ESPN Survey: All Sports Fans Aren't the Same

The National Football League is the most popular sport among Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, but the National Basketball Association is king of the court for African-Americans, according to a recent ESPN sports poll.
More than 70% of fans participating in the survey, conducted from January to June, rated the NFL either at either an eight, nine or 10 on a scale of one to 10, with 10 representing a "superfan," according to the sports-programming giant.
Among non-Hispanic whites surveyed, 71% said they were most fervent about pro football. Some 63% of Hispanic viewers agreed with that view.
Non-Hispanic black viewers had the most affinity for the NFL, at 80%, but that fell short of the 82% garnered by the NBA, according to ESPN officials.
Collegiate sports also ranked high among non-Hispanic whites and blacks. College football and college basketball ranked third and fourth, respectively, among whites, while college basketball ranked third, ahead of college football, among blacks.
For Hispanics, boxing finished third, followed by international soccer and Major League Baseball.
The survey showed that all sports fans aren't alike, said Glenn Enoch, ESPN's vice president of integrated media research.
"We know that the sports fan is not an amorphous, unified whole - there are all different kinds of fans," he said. "One of the big things about sports as a niche category is that they're watching differently, depending on what their community group is.
"We have to understand the subtle differences between them, so that we can serve the sports fan effectively," he added.
Enthusiasm for a particular sport doesn't always translate into long hours in front of the TV, though. While the NFL ranked as the most viewed sport for non-Hispanic whites and blacks, ESPN in an earlier version of the survey released last March reported that soccer is the No. 1 watched sport among Hispanics, with the NFL finishing a distant second.
Often times, being a fan of a sport and watching that sport can be two different and distinct points for viewers, Enoch said.
"It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario: If the fan base is bigger, are more people tuning in, or if more people are tuning in, does that lead them to believe that they are fans?" he asked.
Among the survey's other findings:
• The average American follows 11 sports, but non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics follow 12.4 and 12.3 sports, respectively.
• Non-Hispanic blacks say they're "very interested" in 4.1 sports, while Hispanics say their big fans of 3.5 sports, well above the 2.5 sports of interest to non-Hispanic whites.
• 32.3% of non-Hispanic whites attend sports events, compared to 26.5% of Hispanics and 22.4% of non-Hispanic blacks.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.