This NPR report on American consumption of alcohol is fascinating:

Out of every $100 American consumers spend, about $1 goes to alcohol. That hasn’t changed much over the past 30 years.

But where we spend our money on alcohol has changed quite a bit. We spend a bigger chunk of our booze money in bars and restaurants. We spend less money buying alcohol at the store to drink at home.

As the article states, this doesn’t necessarily mean we go out more to drink.  Because the price of alcohol at the store has gone down over thirty years while the price of drinks in restaurants has gone up, it could be that we are just shifting our booze money around.

I think in the implications relating to soccer and sport are interesting parallel, and I’d be interested in knowing how the consumptive pattern of the average soccer fan has shifted over the past thirty years.  Do we spend more money at the stadium because prices have gone up, or do we spend less because more of us stay home to watch on TV?  Do we spend more or less on merchandise and shirts?

However, the most interesting part for me is this last nugget:

Of the money we spend drinking at home, more goes to wine and less goes to hard alcohol. The percentage of our booze dollar that goes to beer hasn’t changed much.

I’m very interested in how this relates to sports and how they fight for market share.  For instance, for the last thirty years the wine industry did not need to steal market share from the beer industry in order to grow; it just ate into the hard liquor market. (Whether they did this consciously, I don’t know.)

If you look at the lower tier sports in America, they might be thinking along the same lines: from which sport above us can we most readily poach fans and participants?  Since I talk about soccer here, it bears repeating where we stand in the pecking order in the US:

  1. American Football
  2. Baseball
  3. Basketball
  4. Hockey
  5. Soccer

I actually think the numbers here are not set in stone.  The NHL may be more popular than MLS, but then hockey doesn’t have the World Cup or international teams that visit and sell out large stadiums for exhibitions, so there is a degree here in which soccer’s popularity isn’t measured in full.

Nonetheless, if we are going to poach fans, it might behoove us to think about which sports are most ripe for plunder.  Target #1, and not just because it is #1, is football.  The sport is is so violent that fewer kids are going to be playing it in the next decade, and these kids might not ardently follow football as a result.

I think the slow pace of baseball also makes the sport ripe for plunder, since frankly the strategic subtleties don’t make up for the lack of consistent athletic dynamism during a game.  Basketball, on the other hand, if soccer’s biggest competitor and offers a very engaging, fast-paced experience that has some real advantages, such as higher scoring and a more frenetic pace.

Thinking more broadly, how does a sport go about poaching fans?  What does that mean?  I’ll have to think about that some more.



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