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Man Myth: “Ours is a Very Big Sports Town”

| August 25, 2014

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media

sabowalterwriterNEW YORK — As a globetrotting consultant there is noticeable bravado in every city about the local level of sports fandom.

When the topic of sports coverage and sports interest is discussed, the local media mavens always say the same things:

*  “This is a very big sports town.”

* “Even women here are nuts about sports.”

*  “You’ve got to understand that this is the biggest sports town.”

How can this be true in every city? The evidence presented runs along these lines:

*   “When the stadium lets out after a game, the traffic jam runs for hours.”

* “When the team is playing at home during the week, attendance at work is way down.”

*  “The spike in ratings for the game on TV is huge.”

* “People leave their season seats in their wills.”

Those anecdotes are accepted as fact among otherwise hardheaded businessmen, (even those with MBAs). With only that evidence, many local brands spend fortunes in advertising attached to their teams.

The Facts Don’t Match the Roar of the Crowd

What are the facts, is there such a thing as a VERY BIG sports town?  No, according to the data presented from the major league national teams, every city is pretty much the same.

A majority of NBA, MLB and NFL playing arenas hit an average of 95% sold out.  Yes the Bulls, the sacred Chicago Bulls home games are always 100% sold out but so are the Mavericks, the Heat, the Celtics, the Clippers and the Thunder. Combine Home and Road games and again the average is approximately 95% for all teams.   Click here  and see for yourself.

In Major League Baseball, San Francisco has a 99% sell-out rate, the Yankees 80.5 and Cleveland 45%. But Cleveland thinks it’s a very big sports town. On average approximately 75% of the seats are sold out in MLB parks. The swing from the biggest to the lowest stadium attendance levels is not statistically significant for any sport. Click here.

Football attendance levels reveal that the top 11 most-attended stadiums are all 100%+ sold out. Oakland, with the poorest attendance, pulls a very respectable 80% sellout for the season. (2013.)  Click here.

Percentage of sell-out levels statistically suggest that all cities serving as the home to big league teams have similar levels of interest from fans. Grown up research is found here.

• TV news directors know that viewership goes down the moment the sports report goes on the air.  All-sports radio is a 1.8-share format.

• For radio stations, most, if not all play-by-play deals of non-college sports lose money. Play-by-play hockey often loses money in — Montreal!  Although an effective cume builder, Yankees baseball is not a big money maker for its radio affiliates.

It seems that when some sports fans get near a stadium they get, um, emotional.  Their excitement blinds them to the fact that although sports is very big in their mind, sports may not be as big outside of their mind.  Most sports advertising is an emotional buy that places the buying executive inside the dugout and on the sidelines. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not necessarily a pragmatic business decision.


Walter Sabo is CEO of Sabo Media, a New York-based media consultation firm.  He can be emailed at or phoned at 347-380-1581. 

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Category: Opinions, Sports