Sunday, April 17, 2011

Factors Important To Attendance: #1 = Winning

Since Google Blogger comments system is acting up (it freaking ATE my detailed response to comments in the previous post regarding attendance and TV coverage), I thought I'd recreate and greatly expand on that response here.  First, allow me to restate the general assertions.

My assertion: Tape-delayed TV coverage of Seawolves hockey has no significant affect on attendance.  The counter assertion: Tape-delayed TV coverage of Seawolves hockey discourages some fans from attending.

I must warn you now though ... I'm going to get semi-real on this.  I'm not going to exclusively sit here and tell you what I believe.  I'm going to quote and link actual RESEARCH by professionals in the field.  So, if you want to refute what I present below ... then you'll need an equal amount of quoting and linking from sources that refute it.  Trust me, I spent a solid 4.5 hours scrounging around the Interwebs for this stuff.  There's much more than I've linked here.

Let's start with something light first.  Just a blog.  The Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective.  Sounds commie huh?  "Collective" ... Don't be Skerred.  The post I've linked to is specific to football.  Nevertheless, much of what they present is obviously valid to any other sport.  Like when they say ...
1. Sustained winning is important. The driving force behind big ticket sales is generally a compelling and successful team. Between 2008 and 2010 the average NCAA stadium was filled to 79.95% capacity – about 44,000 fans. However, teams that had winning seasons in that same time period drew crowds of around 53,000 (88.19%) – an 8% jump in attendance.
Note the presence of the number "1" please.  Thanks.  I posted that first because of the 30 or 40 links I've looked at using various Google search terms to support my assertions that is probably the best I've read.

Next I'll quote from The Sport Journal which is called a "refereed sports journal, published by the United State Sports Academy.  The paper I'm linking pertains specifically to minor league baseball with a limited set of factors (i.e... nothing about tape delayed local TV college hockey coverage ok?) but the following quote is still quite relevant to this discussion ...
"According to previous studies (Hansen & Gauthier, 1989; Zhang, Pease, Hui, & Michaud, 1995), there are four major factors that affect spectators' decisions about attending games. The attractiveness of the home team is a first and vital consideration. Individual players' skill, league standing, breaking of prior records, team record, performance, and star players together affect fans’ attendance at games (Zhang et al.,1997)."
Not much else in linked article is relevant though it's interesting in general and some aspects probably do cross-over to UAA Hockey.  Athletic Administrators et al studied all this sort of sports marketing crappola back when they went to school and got their degree so we can assume their mostly aware of this sort of information in their profession.  Feel free to look up "Hansen & Gauthier, 1989" as I've seen it referenced over and over in all the research, but you'll only get excerpts and extracts versus their complete study.

Here is a paper by a Marketing Professor from Western Illinois University called John T. Drea called "The Effects of Winning, Weather, Scheduling and Promotion on Attendance at NCAA Division II Mens Collegiate Basketball Games".  Part of it's conclusion says ...
These results emphasize a need to control scheduling (opponents and game dates) as a means of influencing individual game attendance. Second, promotion does have an effect on individual game attendance; however, the effect is previously accounted for by other variables. Individuals concerned with predicting attendance should focus on controllable variables (scheduling) while accounting for other variables (weather, team performance).
Ok?  So that's three pretty decent references that support my assertion that the primary driver for attendance is not tape-delayed TV coverage.  Don't think for a second that I didn't try to find studies or papers that indicated how TV coverage affects attendance.  I did.  But naturally, the only ones I found  addressed "live coverage" and not "tape delayed coverage".  

I encourage you to get on your own Google bus and do some driving if you think you can find something more specific.  That's more a request than a challenge per se.  If you truly believe that tape-delayed TV coverage of UAA Hockey has something to do with Sullivan Arena attendance then show me some sort of data that supports that position please.

I recommend also that you read the Wiki entry on Fan Loyalty as well as the Wiki entry on Blackouts.  Both provide some insight regarding the matter. 

Now onto my other points regarding this attendance discussion.  People are liars.  Nobody wants the label "bandwagon fan" applied to them.  So, if you ask them why they don't go to a sporting event of a team they claim to be a supporter ... they'll make shit up to deflect that true nature.  Truth is, that nobody wants to go watch a team lose over and over and over.  

