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Can The NFL's Female Fan Base Get Any Larger?

Navigate Research - Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Written by Matt Balvanz

The NFL’s recent domestic abuse issues have raised a lot of questions about the culture and direction of the league, especially from its female fan base. At a time when the league has become the most dominant in the US, the impact of these issues have been felt by a huge number of female NFL fans. However, are these issues jeopardizing the expansion of its female fan base, or has the NFL already saturated the female population?

According to Nielsen Scarborough, there are currently 49 million female NFL fans in the US, which is roughly 50% of the adult female population in this country. The NFL is easily the most popular of the Big Four sports leagues among females, as MLB is only followed by 39% of females, the NBA is followed by 28% and the NHL by 18%. This means that the NFL has over 10 million more female fans than any of the other leagues, which is a great advantage when it comes to driving up attendance, TV viewership and merchandise sales. But, as large as the female fan base is for the NFL, can it get even larger?

When looking at the female fan bases outside of the Big Four, the NFL is actually the second most popular sport, as the Olympics are followed by 56% of females, providing a fan base of 55 million people. So, to become the most popular sport among females, the NFL has room to increase its female following by 6 million people. If the NFL were able to become the most popular sport among females, that would be a huge achievement for the league, and would provide some incredible upside in terms of revenue growth. But, would there be even more room to grow the fan base beyond this point?

Among the male population in the US, an astonishing 72% are fans of the NFL, which equates to 67 million adult males. If 72% of females were fans of the NFL, that would mean over 71 million female NFL fans, or an incremental 22 million more than there are today.

While the female NFL following may never reach the male level of saturation, it’s safe to say that there is still some room to grow the female fan base for the NFL by several million people over the next few seasons.