While it may not come across in theatricals like North Dallas Forty and Big Fan, sports fans do evolve over the course of their lives.
In a presentation on Friday morning at ESPN's Media Day at its Bristol, Conn. headquarters, vice president of integrated media research Glenn Enoch presented findings from a recently completed study that examined the life cycle of the sports fan.
According to "The Life Cycle of the Sports Fan," fans' behaviors and relationship with sports change in a way that reflects their changing priorities. Their sports avidity, content consumption levels, preferred media platforms, sports preferences, and levels of co-viewing continually evolve through various life stages.
By evaluating these behaviors, ESPN Research + Analytics, which collated data from the ESPN Sports Poll, Knowledge Networks and from a variety of media, established the following stages of the sports fan life cycle for both male and female sports fans:
*For boys, most of their sports TV viewing is with others, but it's only about an hour per week;
*Male teens have the greatest avidity for sports. They don't necessarily watch a lot, but play. They also spend a lot of time talking about games, with their knowledge and attendant social currency is fueled by shows like SportsCenter;
*College-age males remain big sports fans, averaging more than three hours of national sports TV per week. Moreover, they are at the peak of their sports news and information viewing. This group is the most likely to watch sports by themselves;
* Males aged 25 to 34 are increasing their sports events viewing, while maintaining their hours of news and information viewing. They view mostly alone, but also with their families. These men also spend one-fifth of their sports media time with non-TV platforms; with Internet video accounting for one-quarter of the usage, the most of any group;
*With careers and families to consider, guys 35 to 49 lose some of their avidity as their news info/viewing drops. But they represent their highest percentage of Web sports users and their viewership continues to increase, along with their kids; and
*Guys 50 and over have lower sports avidity, but they watch the most sports on TV -- over four hours per week. Their viewing is concentrated on events now, with college sports playing an increasing role. When they co-view, it's with a woman, as ESPN's audience is almost 30% female at this age.
For their part, women showcase different usage patterns
*Like boys, girls don't watch many hours of sports on TV, and mostly watch with adults;
* Female teens don't engage in more TV viewing than girls, but they are very big fans, mostly because of their participation;
*Participation and interest drop sharply at age 18, with women at their sports avidity nadir from 25 to 34; and
*Whereas the sports avidity of men declines after 50 and their viewing increases, women in that age group become bigger sports fans, and their viewing accelerates. Older women account for nearly one-third of all sports viewing within their age group.
"We have done research on sports fans and sports consumption, but now we have put all the pieces together to show how people evolve as sports fans throughout their lives, and how adult sports fans interact with children to start a new cycle," said Enoch in a statement. "In addition, while much attention has been focused on male sports fans, we can now demonstrate the unique phases in the lives of female sports fans."