The different demographics of viewers of America’s major sports

Derek Thompson highlights the varied demographics of viewers of the major sports in the United States:

  • The NBA has the youngest audience, with 45 percent of its viewers under 35. It also has the highest share of black viewers, at 45 percent—three times higher than the NFL or NCAA basketball.
  • Major League Baseball shares the most male-heavy audience, at 70 percent, with the NBA.
  • The NHL audience is the richest of all professional sports. One-third of its viewers make more than $100k, compared to about 19 percent of the general population.
  • Nascar’s audience has the highest share of women (37 percent) and highest share of white people (94 percent).
  • The Professional Golfers Association has the oldest audience by multiple measures: smallest share of teenagers; smallest share of 20- and early 30-somethings; and highest share of 55+ (twice as high, in the oldest demo, as the NBA or Major League Soccer).
  • Major League Soccer has the highest share of Hispanics by far (34 percent; second is the NBA at 12 percent) and the lowest income of any major sports audience. Nearly 40 percent of its fans make less than $40k.
  • The NCAA demographics for football and basketball are practically identical but they are surprising old (about 40% over 55+) and surprisingly white (about 80%), which clearly has as much to do with who owns a TV rather than who follows the sports.

There are much smaller demographic differences – say across gender as all of these sports have primarily male viewers – and larger ones, particularly across race and ethnicity, income, and race.

I wonder if this could all be easily deduced by watching the commercials that play during the games. While the average fan may not be aware of these demographic splits, advertisers most certainly are and target the audience accordingly. Yet, I can’t say I quickly can name notable advertisement differences between the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL off the top of my head in the same way I quickly notice a difference in advertisements when turning on the network news at night (a very rare occurrence).

Chicago innovation #14: Consumer preference research

A cousin of social science research, consumer preference research, got its start in Chicago:

It was 1928. Benton was working at Chicago’s Lord & Thomas advertising agency when owner Albert Lasker told him to land Colgate-Palmolive by impressing the outsized toiletry powerhouse with market research. Benton worked night and day for two months to record housewives’ preferences for the products of each company.

The firm used the pioneering survey in its initial Colgate-Palmolive campaign and landed the account before the survey was completed.

This drew criticism from an early sociologist:

Sociologist Gordon Hancock hated the idea. It was tantamount to cheating.

In a statement that must have brought grins to the faces of that up-and-coming generation of ad men, Hancock decried in 1926: “Excessive scientific advertising takes undue advantage of the public.”

This was, of course, the point.

This tension between marketing and sociology still exists today. The two areas use similar methods of collecting data such as surveys, focus groups, interviews, and ethnographies or participant observation. However, they have very different purposes: marketing is intended to sell products while sociologists are trying to uncover how social life works. The tension reminds me of Morgan Spurlock’s documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold that questions the marketing complex.

This comes in at #14 on a list of the top 20 innovations from Chicago; I highlighted the #5 innovation, balloon frame housing, in an earlier post.


Who wants to be in the “McMansion and minivans” category?

Big data makes it possible to slice up Americans into all sorts of consumer categories like “McMansions and minivans.” However, how many would want to be in that category?

Acxiom provides “premium proprietary behavioral insights” that “number in the thousands and cover consumer interests ranging from brand and channel affinities to product usage and purchase timing.” In other words, Acxiom creates profiles, or digital dossiers, about millions of people, based on the 1,500 points of data about them it claims to have. These data might include your education level; how many children you have; the type of car you drive; your stock portfolio; your recent purchases; and your race, age, and education level. These data are combined across sources—for instance, magazine subscriber lists and public records of home ownership—to determine whether you fit into a number of predefined categories such as “McMansions and Minivans” or “adult with wealthy parent.” Acxiom is then able to sell these consumer profiles to its customers, who include twelve of the top fifteen credit card issuers, seven of the top ten retail banks, eight of the top ten telecom/media companies, and nine of the top ten property and casualty insurers.

