Country club sports: Targeting wealthy sports fans

The stereotypical persona of John Q. Sportsfan brings to mind the image of the American Everyman; (yes, they are more likely to be male) and indeed, there are no clearly pronounced skews towards race, ethnicity, income or presence of kids, though perhaps there is a slight inclination towards higher levels of education. This demography lends itself nicely to behaviors that are “broadly male,” but what about brands that cater to guys out there who pride themselves on being more “niche?”

That was the question that developed after a brief discussion among a subset of my (male) friends about the America’s Cup that took place the day following ORACLE TEAM USA’s historic comeback. The core questions posed during this conversation were:

  1. Did anyone follow it? (no)
  2. Who does follow it? (Has to be the wealthy, right?)
  3. And if it is the wealthy, is it possible that the America’s Cup is the Blue-Bloodiest of all sporting events?

That third question is what I thought may have some value, particularly to niche marketers of elite products who may not have the budget (or objective) to reach all men via more mainstream sporting events.

Searches on “America’s Cup” variations in the final week doubled the previous week’s high

The chart above illustrates that news of the regatta was spreading and that some Americans were, in fact, engaged. Searches on “America’s Cup” variations in the final week doubled the previous week’s high. But really, how impressive is the peak in searches during the week ending 9/28? For context, I took a look at all sports websites in Hitwise where household incomes in excess of $150K (the top income bracket available in Hitwise) comprised at least a third of the site’s visitors. The results produced a mix of specific college and professional team websites, independent publishers, fantasy sports/gambling and some direction into what sports drew the interest of the wealthy.

Week of Peak Search Activity

Since the America’s Cup is limited in duration and frequency, I focused this analysis on “events” rather than traditional sports leagues. Tennis, golf and cycling all draw a particularly affluent audience (I included the Kentucky Derby, which has broad appeal, as an Everyman benchmark), so I took a look at some of the websites for a marquee event of each sport, and also at the time of that event. The wider and darker green the bar, the stronger the concentration of $150K+ eyeballs searching, making the Tour de France the champion.

But search activity and site visitation only cover online — what about other media? As it turns out, the wealthiest households tend to contain overly engaged sports fans. Analyzing data from the Simmons National Consumer Study, the chart on the left below illustrates that by volume, $250K+ households over-index the general population on watching (at home) nearly all of the sporting events that rank at the top overall.


The chart on the right shows that, yet again, cycling (Tour de France), tennis (French, Australian Opens) and golf (the Ryder Cup) are the events that set this demographic apart. The top events that were specifically popular among the wealthiest households also included the World Cup, so all ten were international competitions.

These lucrative consumers are not just watching events in their homes, however. They are also outside participating in them. So if your company is considering a sponsorship of an amateur event or some guerilla out-of-home advertising tactic, know that the $250K+ consumer is nothing if not consistent.


One quarter of this segment indicated they played golf or cycled in the past year, well above the general population. But when sorted on index, the top activity unique to them was, in fact, sailing. Also of note is the abundance of snow-based activities. The summer sailing season is drawing to a close, so as we head into the winter months, consider leveraging the alpine regions of the country to get your brand in front of these valuable consumers.

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