• Loading stock data...
Thursday, February 22, 2024
Register Now for Future of Sports: Cybersecurity

Soccer Fans Prefer Full Games To Highlights, Study Says

Jun 8, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Red Bulls fans cheer during the first half against the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

There’s an old Jerry Seinfeld comedy routine that sports fans don’t root for individual players. They root for laundry — or the hometown jerseys on their backs.

But a new Bleacher Report study of young American soccer fans indicates they think quite differently from traditional football or baseball fans.

The study could have important implications for marketers trying to target 13-39 year-old soccer fans over the next month as the U.S. Women’s National Team guns for its fourth World Cup title. It’s proprietary research that B/R will tout to Madison Avenue as it invests in its B/R Football soccer vertical.

More than 40% of U.S. soccer fans say finding a player they like has made them a bigger fan, according to the “New Age of Soccer Fandom” study released by B/R’s chief executive officer Howard Mittman at Cannes Lions Tuesday.

That’s similar to the mindset of NBA fans. Large portions of both fan bases say star players are more important to them than team locations. Bleacher Report found almost 60% overlap between soccer and hoops fans in the B/R app.

“We’ve been capitalizing on this overlap by cross-pollinating our NBA content with soccer as much as possible. This year, two of the three top soccer posts on B/R’s Instagram had an element of NBA content,” notes Ed Romaine, B/R’s senior vice president and chief brand officer.

“For the Champions League Final this past month we brought out Trae Young and Luka Doncic to help with B/R Football coverage. It’s a formula that we think is going to help build our position as a leader in soccer/world football content and is unique to this fanbase.”

The findings also dovetail with the way global soccer fans follow their favorite players — no matter how far they’re playing from their home country.  

As of March 2019, nine of the Top 10 most followed athletes on Instagram were pro footballers. Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo of the Italian club Juventus ranked No. 1 (159.77 million), while Brazilian Neymar of the French club Paris Saint-Germain was No. 2 (112.86 million).

The only non-soccer player to crack the Top 10 list? Try NBA superstar LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 5 (47.98 million).

That’s not to say these fans don’t have club loyalty, according to B/R, which hired Canva8 to survey more than 2,000 soccer fans online.

According to the survey, 86% of fans support the first club they ever followed. The same percentage follow other sports — primarily the NBA and NFL.

READ MORE: Powerade Commits to Building Soccer Fields In New Campaign

Here’s the best news for FIFA, Major League Soccer and their respective TV partners, sponsors and advertisers.

At a time when the NFL and MLB are offering more whip-around, highlight-driven programming, American soccer fans like to kick back with friends and enjoy an entire game.

According to the study, a whopping 63% of soccer fans prefer to watch a full game over highlights.

These B/R findings makes sense to Miro Gladovic, a former pro goalkeeper and agent who founded Soccer Family Agent.

Because U.S. soccer fans are plugged into international leagues, they watch regular season games more closely than their NBA or MLB counterparts.

No matter where they are in the world, fans of England’s Premier League know the club with the most points wins. There’s no playoffs, no Super Bowl. The regular season is everything.

Compare that to the NBA, where many fans don’t care as much about the regular season, notes Gladovic. ESPN highlights are good enough for these viewers until the real “second season” of the NBA Playoffs commands their attention.

“It’s a reverse mentality that international soccer fans have. It’s a completely different wiring when it comes to the sports brain,” said Gladovic.

READ MORE: Concacaf Unveils First-Ever Women’s Soccer Plan

U.S. soccer fans are also extremely social: 36% of fans aged 26-39 years old became soccer fans due to their friends, compared to 26% of those ages 13-17 years old.

These young American soccer fans “have a hunger to watch these games with friends and make it much more of an event in the company of others,” says Romaine. The study indicates there’s “a core group of soccer fans who evangelize the sport — and want others to join them.”

With TV viewers averaging 40 years of age, MLS boasts the youngest fan base among the major U.S. sports leagues, according to a Magna Global study released in 2018. In comparison, the study reported the average age of PGA Tour viewers at 64 years old.  

[mc4wp_form id=”8260″] 

Among respondents 18-34 years old, soccer is now tied with basketball for the second-most popular spectator sport, according to a Gallup poll in 2018. Among this age group, 11% picked soccer and basketball as their favorite sports to watch. Baseball scored 6%.

