Even before the first leaf turns, NCAA football is upon us, meaning fans are getting ready to cheer on their favorite teams, coaches, and players.
Adobe Digital Index’s (ADI) preview of the 2015 college football season reveals some interesting stats on the upcoming season:
- The University of Michigan football team has the biggest social fan base.
- Top apparel marketers are paying a premium for college team sponsorship deals.
- Of all the regional football conferences, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has the greater number of socially engaged fans. The Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12), present in large domestic markets such as Los Angeles, generates the most international buzz and average team mentions.
ADI’s analysis is based on social engagement data ADI has captured from Adobe Social. Analysis included data such as mentions, page likes, and followers pulled from blogs, Facebook, Google+, Reddit, Twitter, Dailymotion, Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr, VK, Disqus, Foursquare, Metacafe, WordPress, and YouTube. Social buzz is publicly available and based on the aggregate total of social mentions. In all, more than 50 million social engagements related to college football and social fans from the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) and Notre Dame were examined from June through August.
Analysis reveals that:
- The University of Michigan is No. 1 in terms of socially engaged fans, with 300,000-plus Twitter followers.
- These same Michigan Wolverines have the largest overall social following (including Facebook), boasting more than 1.7 million fans.
Hard-core social buzz among fans can translate into sales and lifelong brand loyalty for marketers. And there is no shortage of brands pursuing the opportunities.
For instance, ADI’s college football report reveals that leading apparel marketers—such as Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas—pay a premium for social-fan followings of college teams compared with what they pay for fans of professional sports teams and players. Notably, Nike spent an average of $11.2 million a year in sponsorship funds for the University of Michigan football team, according to CBS Sports. That’s $6.50 for each of the team’s 1.7 million Twitter and Facebook followers.
In comparison, Nike forks over $30 million a year in sponsorship and support for NBA star LeBron James—but socially speaking, that translates to just $0.67 for each of the Cleveland Cavalier baller’s 45 million Twitter and Facebook followers.
ADI analysis revealed several other instances of the gap between team and individual player sponsorships:
• Under Armour spends $9 million a year in sponsorship for Notre Dame football, which boils down to paying $12.50 for each of the team’s 719,000 Twitter and Facebook followers. In comparison, Under Armour spends less than $4 million annually on the NBA’s Stephen Curry (just $0.60 for each of Golden State Warrior’s 6.6 million Twitter and Facebook followers).
• Adidas spends $7.6 million a year on the UCLA football team, a whopping $41 for each of the team’s 184,000 Twitter and Facebook followers. In comparison, Adidas spends more than $14 million a year on Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose (just $1.16 for each of his 12 million Twitter and Facebook followers).
While Nike spends more sponsorship dollars for pro teams and athletes overall, it’s paying a social premium for socially engaged college football fans. And that might be a smart bet, considering the fan base not only consists mostly of extremely valuable 18- to-22-year-old Millennials, but also extends beyond the 34-year old Millennial cutoff point to include alumni, staff, and others.
“Marketers are paying for the demographic,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst at ADI. “Brands are getting themselves in line for the future consumers who are coming out of college. Students and alumni are highly educated and likely to spend more on goods and services.”
Apparel brands are especially keen on bringing the same level of preference for their brands to Millennials as they’ve secured among Gen X and other demographics, she added. Under Armour’s relationship with the University of Maryland, described in a recent New York Times article, is a prime example of this desire.
However, ADI analysis showed that brands are tending to pay a premium for college-level relationships. ADI found that Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas are paying a premium (24x) for college-team sponsorships—all for access to college athletes in hopes of signing them later if they go professional. The success on the field of a player and his potential social clout as a professional athlete can drive huge sales and brand loyalty for marketers
In other findings, while the Pac-12 had the highest average mentions per team (more than 44,000), the conference tied with the Big 10 for the broadest international reach, with 8% of conference buzz coming from abroad. Both conferences trailed the NFL in international buzz.
ADI research found that, of the top 25 football teams, the SEC Conference has seven of the most socially engaged team fan bases.
“This is the kind of use of social media that’s valuable for building strategy,” said ADI senior analyst Joe Martin, adding that the insights are applicable outside of the apparel sector. “Marketers that want to make the right choices should be doing these types of analyses to understand the marketplace.”
About Adobe Digital Insights
Adobe Digital Insights publishes research on digital marketing and other topics of interest to senior marketing and e-commerce executives across industries. Research is based on the analysis of select, anonymous, and aggregated data from more than 5,000 companies worldwide that use the Adobe Digital Marketing Cloud to obtain real-time data and analysis of activity on websites, social media, and advertising.
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