MLB Fans – Younger Than You Think

It’s early April and across the country MLB fans are optimistic for their teams’ chances.  The old-timers reminisce about the glory days while the youngsters hear the stories and are eager to create their own.  Almost certainly more than any other American sport, baseball connects the generations as parents continue the tradition of taking their children to their first game and sharing the experience from their early childhood memories.

A common perception of MLB fans is that of an older demographic.  Is this the case?  Digging into Scarborough Sports Marketing data answers this question and the results may surprise you.

For the purposes of this article, we are profiling the MLB fan by the following six measures :

  1. Avid fans (very interested in MLB)
  2. Website visitors (MLB.com or MLB team website past 30 days)
  3. Apparel purchasers (MLB apparel bought past 12 months)
  4. Attendees (attended MLB game past 12 months)
  5. Radio listeners (listened to MLB games past 12 months)
  6. Viewers (MLB on TV past 12 months)

Which of these fans are older?  How much older?  What’s the youngest of the set?

The median age of U.S. adults is 46 (½ of all adults are older and ½ younger).  Only two of the six MLB fan profiles listed above are older than median age of U.S. adults – avid fans and viewers, both at 47 (only one year older).  The other four MLB fan profiles are younger than U.S. adults, with apparel purchasers and website visitors the “babies” of the bunch at a median age of 40.  Perhaps most surprisingly, MLB radio listeners are more than two years younger than the national median.  What does this mean?  First and foremost, MLB is not necessarily your father’s game in terms of who is paying attention and following the sport.  Those younger ages bode well for the future of the sport and offer suggestions on how to reach this fan base.

If we take a deeper dive, some notable characteristics come to light:

-          45% of MLB attendees have at least one child living at home, 27% have at least two and 22% have one or more teenagers

-          32% of attendees are age 18-34, 26% are age 21-34 and 16% are Men age 21-34

-          33.2 million unique adults 18+ attended a MLB game in the past year (10.5 million are age 18-34)

-          More MLB attendees are Age 21-34 (26%) than Age 55+ (25%)

So not only are MLB fans younger than you may think, but some of their behaviors seemingly shave additional years.  Compared to total U.S. adults, MLB attendees are 10% more likely to be Age 21-34 while are 20% more likely to social network on the Internet and 51% more likely to social network on their mobile phones.  More specifically, in the past 30 days MLB attendees are 22% more likely to have visited Facebook and 51% more likely to have visited Twitter.  Even the “oldest” MLB fan profile (avid fans) are more likely to social network on their mobile phones and use Twitter.

The perception of MLB as an older fan demographic simply doesn’t pan out when you analyze the numbers.  Especially when you look at the different segments of fans and how they interact with baseball.  Social networking is a key component and a great way to communicate with these younger fans.  It’s evident when you look how the league and teams are using Facebook and Twitter.  To start the season MLB launched its FanCave where two selected fans will watch more than 2400 games over the next six months from a Manhattan based location and social network via Twitter, blogging, etc.   Another telling example is MLB’s At Bat mobile application, which was the number one overall grossing app on iTunes in 2010.

For those of us who love the game of baseball (full disclosure – diehard Twins fan here), this bodes well for the future of the sport in terms of fan development.  It’s quite simply up to the league, teams, media partners and us fans to continue engaging this younger vibrant demographic and nurture the next generation.

Play ball!