It takes rationalization and supreme self-justification as a "loyal fan" in order to do so.  If you shell out lots of hard earned dough year after year and aren't rewarded with some vicarious winning ... then you must find a way to justify it.  Typically, for UAA fans that means saying something like ... 
"I support the team and attend every game because these athletes are amateurs representing my school with pride and dignity.  They compete hard and give their all risking injury for our pleasure.  They deserve that support even if they don't win every game."  
That's how you and I self-justify the doling out those bucks.  We aren't doing it to see the team win (we still WANT them to win) but instead we're giving ourselves credit for a more altruistic rationale.  We don't like the "bandwagon fans" because they're only interested in turning out to see a winner.  Do I blame people for being bandwagon fans?  No, it's human nature.  And the truth is that (in general) casual sports fans are indeed the bigger group in terms of ticket buying.

So... I'm not completely right and counter assertion isn't completely wrong.  That said, there simply isn't much in the way of the effects of tape-delayed coverage on attendance.  There are some correlations one can make between live TV and tape-delayed TV with regard to how many people show up at a rink but there is a real lack of quantifiable data about both situations.  Here's a paper from a joint called The Biology of Exercise titled A Review of Attendance and Non-Attendance Studies At Sporting Events.  It says ...
"Very few studies deal with the problem of non-attendance. Even those studies which attempted to investigate the problem, did it with data collected from attending individuals, during sporting events. The major contribution of the present study is that it provides an instrument for measuring non-attendance, which uses data collected from people who do not attend sporting events. 
Zhang et al (6), stressed the importance for inclusion of the non-attending population in future research on spectator game attendance. Although factors influencing attendance may be different from factors influencing non-attendance at sporting events, the following two studies by Hansen and Gauthier (2) and Tomlinson et al (5), played a very significant role in the conceptualization of the present study."
So, if you think that tape-delayed TV broadcasts of UAA Hockey are hurting attendance; I cannot completely refute it.

Production of a non-local live broadcast is important for many reasons.  Most importantly, it gives the UAA Journalism and Public Communications students real-world experience that they can use in furtherance of their chosen career.  It also gives non-local fans a chance to see the game via webcast and that's vital for families and friends of players as well as interested alumni.  

The tape-delayed local broadcast has at least one valuable metric ... it is exposure to the local community of the quality of the on-ice product.  When local casual fans hear about a win that they didn't attend and can watch it, then they'll be more likely to attend the next evening or home weekend.  It's Marketing 101 ya know?  

Lose the tape-delayed broadcast locally and perhaps some additional percentage of folks will show up.  But personally, I can't feature that there are 1000 people sitting at home on Friday and Saturday nights because they can watch a game starting at 10pm.  But I sure believe there at least that number of folks sitting at home because they've calculated their chances of having their monetary outlay be rewarded with a win and come to a negative conclusion (which btw ... will change over the next few years as the UAA Hockey team starts to kick some ass in the WCHA).  Winning cures all ... ask UMD.


Anonymous said...

Interesting, but we have posted info from UAA HOCKEY FANS, stating they would rather stay home and save money. That speaks for itself.

Suze said...

I guess what I would ask is this. What value does having the home games on TV serve? Originally it was intended to promote the team, get more exposure, but attendance has not improved it has gotten worse. So under these circumstances, why continue it?

Anonymous said...

Suze, perhaps you should take this into consideration...there are parents, friends, families or these players who are ONLY able to view players on T.V. due to the fact they don't live in Alaska. Perhaps local attendance would be greatly increased if there was more advertisement of the hockey games. Maybe just maybe the local channel that broadcasts the game would be willing to advertise on their end to increase the sale of tickets. So to answer your questions as to why continue to televise the games and what VALUE it has to YOU, maybe there is another way to get people in the seats, instead of cutting off communication for people who cannot be in Anchorage at the time of the game.

Suze said...

Are the home games not available on the B2 network? I'be never looked because I have not needed to.

I feel for the players families who can't see the games, but this is the case with many schools a player would attend. Personally, I feel attendance is a more important issue. It directly affects the atmosphere and gives the home team an edge. It also makes it more fun for everyone who attends.

Winning is probably the most important issue, as Donald stated.

Suze said...

I meant winning is the factor that influences attendance the most. I didn't word that well.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if when the sports arena gets built for the bball and volleyball teams, will they air those games as well ... you know ... for friends and family who don't live in Alaska?

