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Analyzing The NFL’s Popularity

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 15, 2011 – 7:47 am

NFL fans have been beaten down with legal mumbo jumbo and seemingly never-ending discussion about labor issues and work stoppages over the past several months. But positive developments have occurred lately and it’s become apparent that progress is being made as the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) continue to meet and hammer out their differences.

And that’s a good thing, of course. Perhaps the most prevailing sentiment among those caught in the crossfire of the NFL’s labor situation (the fans) is something along the lines of “they have it so good right now, why are they messing it up?” If I had a nickel for every time someone said that to me or wrote that in an email, I could pay the legal fees for both the NFL and the NFLPA.

But as old as that saying has become over the past several months, there’s no denying how true it is. The NFL and its players are experiencing unprecedented popularity and success right now, so it’s a good thing that they’re on the verge of figuring out their labor disagreements because much more bickering between the two sides could cause a negative shift in popularity and, consequently, success.

The NFL Research Department, along with several other groups and organizations, constantly conducts polls and studies to analyze the performance of the NFL relative to other leagues and relative to the NFL’s past performance. According to the latest numbers released by the NFL Research Department, the NFL is dominating the American sports landscape. I’ve taken a deep look at the recent research and have pulled out a few important notes that will illustrate to you A) how popular the NFL is in America, B) how dominant the NFL is over other sports and C) how much there is to lose if a resolution to the current labor impasse isn’t reached soon. Take a look…

– Respondents were asked to identify their “favorite sport” and more than twice as many people identify the NFL as their favorite sport than the 2nd place MLB. In fact, more people selected the NFL as their “favorite sport” than select MLB, NBA, and NASCAR combined. *source: NFL Research, ESPN Sports Poll

– The 2010 NFL regular season was the most-watched in 21 years (2nd best all-time) and the highest rated in 14 years; the playoffs following the 2010 season were the most-viewed of all-time. Super Bowl XLV is the most-viewed program in U.S. history, with a total audience of 163 million. *source: NFL Research, The Nielson Company

– While generating a TV audience is obviously important, there’s nothing that can replace the actual game day experience at a stadium/arena. To that end, NFL fans do a better job than any other sports league’s fans at getting into the stadium. 60% of “Avid” NFL fans attended a football game in the past year, which is the highest level of any sports league. *source: NFL, Fan Conduct Attendee Research 2010

– The NFL is the leader in sports apparel sales with over $900 million in sales for 2010. This represents 22% of the overall “sport logo apparel” market. The 2nd place league is MLB with $645 million in sales. *source: NPD, Calendar Year 2010

– Respondents were asked to list their “favorite pro sports teams” and 11 of the top 15 teams listed were NFL clubs (Dallas, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Green Bay, New Orleans, Minnesota and New England). Also, more NFL teams are cited as “favorite pro sports teams” than the total number of MLB, NBA and NHL teams combined. *source: NFL Research, ESPN Sports Poll 2008-10

– The Vikings take pride in their community involvement, as all 53 members of the team’s roster have participated in at least one community event every year for the past 4 years. The NFL as a league takes pride in community involvement also. Commitment to community is something that is associated with the NFL, according to research conducted by the NFL and ESPN. Among the total U.S. Population, the majority (29%) believe that NFL players care more about community efforts than any other league; the 2nd place league was MLB at 13%. *source: NFL Research, ESPN Sports Poll, March 2010

– Those responsible for marketing and selling NFL merchandise and those responsible for making the NFL brand a strong brand in the market place are doing a good job, according to research by the NFL and ESPN. In fact, 31% of respondents indicated that they are more likely to consider purchasing a product with the NFL Shield logo on it. *source: NFL Research, ESPN Sports Poll, November 2010


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