The landing page for the overall survey is HERE
Fandom is not just a sports phenomenon. Fandom is also a driving force in entertainment, and fandom behaviors can also be seen in other cultural categories like politics and higher education. There are differences in how fandom manifests across categories – for example, sports fandom is more enduring and more often involves public displays – but many of the core aspects of fandom are consistent across categories.
Fandom is fundamentally about cultural engagement. It is vital to consider fandom across multiple categories if we want to have a sense of 1) general trends about cultural engagement and 2) a true reflection of how any single category is evolving. Specifically, we must look at a broad set of categories to understand whether people are more likely to engage or disengage with the culture. We also need to look at relative changes in engagement across categories. If fandom is driven by both general societal enthusiasm and category-specific interest, then fandom growth (or decline) must e considered in relative terms - if total fandom is up 5%, but a specific category is only up 2%, then that category may actually be in decline.
The Figure below shows the fandom rates for a selection of entertainment categories, including Movies, Television, Music, Comedy, Theater, Musicals, Social Media Content, and Fashion. The Sports category is also included as a reference. The figure shows the fandom rates in 2022 and 2023.
The next Figure shows fandom rates for several Non-Traditional categories. The surveyed categories include College, Politics, Crypto, and Products (Tesla, Coke, and Apple were listed as examples).
Fandom rates are up across all the surveyed categories. The average change is 2.9 percentage points. In comparison, overall sports fandom is up 1.5 percentage points over the same period.
Movie fandom shows the greatest growth. This may be due to the re-emergence of movie theater attendance post Covid.
Music fandom rates are on par with sports fandom rates.
While social media content fandom lags other entertainment categories, social media fandom may be concentrated in Gen Z rather than spread across multiple generations.
Fandom for College, Politics, and Crypto decreased from 2022 to 2023.
Fandom for consumer products (in general) is exceptionally strong. Americans are willing to proclaim fandom for beloved products like Coca-Cola and Apple at about the same rate as for Baseball and Basketball.
The consistent growth in year-over-year fandom across categories suggests that fandom is a fundamental indicator of cultural engagement that moves in a correlated fashion across diverse categories. If fandom is correlated with a larger tendency toward increasing or decreasing “cultural engagement” then any single category should be compared to some overall fandom index.
For example, if we sum the categories of Television, Music, Comedy, Fashion, and Sports, the average percentage point growth from 2022 to 2023 is 2.5% (2.7% excluding sports). If this index represents the overall rate of change in cultural engagement, then specific categories that lag, like Sports, may be viewed as losing ground.
The results also highlight the necessity of more granular analyses. The results presented above are for the overall population. A generation (Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers) level analysis might expect significant differences in fandom rates and year-over-year changes. For example, while Social Media Content has a relatively low fandom rate in the overall population, the rate may be much higher in Generation Z.
The flat or decreasing fandom for college is interesting and worrisome. In recent years, commentators have noted that colleges have a young men problem. The data suggests that the Higher Education industry has a branding/fandom/enthusiasm problem.
The fandom rates for the consumer products are instructive. The products given as examples in the survey were high-equity brands with loyal followings. The relative results are interesting because the fandom percentages are on par with major entertainment categories and specific sports. The results highlight what is possible for brand marketers and that select consumer brands are now key elements of American culture.