Over 154 Years of Service to the Furniture Industry
 Furniture World Logo

What's All The Fuss About Televised Sports?

Furniture World Magazine


Who you can reach and how cost effective is it?

It's a great way to reach potential buyers, that's what! I'm sure you will agree that few of your customers missed the Tonya vs. Nancy skate-off and the news blitz that preceded it during the Games at Lillihammer.

It was one of the greatest media bargains of the century. Any home furnishings retailer who had a spot in that event filled Wednesday and Friday evenings gained the greatest audience they could hope for and the best price per thousand reached in the history of television. Just for the record, during the week of February 14 thru 20, 1994, for the top ten programs, the Winter Olympics finished #1 thru #7 as shown in the table "Viewer Numbers in Millions" on the preceding page.

And that was only during the first week when Tonya and Nancy were shadow skating in practice without seeing each other. The following week of February 21 thru 27, 1994 was unbelievable.

In addition, the CBS domination went way beyond prime time programming. The CBS Evening News vaulted to first place. It had been behind ABC for years. And the Late Show With David Letterman registered its largest audience in history, certainly because of "Dave's Mom's Reporting From Lillihammer".

To understand the size of the women's figure skating final is to understand that it was the sixth highest rated show ever on television. But this should come as no surprise to us. A generational and gender revolution is quietly sweeping American sports. Teenage girls and their moms are leading the way, fueling much of the explosive growth in all sports and lifting figure skating and gymnastics near the top of the country's most popular spectator sports. The National Sports Study II, the largest sports and lifestyle study ever conducted in America was recently released by the Sports Marketing Group, a research based consultancy in Dallas. The study, based on 1,479 respondents to a 64 page questionnaire, updates and broadens one conducted in 1990. It is weighted and balanced to represent all demographic groups in proportion to current U.S. Census data. It carries a margin of error of 1.7 to 2.6 percent.

What it really says is that females of all ages are becoming fans, not only of traditional "women's sports" such as gymnastics and figure skating, but of "men's sports" as well, such as football, basketball, baseball, hockey and auto racing.

This surge of sports interest is closing the traditional disparity in spectator sports such as baseball. Fan appeal varies only about 5% between men and women in all age groups under 65. That contrasts with a 21% difference just five years ago. In some sports, the popularity of the NBA and the NFL for example, is higher among women than among men. Women 18-24 like the NBA by 4% more than the men their age.

Mothers are getting involved in sports. Therefore their daughters get involved. The high ranking of figure skating and gymnastics may shock some sports fans, but certainly not the major networks. Recently, ABC announced that it reached a multi-year agreement with the U.S. Figure Skating Association to extend its coverage of USFSA events through 1999. ABC Sports will televise: the U.S. Figure Skating Champ- ionships in January 1995; two Pro-Am figure skating events, one in April and another on Christmas Eve; Skate America International which will feature skaters from around the world airing October 30th and November 20th; and from 1995 on, the Tom Collins Tour of world and Olympic champion figure skaters.

But is this only to reach women? Not at all, says the National Sports Study II. The trend cuts two ways. Boys and men are becoming greater fans of women's figure skating and women's gymnastics. They even like women's college basketball more than women do.

What all this means is that sports are becoming more and more popular and television is the means to reach these new found sports enthusiasts. The top ten most popular sports as measured by the study are shown in figure 1 and the top 10 most popular events are shown in figure 2.

So, what does all this mean? Get onboard the sports bandwagon if you are serious about advertising on television. There are wonderful opportunities to reach your target audience(s) many times over with great reach and frequency. Look to cable to build that frequency and weekend network and cable telecasts to broaden your reach. Many times your local cable and television stations undersell women's sports because they do not carry the large numbers more traditional sports programming does. For instance, if you have a local NFL team, all sports and sales departments look on that as the "big" sell. They don't look at some of the other sports as "major" selling opportunities. Get wise and ahead of the game and lock up a number of these powerful sporting opportunities... and make figure skating your first buy.

Also, take a look at Major League Baseball. With NBC and ABC again covering the National Pastime, along with the increased number of female viewers, this could be one of the best cost per thousand reach vehicles you have in your area.

Lance G. Hanish is the President of Lance Benefield & Co., Inc. Worldwide, a leading marketing communications firm serving home furnishings retailers. Questions on any aspect of television media management or production can be direct to Mr. Hanish care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at lhanish@furninfo.com.