BLOG | by Victor Gras

As the sports calendar gets crowded, what effect is it having on what competitions people are talking about?

With the calendars of so many sporting events out of kilter in 2020, we wanted to take a look at whether the changes are affecting the public’s behavior towards them. Is the cluttered calendar good news for sport in general, specific sports, or bad news for all of them.

We looked at our Word of Mouth (WoM) metric to see whether the pandemic and the compaction were having any noticeable effects on the amount Americans have been talking about sports events. You can see that analysis in the chart above which charts WoM scores for 30 days across August and September (10 Aug to 9 September) in each of the past three years.

As you can see, there is no uniform effect. Some scores are up, some are down. What we can tell you is that overall, there is significantly more chatter about these selected competitions as a whole in 2020 than there was in 2018 or 2019. Good news, right?

Let’s look first at the leagues whose seasons have been impacted the most by rescheduling.

For baseball, chatter is at around the same level as last year. It usually sits beneath football but this year just pips the NFL over this period.

NBA has made serious gains in its WoM score compared to the past couple of years, as its playoff period is pushed from June to now. That’s as we would expect.

The NHL’s season would normally wrap up in June but this year is only now concluding. But that’s good news for its Word of Mouth score over this period, which is double what it might usually expect at this point. This score is very much in line with what the NHL would score at the end of the Stanley Cup each year – just later in the year.

But that story of shifting peaks is not the same for every competition. NASCAR, whose season would typically run from February to November but which has had to suffer a hiatus this year, has seen a hit to its WoM score, possibly as it gets squeezed by competition from sports like the NBA and NHL which wouldn’t ordinarily clash at this time of the year.

The NFL’s score is a little less than it was this time last year. That’s down on the previous year but roughly in line with historic scores. Under the circumstances, with both hockey and basketball taking place when they’re usually wrapped up by now, that can be considered a pretty good result.

Finally, the WNBA is worth a mention here. Its condensed season, scheduled to end in October, has seen many more people talking about the league than it would usually expect over August/September.

As leagues attempt to settle back into (or in the NFL’s case, maintain) old routines for next season, it will be interesting to see the lessons they take from this kind of data – both in terms of their respective schedules across the year and the formats seasons take. Necessity has been the mother of invention in 2020 but will all the change it’s forced upon sport be temporary? Time will tell.

Photo by Ron Unsplash

BLOG | by Victor Gras

VICTOR GRAS
Head of Client Services

Joining YouGov Sport in March 2018, Victor brings seven years of global sports sponsorship expertise. In his last role, he led Nielsen’s Market Intelligence activity across all US verticals, working with brands, rights holders and agency clients. He also worked previously with the New York Road Runners, where he helped TCS launch the title partnership of the NYC Marathon, as well as with the ASO, optimizing sponsorship strategies for the Tour de France and the Paris Marathon.

E victor.gras@yougov.com

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