Acxiom may be one of the largest data brokers, but it represents a dramatic shift in the way that personal information is handled online. The movement toward “Big Data,” which uses computational techniques to find social insights in very large groupings of data, is rapidly transforming industries from health care to electoral politics. Big Data has many well-known social uses, for example by the police and by managers aiming to increase productivity. But it also poses new challenges to privacy on an unprecedented level and scale. Big Data is made up of “little data,” and these little data may be deeply personal.

This is not new though the amount of data advertisers and others have – which is often given voluntarily on the Internet – may have increased in recent years. What might be more interesting, given that this is happening, is then to present Americans with the categories they are in and see how they react. Neither McManions or minivans have very good reputations. McMansions are seen as ugly houses owned by people who just want to make a splash, not own a quality house or participate in a close-knit community. Minivans signify suburban parent schlepping kids from place to place. Think the Toyota commercials from a few years back that tried to make owning a minivan cool. Put together these two functional objects that also serve as status markers and I suspect many people would not want to identify themselves as being in such an uncool group. Yet, there are plenty of people in such a group. Drive through any well-to-do suburb and both the homes and the parking lots (lots of Toyota and Honda minivans as well as a range of upscale SUVs – does this category include “McMansions and SUVs”?) reveal a certain lifestyle built around home, kids, school, and safety. It may be derided by outsiders and the people on the inside might not self-identify as such (and they might object to being lumped in a group – we Americans are individuals after all), but these are fairly popular choices to which marketers and businesses can then cater.

Natural gas bus commercial misses that riding the bus is already helping the environment

This commercial from America’s Natural Gas Alliance highlights natural gas buses in Los Angeles. The message is that the natural gas buses are better for the environment. They may be – but it misses the point that individuals using mass transit are already helping the environment (let alone traffic congestion). So having a natural gas bus is a bonus. Perhaps we would all be better off if more people were willing to ride any kind of bus in the first place.

However, given that it is difficult to get wealthier people to ride buses, we should then ask when we might have cars powered by natural gas. If natural gas is cleaner to burn, why not reduce the emissions from cars rather than focusing on the limited number of Americans who regularly ride the bus?

(I realize the natural gas buses may just be a marketing ploy. However, it is really about helping the environment, not good PR or trying to sell more natural gas, why not use natural gas to power more things?)

Why are so many car commercials set in the Los Angeles area?

I’ve noticed something about car commercials lately: many of them are shot in the Los Angeles area. Here are three common scenes:

1. Driving down a few blocks of downtown Los Angeles, possibly with the Walt Disney Concert Hall in the background or in the parking garage that provides a nice overlook over the city. Even if you don’t know the concert hall by name, you may have seen this behind numerous cars:


It takes some work to block off urban streets but these few blocks of downtown get a lot of air time.

2. Driving on Highway 101 along the Pacific Coast. Think of scenes with cliffs on one side, the Pacific Ocean on the other, a sunny day, and a beautiful car driving down a narrow road over curves and with sweeping vistas.

3. Driving along Mulholland Drive with the city in the background or along a similar road in the hills north of downtown Los Angeles. One of the commercials on the air right now ends with a shot of the new car winding its way toward the Griffiths Observatory. The observatory is a nice place to explore and there are good views:


Overall, I suspect there is some good reason for all of this. Perhaps it to simply take advantage of all of the power and tools of Hollywood. Perhaps LA is great because of its varied landscape. Perhaps there are some tax breaks involved. However, there are plenty of other cities where this filming could take place and LA is far away from Detroit, the traditional center of American cars. At the same time, this might provide more reasons why that Super Bowl commercial about being “Imported from Detroit” received so much attention.

Just how many fake Twitter accounts are there? And why does it matter?

Twitter and experts disagree on how many fake Twitter accounts there are:

In securities filings, Twitter says it believes fake accounts represent fewer than 5% of its 230 million active users. Independent researchers believe the number is higher.

