay for an ongoing subscription at home.
Our data suggests the opposite is true.
Having a domestic sports subscription is actually an indicator that someone is more likely to watch sport out of the home. 87% fans with a paid TV subscription at home have visited a pub “regularly” in the past 3 months to watch sport, compared to 79% fans without one.
Perhaps even more surprising, if there is any correlation between the amount someone watches sport in venues and the likelihood that they will pay for sport at home, it’s that the more you watch out-of-home, the more likely you are to pay in the home. Looking specifically at sports TV platforms (i.e. removing Amazon and Apple TV):
- 63% fans occasionally watching sport in venues pay for sports TV at home
- 66% fans regularly watching sport in venues pay for sports TV at home
Far from being a barrier to consumer growth, it seems out of home viewing experiences present the perfect showcase for paid TV subscriptions at home. How venues can tease people off the sofa. Given so many fans watching sport in pubs could easily do so at home, why do they leave the comfort of their sofa?
2. How venues can tease people off the sofa
When asked what is most important when watching sport in a pub, bar, or venue, two out of three people said either “atmosphere” or the “quality of the viewing experience”.
That makes sense. HD screens and surround sound are readily available and affordable to most in their living rooms, but the camaraderie and energy brought about by watching the game with fellow fans is hard to replicate.
We asked fans - what’s the most frustrating thing about watching sport out of home? The most common answers were:
- lack of atmosphere
- no commentary being on
- not having a view of the screen
Next we asked - what would improve their experience when watching out of home? The most common answers referenced:
- more/bigger screens
- the facility to book tables in front of screens
- advance notice regarding which games would be shown, and which would have commentary on
Unsurprisingly, there is variance on what people want from their experience depending on which sport people are watching.
It’s helpful to think about sporting events as “footfall-drivers” and “dwell-time-growers”. The former events are the reason someone leaves their home: World Cups, Super Bowls, Six Nations, PPV boxing fights etc. You need an almost stadium-like atmosphere to beat the sofa for these events.
The latter are the sort of events someone catches in the corner of an eye over dinner with the family, saying: “Ooh - Andy Murray’s match is going to a fifth set. Shall we stay for one more round?” These customers are far more likely to prioritise food, drink, and socialising, for example.
Recognising the difference and adjusting your offer is absolutely key to success.
3. Addressing the male “friendship recession”.
From Andy Marston’s brilliant Sports Pundit newsletter last month:
“The number of men reporting that they have no close friends has jumped from 3% to 15% since 1990, according to the Survey Center on American Life (SCAL).
Worse still, in 2018, a UK study by the Movember Foundation found one in three men asked could not name a single close friend.
These were two powerful stats recently shared in a post by the author of ‘Billy No-Mates,’ Max Dickins.
When Dickens got engaged, he realised he had no one to be his best man, forcing him to introspect, before taking a wider look at the issue at what SCAL has dubbed the male ‘friendship recession’.”
Perhaps that’s why 30% of men in our report cited the opportunity to socialise with friends, or the chance to engage with fellow fans, as the most important thing about watching sport in the pub.
A shared passion and genuine reason to meet up offer those that are, stereotypically, more closed off a reason to connect in ways that have become harder with a decline in traditional third spaces (places that aren’t work or home - pubs, churches, clubs).
Women meanwhile, who tend towards more face to face connection as the norm, are 4X more likely to cite food and drink as most important when engaging in the same activity.
A savvy operator will understand there are two ways of approaching this. One way is being clear on who your target market is, what their psychological needs might be and tailoring your messaging to speak to them specifically.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to attract multiple types of customers, understanding that the same message and marketing will not work effectively across all of them is key.
4. Pubs are still way behind the betting gamification trend.
While seven out of ten fans engage in gamification around sport, just three in ten pubs offer customers mechanics that increase the stakes of the viewing experience.
Perhaps that’s because some have traditionally viewed “gaming” as synonymous with “betting”. And regardless of your views on betting, the reality is it remains a key ritual amongst more than half (52%) of the folks watching sport in pubs, bars, and venues.
