Jumpshot/Slapshot Snapshot: Profiling Viewers of the NHL and NBA Playoffs

May 27, 2011 by Experian Marketing Services

With the NBA and NHL playoffs — both underway since mid-April — now entering their final weeks of play, Experian Marketing Services put together the following lifestyle overview so that marketers could better understand the respective audiences of these high-stakes games.


According to consumer research from Experian Simmons, viewers of both the NHL and NBA playoffs are electronics wizards with both groups representing good targets for items such as big screen TVs, video game consoles, portable MP3 players, cameras and more.

Many viewers of both playoffs series may feel like they have courtside or rinkside seats due to the fact that their home set-up often includes big screen TVs, home theater systems and DVRs. In fact, NHL and NBA playoffs viewers score, respectively, 66% and 40% above average when it comes to owning a TV set that is at least 60 inches. Likewise, viewers of the ultra high-paced NHL playoffs are 30% more likely to own a DVR while NBA playoff viewers are 12% above average for owning the at-home instant replay device.

NHL playoff viewers are also still photo buffs with this group scoring above average when it comes to owning all types of cameras from disposable to 35 mm to Digital SLR. NBA fans are generally less photo-focused than NHL fans, but when it comes to the digital SLR camera, which allows for the changing of lenses, NBA fans want in on the act. Specifically, NBA and NHL playoffs viewers are 44% and 55% more likely, respectively, than the average American to own such a camera.

For print media publishers, NHL fans represent an attractive set since they are more likely than average to be eBook readers. (NBA fans are average readers of eBooks.) In fact, 14% of NHL playoff viewers say they have read an eBook in the past year compared with 10% of the adult population at large.


A virtual high-five among friends is de rigueur for online playoffs fans, especially those who also visit their respective sport’s online home. Among online NHL playoffs fans, for instance, who visit NHL.com, fully 84% say they have visited a social networking site like Facebook in the last month. A similar share of online NBA playoffs fans who visit NBA.com (83%) are also on social networking sites. Nationwide, 76% of online adults are monthly visitors to social networking sites.

As expected, many fans use social networking sites to send messages to friends. In fact, 57% of online NHL playoffs fans say they communicate with friends via social networking as do 52% of online NBA playoffs fans. By comparison, 43% of all online adults keep in touch with their friends on social networking sites. These fans don’t just keep in touch with friends; they also keep in touch with companies and brands. According to Experian Simmons, 64% of online NHL playoffs fans say they have “liked” a company, product or other group on a social networking site as have 68% of online NBA playoffs fans.

Connecting with brands on social networks is just the first step before reaching for their e-wallet: Half of online NHL playoff fans who visit NHL.com (51%) purchased something online last month. And we’re not talking about a single purchase; on average this group goes online to make a purchase 7.6 times a month compared with the average online adult who makes online purchases 5.2 times per month. Online NBA playoffs fans who visit NBA.com also know their way around an online store with 40% having made a purchase in the last month. On average, this group goes online 7.2 times a month to buy something.


When NBA and NHL fans kick back to watch a game, they’re likely to be doing so with a cold beer in hand. Viewers of both the NBA and NHL playoffs are above average drinkers of virtually every type of beer. For example, viewers of the NHL playoffs age 21 and older are 75% and 73% more likely than the average adult of legal drinking age to consume regular domestic beer and imported beer, respectively.

Overall, NHL playoffs fans drink almost all types of beer at higher rates than those watching the NBA playoffs. For instance, 48% of NHL playoffs viewers say they drink light or low-calorie beers versus 36% of NBA viewers. Still, among all U.S. adults of legal drinking age, only 28% say they drink light beers. When it comes to malt liquor, NBA fans slightly edge out NHL fans. Specifically, 7.9% of NHL playoffs fans say they drink malt liquor versus 8% of NBA playoffs fans. Nationwide, only 4.1% of all adults age 21+ drink malt liquor.

Sports and leisure

When not watching the NBA and NHL, playoffs viewers are likely to be watching other sports or playing one themselves. In addition to basketball, NBA playoffs viewers are also more likely than average to be “very interested” in most other professional sports, including but not limited to: Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL) and the PGA. NHL playoffs viewers, too, are very disproportionately interested in a number of sports aside from pro hockey. Tops among them are: the PGA, NFL and the NBA. In fact, 16% of NHL playoffs viewers say they are very interested in the NBA. Likewise, 9.4% of NBA playoffs viewers say they are very interested in the NHL—a fact that presents a considerable dilemma for these individuals during the series!

Off the couch, these groups are quite physically active. NHL playoffs viewers, for instance, are 3.5 times more likely than average to say they play hockey and 2.3 times more likely to go ice skating (minus the hockey stick, presumably). They are also 2.3 times more likely to play golf, 2.1 times more likely to play football and twice as likely to go power boating. Likewise, NBA playoffs viewers are 2.3 times more likely than average to play basketball, 2.1 times more likely to play football, and 1.8 times more likely to play baseball, softball and golf.

With both the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy and the Stanley Cup being awarded in just a few weeks, fans will soon have plenty of time to engage in other activities.