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Caitlin Clark Fandom

Caitlin Clark has gone from a relative unknown (to the general public) to the face of college basketball in the last year. She will be a fascinating athlete to watch over the next few years. She is the most prominent women’s basketball star and is about to appear on the collegiate level's biggest stage. However, she will soon transition to the WNBA and face a new level of competition.  

Women’s college basketball has been an interesting story, as the game has attracted unprecedented media (traditional and social) attention this season. The big question is whether we are witnessing a fundamental shift in fan preferences or a hype job.

Today’s post is a quick dive into Caitlin Clark fandom using data from our Next Generation Fandom Survey.

The Next Generation Fandom Survey is our annual look at sports and entertainment fandom trends. The survey includes questions about fandom for about 50 athletes, celebrities, and politicians. This effort aims to understand how our culture is evolving. Caitlin Clark provides a fascinating data point for this project. In what follows, we examine Caitlin Clark's fandom in various population categories.


Key Insights:

  • Clark’s fandom rates are strong, given the newness of her celebrity. She trails Serena Williams but exceeds Megan Rapinoe.

  • Clark has more fandom in the male segment. Clark’s fandom rate is about twice as high among men relative to women. 

  • Clark has a solid cross-generational appeal but does better with younger demographics.

  • Clark’s fandom crosses political lines. She does slightly better with Conservatives than Liberals.

  • Clark’s fandom is more a cultural phenomenon than something derived from sports. Clark has a higher fandom rate with “Swifties” than self-described Basketball Fans. 


The Details:

Figure 1 shows Caitlin Clark’s fandom rates relative to two iconic female athletes: Serena Williams and Megan Rapinoe. Fandom is listed in two categories: Super Fans and Fans. Super Fans rank the celebrity as a 7 or a 7-point fandom scale, and fans give a ranking of 6 or higher.

Clark trails Williams in both fandom categories but outperforms Rapinoe. In the “Fandom” category, Williams leads with 28%, while Clark has 18% and Rapinoe at 15%. This is an impressive performance for Clark, given that she has only had about a year of focused media attention. An easy speculation is that Rapinoe’s performance is lower because she tends to be a politically polarizing figure.

Figure 1


Figure 2 shows the male and female segments' fandom rates (6 or higher on the 7-point scale). The results may be surprising to many as Clark’s fandom rate among males is almost double that of female respondents (23.6% to 12.1%). The media narrative often frames women’s sports within broader gender issues and politics. However, the data suggest that most of Clark’s popularity comes from men and boys. Sports continues to be a male-oriented category (in terms of consumption), and Clark’s fandom reflects this reality. Whether Clark’s notoriety will attract more female sports fans remains an open question.  


Figure 2

Figure 3 shows a generational breakdown. Clark has widespread appeal, with some concentration among younger generations. About 20% of Gen Z and Millennials are Clark fans compared to about 15% of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. This result makes sense since much of Clark’s media coverage has been in social media challenges.

Figure 3

Figure 4 shows Clark's fandom across political segments. Clark performs best with the Conservative segment at 23.2%. Liberals have a similar rate of fandom, while Moderates trail at about 14%. While basketball leagues have tried to define themselves as highly progressive, an athlete like Clark has an appeal that transcends politics. Clark’s marketing appeal is probably strongest if she remains apolitical.


Figure 4

The political segment results move the analysis of Clark’s fandom away from demographics to more cultural segments.  Examining fandom across cultural segments is more challenging but can be illuminating. Figure 5 shows Clark’s fandom among Taylor Swift Fans (Swifties) and Haters (Anti Swifties). This may seem frivolous, but Swift may be the best-known celebrity in the US, and the structure of her fandom is a critical element of current American culture. Clark, Williams, and Rapinoe score much higher in the Swifty segment. Swifties are culturally engaged, while Anti-Swifties are something of a counterculture. The three female athletes all score much higher with the mainstream Swifty segment.

Figure 5

Figure 6 shows Clark, Williams, and Rapinoe fandom rates for Basketball and Baseball Fans. Clark’s fandom is slightly lower among sports fans than Swifties. This is interesting as it suggests that Clark enjoys more of a cultural fandom than fandom derived from sports.

Figure 6



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