Academic journal article The Sport Journal

The Price of NFL Fandom: An Exploratory Study of the Past, Present, and Future Purchasing Power of NFL Fans

Academic journal article The Sport Journal

The Price of NFL Fandom: An Exploratory Study of the Past, Present, and Future Purchasing Power of NFL Fans

Article excerpt


Research on ticket prices, as one of many motivational factors in attending professional sporting events, has been analyzed in sport-marketing studies since Noll's (13) seminal work identifying significant factors that determine attendance (2,8,13). Sport economists have utilized ticket pricing data to analyze both elasticity of demand and profit-maximizing behavior of organizations (1,3,16). Conversely, few studies involving ticket prices have examined the financial impact of those pricing decisions on the fans attending sporting events. Concern by both the media and academicians regarding the gentrification of professional sports has increased as ticket prices have continued to climb at rates that outpace increases in ordinary household incomes (11).

Fan Cost Index

Team Marketing Report created the Fan Cost Index (FCI) to reflect the average cost for a family of four to attend a sporting event. While not without its detractors (many of whom would claim that a family can attend games at a fraction of the cost presented by the FCI), the FCI has provided the most comprehensive pricing data set of professional sport franchises for the last two decades (17). The FCI goods and services "basket" includes the cost of four average-priced tickets, two draft beers, four soft drinks, four hot dogs, two caps, two programs, and parking for one vehicle. All four professional sport leagues have increased prices of their goods and services in the FCI basket considerably from 1991 to 2009. The NFL has outpaced the other professional leagues in FCI increases since 2000. The NFL league average FCI went from $151.55 in 1991 to $278.37 in 2000 to $412.64 in 2009 (17).

Economic Disconnect of Sport Fans

The increase in cost to attend live sporting events for all professional sports has received both academic and media attention. The primary focus of this attention has been centered on the argument that all but the wealthiest fans are being priced out of the live sporting event experience. One common question raised in these arguments is whether the long-term health of professional sports leagues is sacrificed for short-term financial gains, as gentrification of sports could lead to a decline in interest among lower and middle class youths who never had the opportunity to attended games during their childhood (5).

In an analysis of Major League Baseball fans, Dortch (6) suggested that in the future Major League Baseball would face a disconnect with younger fans as the demographics of America change. The eventual aging and loss of the baby-boom generation will require Major League Baseball to replace the extremely large baby-boomer fan base with younger fans, many of whom did not grow up attending many baseball games. Dortch highlighted the significance of higher household income as it related to the higher probability of a person attending a sporting event compared to ten years prior. While the focus of the article was on Major League Baseball, it addressed all four major professional sports leagues, as they all face gentrification resulting from the focus on courting more fans who are affluent. The findings of the research illustrated the importance of the baby-boomers on attendance through 2010, with the warning that the generation following the baby boomers might not assume their role when it comes to attending sporting events.

Howard (10) examined the difference in cost for a family of four to attend an NFL game in 1957 compared to attending an NFL game in 1997. The $12.50 it cost in 1957 ($71.40 in 1997 dollars) would cover less than a third (28%) of the $257.00 cost in 1997. Howard emphasized concern for the problematic trend of corporate spectators becoming a large proportion of the attendees at sporting events. The concern has become that corporate spectators do not use their personal funds to gain access and therefore lack the same "emotional commitment and loyalty" (p. …

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