Italian security researchers Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli say they found 20 million fake accounts for sale on Twitter this summer. That would amount to nearly 9% of Twitter’s monthly active users. The Italian researchers also found software for sale that allows spammers to create unlimited fake accounts. The researchers decoded robot-programming software to reveal how easy it is for spammers to control the convincing fakes…

Jason Ding, a researcher at Barracuda Labs who has studied fake Twitter followers for more than a year, also thinks Twitter underestimates the prevalence of fake accounts on the network. Mr. Ding says users don’t understand how active and realistic the fakes can appear.

Read on for more details how the battle between the black market and Twitter’s use of algorithms to discover fake accounts is going. Even if the average user can’t quite figure out who is a real or fake user, the consequences are real:

The fake accounts remain a cloud over Twitter Inc. in the wake of its successful initial public offering. “Twitter is where many people get news,” says Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. “If what is trending on Twitter is being faked by robots, people need to know that. This will and should undermine trust.”

According to this article and others, it appears that fake accounts are most commonly used for promotional purposes, whether for Washington politicians or entertainment stars. How harmful are these fake accounts which might be used to boost the number of followers or retweet material?

On the other hand, Turkle suggests these fake accounts could easily mask what is really happening on Twitter. Perhaps they are pushing certain Twitter trends, which then influences other users. Or, perhaps these fake Twitter accounts could push false news reports, which could have some different consequences depending on the situation. It could be worse if a large number of users find out they were interacting with or trying to engage with fake accounts.

While I agree with Turkle that this does present an important trust issue, I wonder if it would take some high profile case before this becomes a real issue. Imagine someone is able to use a set of fake accounts to pull off a terrorist act or throw off the government.

Both and claim to be #1 sites for marriages. Who is right?

After recently seeing ads from both and claiming they are #1 in marriages, I decided to look into their claims. First, from

Research Study Overview & Objectives
In 2009 and 2010, engaged research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey to conduct three studies to provide insights into America’s dating behavior: a survey of recently married people (“Marriage Survey”), a survey of people who have used online dating (“Online Dating Survey”),
and a survey of single people and people in new committed relationships (“General Survey”).
Key Findings Marriage Survey
• 17% of couples married in the last 3 years, or 1 in 6, met each other on an online dating site. (Table 1)
• In the last year, more than twice as many marriages occurred between people who met on an online dating site than met in bars, at clubs and other social events combined. (Table 1)
• Approximately twice as many recently married couples met on than the site that ranked second. (Table 2)

The data is from 2009-2010. And from

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – June 3, 2013 – New research data released today, “Marital Satisfaction and Breakups Differ Across Online and Offline Meeting Venues” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows eHarmony ranks first in creating more online marriages than any other online site.* The study also ranks eHarmony first in its measures of marital satisfaction.* Data also shows eHarmony has the lowest rates of divorce and separation than couples who met through all other online and offline meeting places.

eHarmony Ranked #1 for Number of Marriages Created by an Online Dating Site

The largest number of marriages surveyed who met via online dating met on eHarmony (25.04%)

eHarmony Ranked #1 for Marital Satisfaction by an Online Dating Site

The happiest couples meeting through any means met on eHarmony (mean = 5.86)…

*John T. Cacioppo, Stephanie Cacioppo, Gian C. Gonzaga, Elizabeth L. Ogburn, and Tyler J. VanderWeele (2013) Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (

Just based on these brief descriptions from their own websites, here is which number I would trust more: Why?

1. More recent data. Data that is a few years old is eons old in Internet time. People on dating sites today likely want to know the marriage rates today.

2. More reliable place where the study is published as well as the more scientific method. It looks like hired a firm to do a study for them while the data comes from a respectable academic journal.

When two companies both claim to be number one, it is not necessarily the case that one is lying or that one has to be wrong. However, it does help to compare their data sources, see what their claims are based on, and then make a decision as to which number you are more likely to believe. .

Commercials that market smartphones as education devices shouldn’t fool many

In the past few months, I’ve heard several commercials for smartphones that suggest kids can and will use them for educational purposes. When your child needs help on their homework, they can whip out their phone and find the answer.

