Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Audience Insights About Fans of the MLB
As I look outside at the grey, drizzly sky, I can’t wait for sunnier days and warmer weather. Don’t get me wrong – I do have several sweaters I love and I’m always sad to put those away when the weather warms up, but you can only have so many sweater and rain boot days before you begin to long for the first signs of spring. training.
This made me begin to think about what makes the spring the spring, other than the obvious beautiful weather, new leaves and pretty flowers. For me that means kids playing outside, the days getting longer, and baseball. Ok, funnel cakes at the ballpark, but still! Who isn’t looking forward to spring training starting next month?
Come to think of it, who is looking forward to spring training starting next month? There are many ways to dive into an audience like baseball lovers to find insights and craft personas. Do they look like me??
If they have it, an analyst’s first choice is often to look at their first party data, usually enhanced with third party demographics or other data. They might also look at syndicated research data for their industry, or social listening logs. A newer but fantastic source of insights is social behavioral data.
As my friend and colleague Louis Rolleigh says, “Customer data rules,” and there’s no question that those brands with robust first party data can have a treasure trove of insights waiting for them. But not everyone is so lucky – there might be limited POS data, or in the case of baseball teams, not everyone has joined a fan club or mailing list. Fans don’t even buy their game tickets from the team or even the venue usually, but usually go through another company specialized in ticket sales and distribution. Strike one…
Syndicated consumer research can be another resource to learn more about the MLB’s audience. Relatively small but statistically valid samples of consumers agree to answer questions and provide information to a market research company about a variety of topics. Sometimes the information might be specific enough to learn about fans of a given team like the Chicago Cubs or player like Mike Trout. But it doesn’t look at the people who are actually engaging with a brand, and definitely not at scale. Strike two…
That leaves us with social media. Quoting Louis again, social is about “millions of consumers, engaging with brands and having free flowing conversations about them and their products, all in the context of friends who take the time and energy to spontaneously share their opinions and interests.” Social media can be used as the largest market panel available, rich with information about what is being said and perhaps more importantly, who is engaging with a brand.
Since the MLB is very successful on social, diving into their follower base was only natural. The MLB has been very successful at running several Twitter handles to appeal to different segments of their audience, like @MLB, @MLBStatoftheDay, @MLBRosterMoves and my favorite, @MLBGIFs. So I turned to PersonaBuilder, our web-based insights application, which leverages insights gleaned from more than 40 billion connections between people and their networks of brands, interests, and other people from social media and myriad offline data sources. The result is a holistic view of what an audience looks like, what they like, what they buy and more.
Looking at the engagers of the MLB handles, all of them have many more male followers than females, and they are young. (who said young people weren’t interested in baseball anymore??)
They are affluent, earning at least $75K per year, have children and own homes that are valued at $332,700 on average.
MLB fans live predominantly in the North Central part of the country, with Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey taking top honors.
I have to admit, when I looked at these reports I was a little disappointed not so see many people who looked like me. So I limited the audience only to look at the female fans of the MLB, to see if I’d find something more familiar. Bingo. The age tends to be young, with a fairly wide range. I’m definitely in there! And children are present in the home, overindexing for every single age range.
They also live in the North Central area, unlike me, and they are WAY more interested in sports than I am, with sports related interests popping up as 7 of their top 10 interest categories. Here’s a sample.
Moral of the story? Fans come in all stripes and this group tends to be young, affluent and fairly conservative. They live in the North Central and North East parts of the country, and don’t limit their love of sports to baseball – they love sports in general. They love sports media too, ESPN, Sports Nation and shows like Pardon the Interruption. When not watching sports, reality TV offers a good alternative (hello, Bachelor and Bachelorette) but they just might catch the game at Buffalo Wild Wings instead. I’ll see ya there.