Conversation: MLB Game Attendance and Alternative Social Network Group Engagement

October 15th, 2009 by Laura Leave a reply »

The following is an extract from a conversation on ThoseinMedia on LinkedIn regarding the paper I wrote, MLB Game Attendance and Alternative Social Network Group Engagement.  I posted it here because it goes into a bit more depth with the analysis and thought it was interesting.

Comments (8)

  1. David Berger

    Online marketing expert, e-strategy consultant

    Laura: This is interesting data, and it’s great to truly quantify that active fan bases continue to actively attend games.

    My main question for you, is what is the relevance of a social site that is predominantly used outside of the US? If a team wishes to engage in social strategies in order to hopefully boost attendance in Milwaukee, for example, engaging their audience further in Ireland is probably not the most cost effective thing they can do.

    My guess is further targeting is required in order to find best investment opportunities… a review of network activity by postal code should show even greater correlation around the home team’s immediate attendance zone.

    Posted 1 day ago | Reply Privately

  2. Dale Smith

    Dale Smith

    Managing Partner – Mixed Breed Media

    I think you are reaching for straws here!

    MLB attendance is a direct correlation to market size, local fan attraction and a winning team. I’m not sure Social networking sites play a role in any of that. Sure there is plenty of banter on these sites between fans, but unless the local team has some type of draw to get fans in the stands, Social media won’t help.

    The draw being a super star player on the team, or the visiting team or the team has plenty of check marks in the win column.

    Kansas City Royals have not had a winning team in over 20 years. Attendance shows it. In the mid to late 70′s through the mid 80′s the Royals were sold out. The difference was wins and star players.

    If you want to know why the Marlins, A’s and the Pirates have low attendance, take a look at their rosters and look at their record.

    Don’t try to make social networking into something it’s not.

    Posted 20 hours ago | Reply Privately

  3. Laura Hale

    Laura Hale you

    Fan community specialist and wiki evangelist

    @David Berger

    Regarding non-US based social networks, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure of the relevance to attendance. I was interested to see if there was one nonetheless. (And there is for bebo and orkut which have large non-American populations.) The most useful information that came out of that had less to do with the quantitative data and was more the qualitative type observations. (Er. And quantitative when it come to another measure, like revenue and evaluation.) Brazil for instance is really into the Yankees and a few other teams for urban street wear. (Which, qualitatively, is useful for merchandising down there.) If you get brand identification and knowledge of your team like that, you can try to build around it to try to get those fans who might think about visiting the US to attend multiple games while they are visiting.

    Other leagues, especially European football ones, have an international fan contingent who visit. If the demographics of that community indicate some wealth to do that, then it can be more useful there.

    There are probably better ways to target but that data is something you would probably need to be a member of that team’s organization to have access to… and even then, I’m not sure you can plug that directly into a social network to do specific targeting.

    Posted 17 hours ago | Delete comment

  4. Laura Hale

    Laura Hale you

    Fan community specialist and wiki evangelist

    @Dale Smith Grasping at straws or not, the relationship still exists. And it doesn’t necessarily explain differences inside the same market: The Dodgers and the Angels, the Mets and the Yankees, the Cubs and the White Sox are matched pairs with the same metro area to draw from. Yet their attendance is NOT the same. The size of the fan communities on social networks is not the same.

    Yes, there are a lot of variables at play here. It doesn’t necessarily play that one causes the other… but the relationship, for whatever reason, exists.

    Correlation between home attendance and record is. .689 which is pretty strong but you still get aberrant data points like the Mets who rank 7th for attendance but have a sub .500 record. Texas, Tampa Bay, Marlins are above .500 but their attendance is below average.

    And when you correlate social network size against winning percentage? The relationship is less than the one for average attendance… which doesn’t really support your theory. If it was true, the correlation between winning record and social community size would be stronger.

    Posted 17 hours ago | Delete comment

  5. David Berger

    Online marketing expert, e-strategy consultant

    Laura: thanks for the follow up… the long way around your hypothesis is… “teams with large fan bases tend to correlate with higher attendance”, which I don’t think anyone will disagree with.

    The marketer’s experiments, with this information is to see if you can assess value from it. The Yankees for example, can take the large group on facebook and market for tickets with a geographic bias, or merchandise w/o a geographic bias.

    When a community like this is self identifying (people have stood up on their own and said, I am a Yankee Fan), it presents a fabulous opportunity for an organization to engage their fans in a way that feels less like marketing, and more like appreciation – while still attaining their goals.

    Posted 17 hours ago | Reply Privately

  6. Laura Hale

    Laura Hale you

    Fan community specialist and wiki evangelist

    @Darren Ellis NASCAR may have the issue of the branding is much more central to NASCAR than it is to individual teams and drivers. I’d also guess that they have less international branding and merchandising like that of Formula One. You’d almost have to treat Formula One like NASCAR to see how it works as MLB has a lot of different factors.

