MBPT Spotlight: What the NFL and Marketers Should Fear Most: The League’s Female Fans

According to the NFL, women make up a full 45% of its fan base—a remarkable achievement for what was once considered the ultimate “guy sport.” Now, with new domestic violence charges about NFL players emerging almost daily, advertisers are beginning to flee the league. But have these brands misjudged the league’s female fans? What is really at stake in the NFL’s abuse scandals?

From GfK MRI’s extensive consumer profile data, we know that two thirds (65%) of women who regularly watch Monday or Thursday night NFL games are between ages 18 and 54—the prime range for earning and consuming. Of these, the biggest segment is between 45 and 54—some 19%.

We also know that nearly half the regular female NFL viewers have household incomes of $75,000 or more. And among regular Monday and Thursday night watchers, the greatest concentration—roughly 40%—is in the $75,000-$199,999 income range, with slightly more than 5% in the $200,000+ category. In short, these women have money to spend.

Our data also shows that regular Monday or Thursday female viewers are from 20% to 39% more likely than all adults to say they have sole or joint responsibility for home purchasing decisions in a variety of categories—bedding/bath goods, household appliances, cooking and serving products and household furnishings. The same is also true for certain brands of foreign automobiles, mid-sized SUV’s and televisions. Clearly, the NFL’s women fans are decision-makers when it comes to spending.

GfK MRI has also found that 36% of regular female NFL viewers—and 31% of occasional viewers—want the brands they buy to support social causes they agree with. So women who watch more football are more likely to expect the NFL to share their passions. One can only assume that domestic violence and child endangerment would be among those causes for many of the league’s female fans. 

What all of these data points show us is clear: That the NFL and its advertisers have a right to be worried about what female fans of the league must be thinking regarding its domestic violence issues. The NFL’s women fans are often well-educated, come from high earning households and make many purchase decisions for their families. And roughly one-third of them want pro football to support their causes—which means they care when the NFL’s players let them down.

In summary, brands are justified in their concern about the NFL. They cannot afford to be associated with a league whose actions are offending a large portion of its customers and its fans. The NFL clearly has its work cut out. If the bad news keeps coming, many of the brands may feel the need to find a new home for their advertising dollars and, once they find it, those dollars may not come back to the league or its network telecasts anytime soon.