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Types of Sports Fans

[2008]
An audience research project with a sports museum
Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD

The Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards approached RK&A to conduct visitor research.  This project was one of several the Museum engaged in to better understand its audience.  Data were collected between May and July 2008 through standardized questionnaires and in-depth interviews.

How did we approach this study?

While a “sports museum” is a focused type of museum, RK&A considered whether sports museum visitors are homogenous.  Through research in art museums, RK&A has found that not all art museum visitors have the same relationship with art and wondered if visitors to a sports museum vary in their degree of enthusiasm for sports.  Thus, RK&A asked, what types of sports fan does the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards attract?  To that end, we designed a standardized questionnaire with 10 statements about visitors’ engagement with sports that respondents rated on a 7-point scale, from 1 (“Does not describe me”) to 7 (“Describes me very well”).  We also conducted in-depth interviews to humanize the numerical data collected.

What did we learn?

RK&A conducted a cluster analysis, in which four visitor clusters or visitor types are derived from visitors’ ratings of the 10 statements about sports engagement.  We named the clusters according to their intensity of sports enthusiasm.  From the largest cluster to the smallest cluster, they are:  “Middle-Road Fans,” “TV Enthusiasts,” “Active Enthusiasts,” and “Indifferent Companions.”  Surprisingly, the largest cluster of visitors is not comprised of sports fanatics (“Active Enthusiasts”), but rather middle-road fans.  Middle-road fans enjoy sports but are not emotional, die-hard sports fans, and they do not regularly participate in sports.   Results also indicate that the majority of visitors are men.

What are the implications of the findings?

Findings from the audience research were revealing in many ways.  First, as noted above, men constitute the majority of the Museum’s audience—a finding that was not surprising to the Museum, as for quite some time the Museum had wanted to cultivate other audiences.  Revealing, however, is that having a core constituent is not a bad thing, but rather, a unique quality of the Museum.  Also revealing was that the largest visitor cluster includes “Middle-Road Fans.”  Male middle-road sports fans deserve the Museum’s undivided attention.  RK&A suggested that the Museum play to its strength and wholeheartedly embrace their male, middle-road sports fans because by doing so staff are valuing the Museum’s unique quality and providing a place for like-minded people to congregate.  

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