    I know that NASCAR communities do exist on some of these networks as I’ve seen them. There are people out there who talk about the sexiness of the one female driver, women who write homoerotic stories featuring the drivers, people who make meme images based on drivers, people who make icons about drivers… It would almost make more sense to try a formula where you brand around drivers and teams than NASCAR on the whole because you get more room, can better identify niche audience, etc.

    Posted 16 hours ago | Delete comment

  7. Dale Smith

    Dale Smith

    Managing Partner – Mixed Breed Media

    Laura,
    many of the teams you used have had a history of poor attendance in comparison with their cross town counterpart. The teams that you say draw from the same market ie. White Sox & the Cubs. Since each teams conception in that city they have had 2 completely different fan demographics. If you look more into baseball history, (decades before the internet and some before television), you’ll find many of the same issues in attendance records. Don’t be so quick to conclude that the same city draws the same fan base. Same thing is true in NY, the same is True in LA.

    Before someone equates some fantasy correlation between social networking and sports franchise attendance, make sure you look at the complete history of the teams and MLB in general. What you are reaching at has been in play with many of these markets since conception. Since that is the case, what does social media have to do with it?

    If you are doing this study and you DO NOT know the differences in the psycho, and demographics between fans in multiple team markets, you should go grab some history books on major league baseball and learn why the Sox and the Cubs not only have different fans from the same city but also have different attendance records from the beginning of each clubs exsistance.

    Sox fans wouldn’t go see the cubs in a world series and visa versa. Mets fans could care less about the Yankees and in turn the Yankee fans pretend the Mets don’t exists. The Dodger fans think the Angels come from another planet. The Angel fans wouldn’t step foot inside Dodger Stadium. You need to do some homework before you attach social media of all things as a reason for a phenomenon.

    Just my thoughts from a Baseball history buff and Marketing expert.

    Posted 16 hours ago | Reply Privately

  8. Laura Hale

    Laura Hale you

    Fan community specialist and wiki evangelist

    @Dale Smith The problem is if the argument is that the correlation is actually market size, then the argument fails when you look at matched sets for teams in the same city… which is what I understand you were putting forth. Historically doing worse doesn’t explain away the fact that teams in the same city don’t have the same audience size. (There are a whole bunch of other variables that account for that.) Yes, the Cubs and White Sox have different demographics. Not arguing that but if the Marlins and Royals are being explained away because of small market? Then same argument should hold. It doesn’t.

    “Before someone equates some fantasy correlation between social networking and sports ”

    Correlation does not equate with causation. There are plenty of independent variables at play here. I am not denying that this is true. I’m also not saying that one variable causes the others. I’m merely pointing out that correlation exists. (And that knowledge of social community size, location and demographics on those communities may be helpful.) I think you’re reading more into this analysis than intended.

    “Sox fans wouldn’t go see the cubs in a world series and visa versa. ”

    Do you have any data to support this conclusion? This statement feels largely unsubstantiated. (As a Cubs fan, I happily went to two Chicago White Sox play off games in 2008. I attended a White Sox game this year.) I’d love to have data that supports your observations.

    “You need to do some homework before you attach social media of all things as a reason for a phenomenon. ”

    I don’t understand this statement. I never implied that correlation implies causation, which is the only way I could see this statement as having validity. Correlation exists. I don’t know why correlation exists between attendance and the size of social networking community size. Variables that you suggested like market size and winning percentage don’t have as strong of a correlation. There is clearly something else at play.

    As a marketing expert, perhaps you can parse why you think this is true.

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  • I believe there is a tie between these and really the results do say a bit. Same thing as the Nielsen ratings paper. Good work.

  • adelaidedupont

    Like Brazil, Australia was also into the street wear for a while, especially for basketball, and to an extent in baseball.

    It's good to hear from people who are really interested in baseball and marketing, and to see the role of the social networks.

    Self-identifying and history is important. That's the take-away lesson for today.

  • The take away lesson is actually: correlation =/= causation. ;-)

    But yeah, street wear is a form of branding and if you are aware of the possibilities, you can probably make a fair amount of money off merchandising rights in those markets... if you can identify that the audience is there.

    Self identification is strong. I just don't know how much that type of thing has been studied from a marketing perspective. There also appear to be a number of things that are just taken as fact because no one has ever challenged them before. (IE Cubs fans don't go see the White Sox play.) It would be interesting to see more data out there related to that.

  • adelaidedupont

    "Correlation doesn't imply causation". That is a really generalisable lesson (for example in medicine, where I heard and knew and applied it first), but a counter-intuitive one, because if we don't have all the information, or don't know the steps, we do assume that it DOES.

    I agree that it would be great to see more data about baseball. There's a lot of information about the objective side like home runs and averages, so why not qualiative data as well?

    "Data isn't information, information isn't knowledge, knowledge isn't wisdom".

    Folk wisdom is great, though.

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