Among all U.S. adults in the Gallup study, soccer nearly matched baseball’s overall popularity for the first time. According to the poll, 7% named soccer their favorite sport to watch compared to 9% for baseball. That was the lowest number ever for the Grand Old Game in the Gallup poll (American football remained No. 1 at 37%).

There are now more than 52 million U.S. soccer fans, according to the study. That’s more than the populations of South Korea (51 million); Colombia (49 million); Spain (46 million); and Canada (37 million).

This group is also a marketer’s dream. They’re extremely “brand-conscious” of sponsors that cater to them, according to Romaine. “95% pay attention to what brands are advertised around soccer — and are willing to spend more for a brand they prefer.”

The B/R Football vertical now boasts over 3.1 million followers on Instagram. Look for B/R to continue to invest in a “sport on the rise,” according to Romaine.

“We’ve seen a 53% increase in growth year over year on the B/R app for our MLS team streams. So we see nothing but positive momentum when it comes to the sport and our B/R Football brand.”

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Bleacher Report

TNT Sports Getting More Serious About Golf With Inaugural Grass League Tournament

TNT Sports is finding new ways to highlight golf with PGA Tour rights locked up through 2030.

Sabrina-Steph Wasn’t the ‘Battle of the Sexes’—But It Was Part of the Bigger War

The competition could play a factor in increasing the WNBA’s media value.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23), in a Star Wars rebel alliance X-wing fighter pilot-inspired race suit, motions to the crowd to get louder during the driver introductions for the Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale on Nov. 5, 2023.

Celebrity Owners, International Ambitions, and $7B Media Deals: Welcome to the New NASCAR

NASCAR boldly keeps pace with the increasingly competitive sports and entertainment world.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

The Company That’s Selling Inspiration


Featured Today

Wilson Introduced an Airless Basketball for $2,500. We Had Questions

The black, 3D-printed ball appeared in last year’s Slam Dunk Contest.
Emily Henegar, a baker and content creator, made a batch of NFL-inspired cookies featuring Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.
February 11, 2024

The ‘Life-Changing’ Economy of Taylor Swift’s NFL Outfits

Appearing in Swift’s game-day wardrobe has been “life-changing” for small businesses.
February 11, 2024

Tom Brady’s Post-Retirement Embrace of Las Vegas

With business all over town, one partner says, ’He’s going to be a great addition to the city.’
Super Bowl
February 11, 2024

Does the Vegas Super Bowl Make Economic Sense? Depends Where You Get Your Figures

The game’s impact on an already bustling town is a thorny subject.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Finance Manager
New York, NY
Senior Technical Artist - Sports Technology
EA Sports
Orlando, FL
Assistant Manager, Affiliate Operations
Portland, OR
Chad Powers

Tuned In: Hulu Turning Glen Powell Into Eli Manning With ‘Chad Powers’ Comedy

The ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ star will play the comedic QB Manning created for ESPN+.
Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi following the victory against Los Angeles FC at BMO Stadium.
February 21, 2024

Lionel Messi Phenomenon Spurs Specialized Media Attention

Messi joins Taylor Swift and Beyoncé for celebrities to have their beat writer at ‘USA Today.’
A Bundesliga camera operator during a match
February 22, 2024

Fan Power in European Soccer Grows As German Football Deal Scuttled 

Weeks of increasingly strident protests lead to end of proposed private equity deal.

Live Sports Are Now High-Tech Experiences

Oracle is leading the technology revolution happening in stadiums across the world.
FuboTV signage
February 21, 2024

FuboTV Lawsuit Against Sports Streaming Giants Likely Faces Uphill Climb

Legal and regulatory drama heightens around the high-profile streaming alliance.
Athletes Unlimited
February 21, 2024

Athletes Unlimited Is Getting All Four of Its Women’s Pro Leagues on ESPN Platforms

The league is reducing its ESPN+ games to make room for other partners.
February 21, 2024

Tuned In: Amazon Said to Be Paying Record $120M to Stream NFL Playoff Game

Is JJ Redick aiming to become ESPN’s Charles Barkley?
February 20, 2024

A’s Continue to Make History With Their Broadcast Team While Vegas Future Is Uncertain

NBC California hires Harry Caray’s grandson to join the broadcast team.