Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Measuring Attendance: Issues and Implications for Estimating the Impact of Free-to-View Sports Events

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Measuring Attendance: Issues and Implications for Estimating the Impact of Free-to-View Sports Events

Article excerpt

Executive summary

Since the mid-1990s, literature on major sports events has grown considerably. This has enhanced knowledge and understanding of how events are organised, managed, marketed and, ultimately, measured in terms of their contribution to societal outcomes. However, most previous research focuses on pay-to-view events, with free-to-view events receiving considerably less attention. This paper focuses on estimating spectator attendance at free-to-view events and the implications of this for evaluating impact. It is a methodological issue is particularly relevant to non-elite events, as many are conducted in public places (such as roads, parks, beaches and open waters), and are consequently free-to-view.

Measuring attendance accurately is important for a number of reasons. It indicates the popularity of an event, which is of interest to organisers, funders and potential sponsors; it is considered to be a valuable performance indicator for some events, and it is an important factor in measuring economic, environmental and social impacts of events.

This paper uses empirical data from a marathon event, a cycling road race and a motorsport event to examine various approaches to measuring spectator attendance at free-to view events. For each event, a spectator survey was undertaken to establish patterns of spectator behaviour. Details are given on how the surveys were carried out and then used, together with other sources of information, to derive aggregate estimates of attendance.

The paper suggests there are a number of considerations that researchers, event organisers and event funders need to take into account when measuring spectator attendance at free-to-view events. Firstly, that the sampling techniques used for the spectator surveys, will be determined by factors such as the spatial layout and length of the course, access to spectator areas and existing local intelligence. Secondly, that repeat viewing within a single event, either at multiple locations or on multiple days, can often be a source of error within estimates of spectator attendance (and incidental or casual attendance) and that this can serve to inflate attendance figures. The paper also suggests that a major challenge in estimating spectator attendance can be reconciling the expectations of event organisers with rigorous and robust measurement of actual spectator attendance, which can often produce estimates lower than anticipated.

The paper concludes that, despite the challenges outlined above, obtaining robust measurement of attendance is fundamental to ensuring the reliability of event monitoring and evaluation. It argues that there is a need to move towards a more rigorous, empirically-based framework for measuring spectator attendance at free-to-view events. This will give organisers a more reputable method for evaluating events and more credible information for use in marketing and for potential sponsors of free-to-view events in the future.

Introduction

Since the mid-1990s there has been a marked increase in major sports event evaluation. This evaluation information has led to a greater understanding of the way that events are organised, managed, marketed and ultimately measured in terms of their contribution to economic, social and environmental outcomes. Furthermore, it has generated an evidence base, which is increasingly used to rationalise and justify the bidding for, and hosting of, sports events. However, much of the growth in sports event evaluation literature has focused on events that spectators pay to view (Collins et al, 2009; Gibson et al, 2008; Jinxia & Mangan, 2008; Johnsen et al, 2004; Lakshman, 2008; Porter & Fletcher, 2008; Rathke & Ulrich, 2008; Soderman, 2008; Solberg & Preuss, 2007; Sterken, 2006), with free-to-view events receiving considerably less attention.

This paper focuses on measuring spectator numbers and attendance at free-to-view events and the implications of this for evaluating impact. …

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