While much of the country continues to see winter weather, the calendar has flipped to March and from Florida to Arizona the distinctive crack of wooden bats on leather baseballs signals the coming of spring for sports fans. Last season the Houston Astros came out of nowhere to make the playoffs , the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs dueled it out for the National League championship, the Kansas City Royals won their first World Series in 29 years. As the 2016 season begins, it will be exciting to see if the accomplishments these teams experienced on the field can translate into additional fans and dollars at the ticket office.
According to Nielsen Scarborough, the Royals, Mets and Astros each added more than 200,000 unique fans* between 2014 and 2015. The Royals took the lead in both headcount (435,000 new fans) and percentage gain, a staggering 43% growth in fans in a single year. These spikes took the Royals from an 11th place ranking** among MLB teams, all the way to the top spot, replacing their Missouri rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Pittsburgh Pirates serve as a good example of how a team can translate their success on the field to success at the box office. The Pirates famously set an all-sports losing record for 20 straight seasons, from 1993 through 2012. But in 2013 things turned around with 94 game wins and playoff attainment for each of the three following seasons. And their fan following noticed. From 2011 to 2012 (the year before the Pirates new streak started, but one in which they showed signs of a breakout) the Pirates fan* base overall increased by 14%. But more important to the team’s bottom line, their number of unique adult attendees increased by 26%, that’s more than 150,000 unique adults. That equates to roughly 2,000 new unique attendees per home game. Proof perhaps that you don’t necessarily have to take home the trophy to win at the ticket office.
These gains are not just limited to headcount success stories. The Pirates run of success has also brought increases in key demographics. Since 2011 the number of female Pirates fans has increased by 23% and the number of female game attendees has gone up by almost 60,000. Not only has the Pirates fan base grown larger, it has also grown increasingly affluent. The 2011 median annual household income of a Pirates game attendee was $58,000. In 2015 that rose to $71,500. If the Mets could grow their female fan base by the same 23% over the next 5 years it would mean 420,000 additional New York women following the team. If the Royals grow their attendee base by the same 25% the Pirates have seen, it would mean an additional 2,300 unique adults per game at Kauffman Stadium.
As the 2016 season gets ready to begin Las Vegas shows the Cubs, Mets, Astros and Royals all reside within the top six contenders to win the World Series. Their odds favor the Cubs, 4 to 1, to win thus ending their 108 year dry spell without a World Series title. The Mets haven’t finished as champs since 1986 and the Astros have never won the World Series in their 44 year existence. If any of these teams find themselves mobbing their pitcher on the mound after a World Series win, they are sure to see the value at the ticket office like never before.
Source: Nielsen Scarborough local market databases Release 2 2015
*Fans are adults 18+ who watched, attended or listened to a game during the past year.
**(Ranking by Watch/Attend/Listen percentage in their home market)