That would be great practice for JPC too.

Donald Dunlop said...

Actually, I believe Basketball and Volleyball have their own contract already and that their games do air locally live as broadcast by some local channel .. the family network??? I do not think that JPC is involved though they could be.

akmillers said...

I may be mistaken but I'm pretty sure GCI broadcasts the game live on the internet. In today's age, I know of a few family's (including mine in the past) that have bypassed the occasional game...especially friday nights, because they can get the feed on the internet. Making the 7pm friday night games is always a challenge for us.

We bought season tickets this past season and made every home game, so I can't verify whether the broadcasts are still free on the internet. No doubt though...winning is the driving factor to increase attendance. Working on the atmosphere would also help. Kudos to the bucket brigade or whatever they're called. They certainly spiced things up this year.

AKfan said...

Geeze Loiuse. If the Miller family is staying home on occasion to watch the games, this is more of a problem than any of us think!

Donald Dunlop said...

Maybe ... but then again there could be more than one Miller family eh?

AKfan said...

But he said he knows of a "few families" who do the same. :(

akmillers said...

Sorry...I think I missed something. The point being everyone has access to the live broadcast.

Anonymous said...

Chicago is a great example of blackouts... the new leadership started a lot of community outreach, including broadcasting games within the local market. All of those things, including managing the on-ice talent helped to turn that franchise around, pre-Stanley Cup. I live in a market that doesn't broadcast our college hockey team. I would like to come home some nights and watch the game again, or record it and see certain parts. Unfortunately, that is not an option.

Winning. That should do it.

Bob said...

Almost all the NHL teams have blackouts. The Aces have them unless the Sully is sold out, and they did that for a very specific reason.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that the very fact games are televised elevates the whole enterprise in terms of its brand perception, regardless of who actually watches the games on TV. If it's on TV, it has relevance that it would not have if it were blacked out.

Donald is right that winning cures everything. People have so many options now with free time and limited resources that blind fan loyalty barely exisits outside the hardcore fan- you just have to win to generate serious fan supporrt

Alaskana said...

I think making Seawolves hockey games more exclusive would help attendance a great deal. I think it's fair to say that exclusivity can influence motivation, and motivation can drive the most critical part, action (I.E getting off my butt on a cold November evening, battling traffic, paying for parking, my ticket, my mega burrito and overpriced yet tasty ice cold beer.
Now granted this aforementioned series of steps only apply towards a certain subset of the potential audience and may not be relevant to kids, students, and other fans. Also, I don't mean to paint those 'steps' in a negative light. Often times they can be integral to an overall positive game experience. I just list them as critical factors in someone's 'should I go or not go' decision making process.

Now, back to my original point of exclusivity and perhaps more importantly my attempt to tie the concept of exclusivity to the question of whether or not to stop airing Seawolves hockey games. I ask, would not airing the games increase or decrease the perception of exclusivity (and therefore desirability) of attending a Seawolves hockey game? My gut feeling is that it might, but it would not be the only thing (such as win percentage) to increase relative exclusivity to the point where it would make an appreciable difference.

One thing that I think could realistically be done, is for some enterprising UAA psychology/statistics major to conduct a major study in the Anchorage area relating to how Anchorage residents perceive the Seawolves hockey team, and secondly how that plays in to their decision of whether or not to attend any given home game. I think that would make a great thesis/capstone project and I think it would deliver valuable (and in my opinion) much needed insight into problem. Plus I think it would segue nicely with the larger arena dispute and could give some hard numbers to the movers and shakers of that project.

Ok, that's my two (or twenty) cents. Rant over.

Alaskana said...

Ok, rant not quite over yet. ;)

I should qualify that when I speak of exclusivity, I mean to apply it to those for whom it is relevant. In other words, a Seawolves hockey game could be the hottest ticket in town, but it won't matter if you don't like hockey or have no interest in college sports. So I would narrow down the superset of potential fans to which this exclusivity factor would apply to those who have a general interest in hockey and or college sports in Anchorage.

So to repose my question: To what degree would ending tape delayed television broadcast affect exclusivity to a relevant specific subset of the Anchorage population (total guess, but maybe 30-50,000)? Oh and yeah, I am pretty much just pulling figures out of you know where, but I'm too lazy to do any actual research on this.. so Kudos to Donald for doing some keyboard sleuthing on this subject. :)

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