According to the new ESPN Sports Poll Europe, soccer was not surprisingly the most popular spectator sport across Europe. Also rating high was Formula One Racing, Rugby and the Olympics. Among U.S. sports, basketball ranked high in Spain.

Initial results are based on 500 online interviews conducted in
January in each of the following countries:  France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Monthly surveys will continue throughout the year, with detailed findings and trends reported on a quarterly basis.

This tracking
study will measure Europeans interest and engagement with sports.
Based on the US study that has been the preeminent source of American
sports intelligence since 1994, the European version will provide
sponsors, leagues, and the media with valuable insights about the
impact that sports has on consumers and the role it plays in their

Robert Fox
is Senior Vice President of Sport & Sponsorship research at TNS
North America.  He states, “Companies have tools to measure specific
aspects of their sports business, like television ratings and media
exposure programs.  These are important, but they do not tell the whole
story.  By tracking more than two dozen sports, this study offers
brands a 10,000-meter vantage point to assess their target markets
across the entire sports landscape.  Continuous tracking makes this
particularly unique because it negates the seasonal bias associated
with comparing sports at a given point in time.”

Artie Bulgrin,
Senior Vice President at ESPN said, “The Sports Poll is unique in that
it provides in-depth intelligence about the impact that sports has on
the population with respect to involvement, media usage, and consumer
behavior.  The monthly Sports Poll tracking in the US helps us identify
trends that ultimately affect media and advertising performance.  We
are enthusiastic about what we can all learn in Europe

The study is designed to help answer questions such as:

  • Which sports offer the best opportunities to reach a specific target market?  
  • What
    is the true consumer profile of a sports fan? How intense is their
    fandom? To what extent does an emerging sport have potential to grow?
     Should my company be an early adopter?
  • How does our property
    stack up against other sports?  Who is paying most attention?  Is my
    company in the right countries?  What opportunities are we missing?

Some of the findings from the baseline wave that surprised the researchers were:  

  1. Overall, sports interests were higher in Spain and Italy compared to France, Germany,
    and the UK.  While cultural differences can account for how people
    respond to scaled questions in surveys, both behavioral and attitudinal
    questions showed greater avidity and activity in Spain and Italy.    
  2. The Olympics are thought of differently in Europe compared to the United States.
     Americans tend not to think of the Olympics as a “spectator sport.”
     When asked, “What is your favorite spectator sport?” the majority of
    Americans mention the largest professional and college sports like the
    National Football League, (NCAA) College Football, and Major League
  3. As expected, Football (soccer) and Formula One were
    the top two mentions as favorite spectator sport.  Number three was the
    Olympics followed by Men’s Tennis. 

with a beauty or talent contest, you can like more than one contestant,
but only one can be selected as the favorite.  An implication is that
if two sports are on the television simultaneously, the viewer is most
likely to select the favorite for real-time viewing.  See table below:

What is your favorite spectator sport?  (One mention allowed.)


U.K. France Germany Italy Spain
---- ------ ------- ----- -----

Football Football Football Football Football
(soccer) 27% (soccer) 18% (soccer) 28% (soccer) 38% (soccer) 40%

Formula One Rugby Formula One Formula One
Racing 9% Union 9% Racing 10% Racing 8% Olympics 8%

Formula One
Men's Olympics 9% Olympics 10% Olympics 6% Racing 7%
Tennis 8%
Formula One Motorcycle
Olympics 6% Racing 7% Winter Sports 8% Racing 5% Basketball 6%

Cricket 4% Gymnastics 6% Boxing 4% Gymnastics 5% Tennis 6%

measure activity levels in individual sports, the US version of the
study has demonstrated that a person’s self-described interest level in
a given sport highly correlates with their actual behavior, including
television viewing, event attendance and purchasing of licensed
products.  The question was asked, “How interested would you say you
are right now in X sport?”  The choices were “Very Interested, Somewhat
Interested, A Little Bit Interested, and Not at All Interested.”
 Sports were asked in a random order to avoid biasing the results.

following chart reflects the percentage of people in each country who
were “Very Interested” in each sport, which the Sports Poll defines as
“Avid Fans.”  Selected sports from the survey are displayed.

Avid Fan Levels of Select Sports


U.K. France Germany Italy Spain
---- ------ ------- ----- -----

Football 29% Football 22% Football 31% Football 36% Football 43%
(soccer) (soccer) (soccer) (soccer) (soccer)

Formula 20% Rugby 20% Formula 19% Formula 28% Formula 34%
One One One One
Racing Racing Racing Racing

Men's 13% Formula 15% Skiing 11% Motorcycle 24% Men's 31%
Tennis One Racing Tennis

Rugby 11% Men's 13% Handball 11% Volleyball 14% Basketball 28%

Cricket 11% Skiing 10% Boxing 10% Basketball 14% Motorcycle 17%

place these results in perspective of what is already known, some of
the European data were compared to the US version of the ESPN Sports
Poll.  While data collection methods are different, the questions are
the same.  The consistency in overall sports interest and specifically
for the top

in each region provides confidence in the EU findings.  For example,
comparing December data from the US to the total EU sample from the
January baseline:


US: Dec 09 EU: Jan 10
----------- ----------
Sports Fans 87% 86%
Avid Sports Fans 30% 24%
Named as Top Favorite Spectator NFL Football: Soccer /Football:
Sport 25% 27%
NFL Football: Soccer /Football:
Avid Football Fans 24% 32%

a separate question, the study asked about interest levels in this
year’s two major global events.  As with all questions, the value to
subscribers will be in their ability to filter results for their
specific target markets and track the changes throughout the year.
 Taking a weighted average to proportionally represent the populations
of the online population in all five countries in the study, January
results of total and avid interest for the Winter Olympics and World
Cup are shown below, While overall interest in both events are
comparable, the intensity of interest is greater for World Cup as
indicated by the larger avid fan level.

Interest in Major Global Events


Total Avid
Event Interested Fans
----- ---------- ----
Winter Olympics 81% 22%
World Cup 77% 36%

interested in building fans in US sports leagues have opportunities and
challenges.  The data collection methods in the European and US studies
are different, but we can draw a high-level comparison.  With the
exception of the NFL and MLB which have much larger fan bases in the
US, the total fan bases for the other leagues are similar to what is
seen in the US.  The results below are a weighted average to reflect
the online population of the five countries.  

Interest in US Sports League


Total Avid
League Interested Fans
------ ---------- ----
NBA 43% 9%
NFL 41% 9%
NASCAR 34% 4%
NHL 26% 3%
UFC 26% 4%
MLB 25% 2%

study also measured media habits of the respondents.  Among people with
online access, usage of the digital space for sport information is
high, but varies somewhat by country.  The survey asked, “Do you ever
use the Internet to access sports information?”


Sport UK France Germany Italy Spain
----- --- ------ ------- ----- -----
Uses the Net for
Sports 52% 47% 59% 58% 63%

Diving deeper into online activity, the study showed that 10% of the respondents in Italy spend three or more hours a day on social networking sites such as. Facebook, compared with only 2% in Germany, However Germans are the most physically active, which may account for less screen-time.