Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Nick Green for a story in the Los Angeles Daily News which takes a closer look into the American soccer fan. You can enjoy the full read below.
Who are American soccer fans and what do they care about?
The typical American soccer fan is a casual adherent to a fragmented global sport who increasingly “snacks” on coverage via mobile devices, according to a recent marketing study that provides a snapshot of consumers of the domestic market.
But the sport is steadily growing, especially among younger fans who have never known an America without MLS; generally speaking, they are more passionate about the sport than baby boomers, many of whom experienced soccer’s emergence in the U.S. later in life.
Indeed, it is the demographics of soccer that make the sport so appealing to companies trying to reach a young, diverse, tech-savvy and increasingly devoted fan base, said John Guppy, founder of Chicago-based Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing, which has conducted the national survey three years in succession.
He is a native Englishman who still devoutly follows EPL club Southampton and is a former general manager with the Chicago Fire.
“The average age of a soccer fan is always younger than the average age of other sports fans,” Guppy said. “For many brands, they are a marketer’s dream. Soccer has always been about the quality of the audience rather than the quality.
“Soccer in America is totally driven by millennials and post-millenials,” he added. “That’s the audience driving the sport. That’s where new fans come from. That’s the audience marketers are trying to reach. And that audience, by and large, has grown up with soccer.”
Three consecutive years of quizzing 1,000 soccer fans online about the sport during a one-week period in October has produced some fairly consistent results, he said.
Key findings include:
• Almost one-third of soccer fans — 31 percent — consider themselves “event seekers” who really follow only big events and are ready to jump on the World Cup bandwagon every time it rolls around.
• There are more Europhiles — 13 percent — who primarily follow European soccer than MLS fans — 12 percent; however, most U.S.-based soccer fans — 27 percent — follow both the international and domestic game.
• About 6 percent of fans primarily focus on the sport in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, although almost 30 percent of Latinos also follow MLS soccer to some degree.
• About 10 percent of soccer consumers aren’t really fans; they just like to watch their kids play.
• The average soccer consumer watches almost nine games a month, but rarely ventures to a stadium, attending fewer than two games a month; in contrast, almost half the games watched were seen on a mobile device, a smartphone or tablet.
• Compared to Baby Boomers, Generation Y and Z consumers indicated they are more passionate about the sport, follow more club teams, became fans much younger and played the sport more than older generations.
“There’s no question that playing the game is a major contributor to interest and connection to the sport and as a fan,” Guppy said. “It’s a maturation. It’s definitely growing.”