What’s more, three out of ten customers are doing it “in-game” - while they're watching matches in venue - and the demographics make for interesting reading.
Fans betting on sport in pubs (either before or during the game) have a 5% higher average household income and are just as likely to come from the south east as they are the north west of England.
Crucially, gambling with money isn’t the only way fans are adding a bit of spice to their viewing experiences.
Plenty are playing fantasy games, predictors, and taking sports quizzes. While football dominates the volume, it’s surprising to see Tennis, NFL, and Cricket fans all more likely to “gamify their experience”.
Indeed this trend towards gamification over betting seems likely to stick. While all groups over 35 answered ‘betting’ as their top activity, both the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups returned ‘fantasy sports’ as a more regular activity than betting.
There is a huge opportunity here for operators to build their own games, use 3rd party software, or just piggy back on well-established games like Fantasy Football and Pint Predictors.
Versus the cost and time investment required to get them running, they’re an excellent way to drive emotional commitment and venue loyalty.
5. Men are from Mars and women want darts
In terms of demographics we found few surprises. Of survey respondents that say they regularly watch sport at a pub, 85% identified as male. This is a stable macro trend - looking at FANZO’s overall traffic for the last decade, the male split of users has consistently sat between 70-80%.
And that’s consistent across the majority of sports. Men’s football, rugby, boxing etc. all have a higher percentage of men suggesting they’re avid fans than women, who tend to be more occasional viewers.
There are some exceptions, of course. Women are marginally more likely than men to take an interest in women’s sports and Olympic sports, whilst they are just as likely to take a regular interest in… darts (we’re as surprised as you).
Interestingly, the data suggests female fans are marginally more likely than men to be interested in men’s cricket and men’s tennis.
The moral of the story - don’t judge a book by its cover. You should never assume that someone will like or not like a sport because of who they are, where they live, or what they look like.
6. Seven sports set for growth in the next 12 months.
There’s no doubt football and rugby dominate the sports landscape in UK pubs and bars. When asked how likely they are to watch these sports in the coming three months, the survey returned very similar results for the pub and the home:
- 84% fans say they’ll watch men’s football at home over the next three months and 83% say they’ll do so in a pub
- 65% fans say they’ll watch men’s rugby at home over the next three months and 52% say they’ll do so in a pub
Operators will doubtless be well prepared for these sports.
So where will/can the growth come from?
Looking at sports where the gap between home and pub is much wider, there are multiple candidates:
- Men’s boxing: 57% will watch at home, but just 28% in a pub
- Men’s tennis: 61% will watch at home but just 15% at a pub
- Women’s football: 80% will watch at home but only 45% in a pub
- Netball: 12% will watch at home but just 2% at the pub
- NFL: 45% sports fans will watch a game in the next 3 months, but only 17% in a pub
- NBA: 25% sports fans interested in basketball, but less than 5% keen to watch in a pub
- Formula One: 62% sports fans will watch F1 in the next three months, but just 32% would consider a pub
Each of these opportunities has a different fan profile that wants different things from their out-of-home experience.
An exhaustive report on this would be far too long and death by a thousand stats. If, however, you have specific queries around the data and detail here, please get in touch.
7. You’ve got the schedule sorted. Now what?
It’s all very well spending £20k on Sky Sports and TNT then carefully selecting what you’re going to show. The next big question - how do I let people know?
Unsurprisingly, the trend here continues towards digital tools, with comparison sites and online reviews essential in how fans choose where to watch their favourite events:
It may seem obvious but bears repeating - there’s no point in showing sport if no one knows you’re doing it.
And in today’s world, that means getting your name, information, and schedule out across as many digital platforms as possible.
In the words of FANZO user Richard Morgan: “If a pub doesn’t take sport seriously online, I just don’t believe they’ll take it seriously in the pub.”
Methodology and learning more.
This report is based on responses to a survey sent by FANZO to 25,000 sports fans in the UK in July 2023. Whilst it highlights what we think are some key trends it ultimately only scratches the surface of what’s available in the data. If you would like to learn more about specific data points or contribute to future editions, please contact [email protected].