Marketers seeking to engage consumer interest in new ways may want to sponsor sports teams or events. As I mentioned in an August blog, IEG predicted sports sponsorship will increase to an  $11.8 billion industry in 2009. But which sports appeal to the widest audience?football_foot_sports_267296_l

ESPN regularly polls consumers about their interest in sports and reports on both regular and avid fan statistics. According to the most recently released ESPN Sports Poll, the following sports have the highest percentage of fans even at their all-time low figures shown below:

  • National Football League 55.1%
  • College Football 52.1%
  • College Basketball 42.5%
  • Figure Skating 41.4%
  • Extreme Action 39.8%

Marketers who want to reach avid fans of less popular sports can still be certain to reach sizeable portions of the general population. Here’s what ESPN reports as the twelve-month average base of interest by avid fans in the following sports:

  • NASCAR 12.9%
  • Mixed martial arts 13.7%
  • Boxing 11.4%
  • PGA Tour 9.1%

David Abrutyn, a senior vice president with sports, entertainment and media company IMG, notes that sports marketing will continue to be important because , “[p]eople are trying to find ways to cut through an incredibly cluttered advertising world to reach an audience and [sports] celebrities are a very powerful tool to do that.”

[Sources: ESPN Sports Poll, IMG release, 2009]