Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Sports Fan Base of South Florida, Part 4

4th in a series

In the past some have said that south Florida simply can’t support a Major League franchise. Some have debated whether a new ballpark for the Marlins should be in Miami-Dade or Broward. Some have said that Hispanics don’t support the team the way MLB had hoped they would. This series of posts is an exploration into these issues.

The data that I will be using in this analysis comes from the 2006 Scarborough Release 2 Studies for each respective market. These are demographic studies of consumers, which I have access to in my role as an advertising executive.

Comparison of South Florida's Tri-County area with other baseball markets of similar size.

The chart and table above detail the adult population, TV viewers for the local baseball team, and unique game attendees for several markets and the tri-county area in south Florida which is denoted as SoFla.

A quick distinction here. The word "market" refers to TV markets or the geographic area covered by a given city's TV stations. Because the Marlins draw their fans from two separate markets which are Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, I have, for the sake of simplicity, used residents of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties as my composite "market" for the Marlins.

The other markets for this comparison were selected for several reasons. They each have only one major league club. Houston and Dallas were chosen because they are very similar in size to SoFla.

Phoenix, Tampa and Denver were chosen because their franchises are similar in age to the Marlins. Seattle and Detroit have relatively new ballparks (as do some of the other markets) and Minneapolis was chosen because the Twins, like the Marlins, play in a building that leaves a lot to be desired as a ballpark.

Since the population for each of these markets varies, I thought it might be helpful to take the TV viewership and attendees and turn them into percentages of the the population. A table with those percentages is below. I have also calculated an average for the 9 markets analyzed.

As you can see, the Marlins have a TV viewership that is 5 points below the average (11.6% lower). But that number is higher than two of the three other franchises that were born in the same era (Rockies and Devil Rays) and almost as high as the Rangers that have been playing in the Dallas market for 35 years.

As far as unique attendees, the Marlins have the 2nd lowest percentage (26.0% less than the average). Only the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays have a lower proportion of unique attendees to adult population.

The average spread between TV viewership and attendees is 20 percentage points. The spread for the Marlins (SoFla) is 21 points.

What the data indicates is that the Marlins have a below average TV viewership and a significantly below average percentage of attendees (average, of course, referring to the 9 markets being analyzed).

Marlins ownership is betting that a new state of the art ballpark, located closer to the geographic critical mass of the team's current attendees, will attract a greater percentage of the population than they currently can playing at Joeprophin Stadium.

Attendance and interest will, no doubt, increase if and when a new ballpark is built. What remains to be seen is how much those increases will level off and decrease after the novelty of the facility wears off.

One factor that can not be dismissed when comparing Marlins attendance to other teams is weather. Several of the teams in the comparison have either permanent or retractable domes. Theoretically, the Marlins will be able to draw fans from further away with a dome because the threat of rain interrupting the game will be gone. It's important to note that it's the threat, not the rain itself, that currently deters many people from making the trek to the stadium because dark storm clouds are common during South Florida summers. A dome adds certainty to the equation. Certainty that baseball will be played as scheduled without interruption.

Next, a look at how important Hispanic fans are to the Marlins

Read part 1
Read part 2
Read part 3


photi said...

Of course the argument against the idea that a dome's protective power automatically boosts attendance loyality can be said in 2 words: Tampa Bay. With similiar or maybe even worse summer weather than Miami, many people of Tampa Bay are showing that a bigger reason than the dome is needed before they decide to drop into the Trop. (Then again who knows how many would show up if there was no dome?)

Question: is there some sampling error (plus-or-minus some percentage) in the survey numbers that you're using?

Henry Gomez said...

I hardly think the Tampa Situation and the Miami situation are similar. If you'll remember that stadium is in St. Pete not Tampa. Also it was built prior to the concession of an MLB team to the market in order to attract an MLB team. In other words it wasn't built to the specs of an MLB team. A more appropriate comparison would be to the old Miami Arena that became obsolete very quickly because it was done on the cheap. Nobody that's ever been there thinks the Trop is a good baseball park. The Marlins project is going to cost close to half a billion dollars and will rival any of the newer ballparks that are the talk of MLB.

As for the sampling error, yes there is a sampling error like any poll. But it's going to vary by question because of the varying bases (number of people that answer each question).

This is more directional than anything else.

Henry Gomez said...

Thanks to RFDZ3 who notified me of a mistaken calculation. It has since been corrected.

Anonymous said...

Nice analysis, but a note should be made that all the other teams have over-the-air telecast packages which the Marlins no longer have as they are cable-exclusive with FSN Florida/Sun Sports.

That is a big reason why the unique viewer amounts are different than other teams.

Unfortunately, we can't see the overnight ratings for most Fish games to see how each game does ratings-wise nightly.

ASponge said...

This is truly a first-rate analysis of the Marlins situation. I've thought deeply about this, but you've put it into eloquent words.

I'll be discussing and linking this in a post on my blog tomorrow:

Henry Gomez said...

Thank you sir.

Anonymous said...

Just curious if your data breaks down how many Marlins ticket purchasers are female, and how many are male?

ASponge said...

As promised, I've put up a link to this brilliant story:

Please refer to us in the future if you enjoy our commentary.

The South Florida Fan

Henry Gomez said...


I could have done male/female splits for any of the questions I examined but didn't because I wasn't interested in it at the time. I've since changed jobs and so I don't have access to the same studies I did at my previous employer so I can't do it now.