Who do they think they are fooling? While parents want to hear about helping their kids succeed in school (this is an American constant over the decades), these commercials offer implausible possibilities. Kids could use their phone for homework or studying. But, I suspect the smartphone is used for two other tasks that will far outweigh educational purposes: social interaction (texting, chatting, Facebook, etc.) and media consumption (music, YouTube, TV and movies, etc.). The real education provided here might be in how to be a media-saturated, 21st century American kid.

This may be effective marketing but it also hints at another issue: the idea that new technological devices automatically lead to more learning. Where is the evidence for this? We can argue that kids needs to keep up with technology to understand and use it for their good like applying for jobs. We can argue the new technology engages kids. We can argue the technology can open up new opportunities like forming and maintaining beneficial relationships or learning how to code. But, suggesting it actually leads to more learning is a more difficult case to make.

My conclusion: such commercials play off the interests of parents who would say they want to help their kids succeed without marshalling much evidence that the new smartphone will help kids learn.

Using suburban homes for film shoots

The Daily Herald describes what happens when suburban homes are chosen for film shoots:

Directors of Hollywood movies, TV shows, commercials and national print ads regularly use suburban homes as locations for filming and photo shoots. Just a few weeks ago, scenes from the movie “Precious Mettle,” starring Paul Sorvino and Fiona Dourif, were shot at homes in Naperville and Aurora…They will add the photos to their online database and show them to prospective directors. Because they have thousands of homes in their database, the odds of being chosen are slim. But you never know what a director is looking for, and there’s growing demand for suburban-styled homes, said longtime location scout Oryna Schiffman, based in Elmhurst.

“Since the recession started, I’ve been getting less and less requests for your typical North Shore mansions. They say, ‘I want real people who live in real houses,'” said Schiffman, who accepts photos at “You never know what they’re going to ask for next.”…

However, there is a downside to offering up your home. Filming and photo shoots can disrupt your routine, your sleep, and possibly your neighborhood. Movie crews, especially, tend to completely take over an area with trailers and equipment. Homeowners usually get short notice about the shoots and need to hastily sign off on the legal paperwork.

While most film crews are respectful of people’s property (and often contractually obligated to return it to its original condition), paint sometimes gets chipped and things get broken or banged up. That’s why it’s important to get things in writing before the filming begins.

Of course, the article starts with a story of a family who was paid $12,000 for giving up their home for six days for a print advertisement shoot. There may be quite a few suburbanites who would relish such an opportunity.

The quote that directors are looking for “real homes” is interesting. The suggestion here is that with tighter economic times, people want to see more normal homes while during more economic prosperous times people like seeing bigger homes. When they arrive at a home, how much do they take the home as is or they change it up to suit their filming needs? Plus, how often is the tone of the commercial, TV show, film, or advertisement that the suburban home needs improving or there is something to critique? On one hand, there are a lot of critics of suburban tract homes but they are apparently useful for marketing and some artistic purposes.

Marketing “McMansions For Sale in Arizona”

With the general negativity surrounding the term McMansion, it is rare to see those in real estate marketing McMansions. However, here is such a website: MyOwnArizona has “McMansions For Sale in Arizona.”

An Arizona home builder has a model available in a three-bedroom, or a larger four-bedroom version. “The four bedroom outsells the three bedroom all day long,” said Arizona McMansion home builder. “I don’t know if we’ve ever sold a three-bedroom one.”

“But it’s hard not to see the increase in home size as a sign that the economy is recovering,” said AZ builder. “People weren’t buying SUVs during the recession either and they are again.”

Please feel free to contact us and we can provide you with additional Arizona McMansion information to guide you through the buying/selling process in AZ. We look forward to hearing from you and working with you soon!

I’ve quoted the closing pitch. But, how the site gets to the conclusion is interesting as well. The argument is that Americans want bigger homes and homes are getting larger again after a downturn during the recent economic crisis. The whole thing reads as if it is trying to convince potential buyers that purchasing a McMansion is okay. In other words, McMansions may get a bad rap in the media (just like SUVs) but they are exactly what you and other Americans want!

I don’t know if this is the right way to sell McMansions. But, there is clearly quite a hurdle to overcome here.