Archive for November 30th, 2010

Fundamental problems in the GWS Giants fanbase?

Posted by Laura on Tuesday, 30 November, 2010

I love demographics. I try to get demographic information when I can. There aren’t many official numbers regarding the exact percentage of female fans for the AFL but the general rule of thumb appears to be that the AFL has always had more female fans than the NRL. The AFL numbers tend to estimate the female fanbase as being 33 to 50% of all fans for the AFL. The NRL numbers tend to suggest the female fanbase tends to top out at around 10%.

The difference between the traditional AFL fan composition and the NRL fan composition should work in the AFL’s favor as it attempts to put another team into the Sydney area: They aren’t competing for the same fans (women) and the AFL has a much larger pool to draw from (the other half of the population).

That said, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Facebook’s numbers suggest that only 18.8% of the GWS Giants fans are women. Let’s compare this to the Sydney Swans, where Facebook says the percentage of female fans is 38.2%. That 20% is a huge difference. GWS Giant’s female participation is much closer to the NRL than the AFL numbers. This suggests to me that something is fundamentally off here. Heck, it suggests that rather than catering to a new market of sport fans that weren’t interested in the NRL that the GWS Giants are actually competing with the NRL for market share. If that’s the case, it is a recipe for disaster for the Giants.

(As an aside, the historical observational NRL numbers may not hold up to the situation online. The Wests Tigers community on Facebook? It is 40.5% female.)

There is another thing that feels completely off to me and suggests a fundamental problem with how the GWS Giants are marketing themselves: Lesbians are under represented. On the whole for both the AFL and NRL, female lesbian fans tend to outnumber their gay male counterparts. GWS Giants? Not the case. Lesbian fans make up 0.5% of all their fans and gay men make up 3.8%. To offer perspective on Facebook, the Sydney Swans have lesbians make up 3.3% of all fans (where orientation is known) and gay men make up 1.2% of all fans. Again, this suggests some fundamental problem in marketing. I just don’t have the historical understanding to explain why.

There was a big push to promote Team GWS in Canberra. People talked about how the team would basically be a home side AFL club for Canberra. It looks like part of this plan went pear shaped. Canberrans make up only 8.5% of the total GWS Giants fans on Facebook. If an eye is turned towards Twitter instead? GWS is not even in the top ten for most popular teams that Canberrans follow. Victorian Bushrangers, ACT Brumbies, Cadel Evans, New South Wales Blues, St. George Illawarra Dragons, Canberra Raiders, Wests Tigers, Wallabies, Parramatta Eels, Collingwood Magpies, Stephanie Rice, Cycling Australia, Melbourne Demons, Sydney Swans, Cricket Australia, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Queensland Reds, Gold Coast Titans, Socceroos, Eamon Sullivan, Gold Coast Football Club, Western Force, Penrith Panthers, New South Wales Waratahs, Canberra Cycling Club, Geelong Cats are all more popular. To give this perspective, the ACT Brumbies have 238 Canberran followers compared to GWS Giants’s 60. The Giants are smashed between Geelong at 66 and Hawthorn at 59. The team doesn’t appear to have generated much real interest in Canberra. This should be a concern if GWS is looking get into the merchandise market as they don’t appear to have a position anywhere close to the major teams based in the city. This is another fundamental problem that needs to be addressed if the club is really serious about Canberra.

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Random thoughts on my dissertation progress

Posted by Laura on Tuesday, 30 November, 2010

A good friend today said that the real purpose of my dissertation is this: The use of quantitative data methods can be used to analyze sport fandom.

This perspective is very much appreciated as sometimes, when I’m looking at this data and explaining what it means, I tend to look down on it as almost all the work that I’ve seen and almost all of the media coverage that I’ve seen is for qualitative research. Qualitative is awesome in some ways. It is easy to frame a narrative around specific individuals. You can easily take pictures. With quantitative data, it is much harder to frame that narrative. It gets even harder when your quantitative approach is entirely online. This issue can be depressing.

The focus of my dissertation is still demographic, geographic and social characteristics of Australian sport fans online. The analysis just needs a framework to present it. This includes why patterns in fannish behavior change (or don’t). How do you measure change? You hope you have data before an event takes place and then you get data after the event. Did the pattern of membership change? Did the population’s geographic characteristics change? Did the demographic characteristics change? I’ve got a few chapters done. They include the response to the Melbourne Storm controversy, the Jason Akermanis controversy and the Joel Monaghan controversy. I have a few potential micro-chapters. They include Soccer World Cup checkin patterns, how Julia Gillard impacted the Western Bulldogs, and what AFL team was more popular in the North Territory using Google search results totals. Beyond that, I have the data to look at the development of the Greater Western Sydney. These particular situations can help explain what is happening in sport fandom, what the existing communities for these fandoms look like and how they are shaped by controversy. (Hint: Most of the time, major events don’t appear to change the fundamental demographic and geographic characteristics of a fandom. Other events tend to be at play.)

One of the frustrating things about my particular research area is that it can be hard to talk to people about it. To get a lot of it, you have to know a lot about social media across several different sites, to generally understand how sport fandom operates (and how it differs from media fandom.) and then understand how a particular sport fandom works. How do people use YouTube? How does the sport fandom on YouTube use it? What are the fundamental characteristics of a particular fandom manifested on YouTube and are they manifested in a similar way on YouTube or does Youtube present a unique subgroup of fans? This type of approach is just different. It isn’t a usability study. (Though yes, usability can and does play a role in how communities get together on the Internet. If there are barriers to entry, the population may be “abnormal” and not as representative.) It isn’t content analysis. (Though that’s a legitimate method of critique. That methodology tends to be similar to traditional media fandom studies.) It is a population study. This approach just isn’t generally done. When I talk to a lot of people, it feels like I need to present a lot of back story in order to get understanding. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It helps me refine my thoughts and my thinking. It just gets frustrating in that I can’t sit down with people and start discussing these things. (Which is probably the case for a lot of PhD students. You’re the specialist in your area. You should be going deeper than anyone else has on your subject. If it was easy for everyone to understand, then some one would have done research on it already.)

So yeah. At the moment, I’m a bit frustrated. I don’t necessarily feel like I’m making progress. I feel like I’m drowning in data. I can’t always figure out how to provide context and narrative to make my research more compelling and easily understandable to stakeholders and casual fans.

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