The 12th Woman: College Football’s Avid Female Fans

With the college football season underway, rivalries are taking place off the field among family, friends and coworkers.  The trash-talking, however, may not be isolated to men as one out of every three avid college football fans* are women.  Nielsen Scarborough analyzed the avid female college football fan to provide key sponsor category insights into this important consumer segment as well as to highlight how preferences based on conference loyalty could impact sponsorship decisions.


Food impacts all parts of the college football fans’ game-day journey.  For those attending a game, there is tailgating, eating at the game and grabbing food on the way home.  For those watching the game at home, it’s all about the take-out.  And for those watching at a restaurant or bar, it’s all about location.  Ninety-seven percent of avid female football fans have visited a restaurant in the past month, and they are visiting frequently. Compared to U.S. adults, they are 20% more likely to have visited a quick-service restaurants and 29% more likely to have visited a sit-down restaurant ten or more times in the past month.  When it comes to preferred restaurant types, sports bars come in at the top. Avid female college football fans are 38% more likely than the average U.S. adult to have visited a sports bar in the past month.  Additional preferences include Mexican and upscale  (27% more likely), seafood (23% more likely), steakhouse (20% more likely), coffee house/coffee bar (17% more likely), and pizza and Italian (11% more likely).  Restaurant type preferences, however, differ based on conference loyalty.  SEC and ACC fans are more likely to eat at a seafood restaurant, Big Ten fans at a sports bar, Big 12 fans at a Mexican restaurant and Pac-12 fans at a coffee house/coffee bar.

Mobile usage is another key component of game day as fans check in at the stadium or location where they are watching the game, post pictures and check scores throughout the day.  The majority of avid female college football fans own mobile devices; 78% own a smartphone, 61% own a tablet and 53% own both.  They are also very active on both devices as they are 11% more likely to use their smartphones and 52% more likely to use their tablets in at least 20 different ways during a given month. These avid social networkers are 27% more likely than the average U.S. adult to spend at least 3 hours in an average day on social sites.  Connecting socially is the most popular way they use their smartphones and the second most popular way they use their tablets.  But like restaurant preferences, smartphone and tablet usage differs among fans of each conference.  Of avid female college football fans, SEC and Pac-12 fans are more likely than average to use their smartphones for podcasts (32% and 58% more likely, respectively), Big Ten fans to scan QR codes (10% more likely), ACC fans to search local/community events and listen to local radio stations (21% more likely) and Big 12 fans to look at real estate listings (41% more likely). In terms of tablet usage, SEC fans are more likely to obtain coupons (37% more likely), Big Ten fans to visit cable TV network sites (90% more likely), ACC fans to participate in fantasy sports (55% more likely), Big 12 fans to scan QR codes (66% more likely) and Pac-12 fans to check traffic conditions (2 times more likely).

Loyalty extends beyond the football field and into avid female college football fans’ banking and financial preferences.  Three out of four say there are only one or two financial institutions that they turn to first.  These financially savvy fans know broadly how much money is in in their accounts at any one time (85%) and over half (57%) bank online.  They are 16% more likely to bank on their smartphones and 20% more likely to bank on their tablets.  Eighty-four percent say investing in the future is important to them, and conference fans are investing in different ways.  SEC, ACC and Pac-12 fans are more likely to be investing in money market funds (12%, 43% and 54%, respectively), Big Ten fans in bonds (41% more likely) and Big 12 fans in a second home or real estate property (24% more likely).

A third of avid college football fans are women, and they are passionate about more than just the game.  They frequent restaurants, are heavy users of mobile devices and are loyal to their financial institutions, all of which make them attractive consumers for these brand categories.  Understanding the nuances of female college football fans nationally and at the conference level can be the winning advantage as brands shape their marketing campaigns and sponsor partnerships.

Source: Nielsen Scarborough USA+ 2016 Release 1

*Avid college football fans: adults 18+ who are “very interested” in college football

**Fans of conferences are aggregates of the fans (watch, attend or listen past 12 months) of specific schools included in that conference




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