SBJ: KAGR launches ‘Fan Demand Index’ to Gauge Return

Posted: May 26, 2020

Fans in Tuscaloosa and Phoenix will be much more amenable to returning to sports venues than those in San Francisco or New York City, according to data suggesting that ticket demand after the pandemic will vary as much as local health regulations do today.

That finding comes from KAGR, the Robert Kraft-owned data analytics firm that regularly consults for the NFL and other major properties. KAGR has launched the “Fan Demand Index,” which aims to measure how fans across 30 key markets will respond to live attendance once they’re allowed back.

The index is a combination of market data (such as demographics, the unemployment rate and the prevalence of COVID-19); fan avidity stats (historical ticket sales after major events, fan engagement during the pandemic, goodwill of leagues and teams); and factors unique to particular venues or teams (percentage of occasional versus regular buyers, or COVID mitigation factors that affect the experience).

It explicitly eschews national opinion research conducted by polling, which doesn’t account for local variations or the rapidly evolving public attitudes.

“What people say they’re going to do is not the same as what they’re actually going to do,” said KAGR CEO Jessica Gelman. “You know the saying: Actions speak louder than words.”

For example, KAGR noted that Boston Red Sox attendance declined materially in the month following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, but then bounced back. A similar short-term decline was noticed at Austin City Limits after the Mandalay Bay shootings in 2017.

The work is ongoing, and KAGR is soliciting additional data partners. So far, broad findings include:

  • Markets most likely to see a quick return in attendance have the fewest COVID-19 cases and lower unemployment claims. Those cities include Tuscaloosa, Oklahoma City, Phoenix and Houston.
  • Those markets deemed “slow to return” have twice the number of COVID-19 cases than those in the first category. These places tend to be more liberal and have lower percentages of people in the age groups 18-34 or over 50. Those include Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle.
  • KAGR says it’s “too early to tell” in a collection of markets that have been hardest hit by COVID-19, with high unemployment, large African-American populations, and a liberal lean politically. Those cities include New Orleans, New York and Washington, D.C.

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