NBA and NFL Buzz scores take a dive

Ted MarzilliCEO YouGov Direct
April 25, 2012, 3:01 PM GMT+0

Despite high TV ratings and attention, the NBA and NFL are experiencing drops in consumer perception over the past nine weeks in the US.

Entering into the playoffs, the NBA’s consumer perception has sunk below the other major sports leagues and NASCAR. While the TV ratings may be high, the player lockout that delayed the start of the season by two months may be having a lasting impact on perception. Additionally, side stories such as Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard’s controversial attempts to get coach Stan Van Gundy fired, Lamar Odom suddenly getting dumped by his team, provocative player tweets, or the sudden end of Jeremy Lin’s season with the Knicks may also be contributing.

The NFL has been receiving more consumer attention than any of the five major sports since the beginning of February when the Super Bowl aired, but more recently, perception of the league has dropped significantly. Some of that would be expected due to the offseason, but continuous coverage of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal and the subsequent unraveling and punishment of the personnel involved have likely contributed the NFL’s decreasing score.

The NHL, currently in the first round of the playoffs, has seen its consumer perception improve modestly through March, but fall off since late last week. The hockey league, while way ahead of the NBA in perception, still lags behind NASCAR, MLB and even the off-season NFL.

Sports league leader NASCAR got off to a mild season start in February that hit a few bumps due to the rain-delayed Daytona 500 and Juan Pablo Montoya’s fiery crash. Since then, NASCAR has cruised to the best consumer perception in the sports world, followed closely by a surging MLB.

All five major sports leagues were measured with two of YouGov BrandIndex’s scores: Attention and Buzz. Attention measures the percentage of consumers who have heard anything about the brand (positive or negative) in the last two weeks, whether through advertising, news stories or word of mouth. The score can range from 0 to 100%.

Buzz is the difference between the positive and negative mentions, and can range from -100 to +100.

The NFL currently scores highest in Attention at 38%, followed by the NASCAR (34%), the NBA (32%), MLB (23%) and the NHL (18%). But that only tells half the story, as Buzz provides the additional context of positive vs. negative.

The NBA’s most recent peak buzz score came from March 27 through 30 with a 6 score, and has since drifted steadily down to zero.

The NFL’s buzz score peaked a week after the Super Bowl on February 14th with a 29, then fell to an 8 score on March 29th. The league hovered around 7 for a while and is now showing some signs of beginning to recover with a 9 score.

NASCAR’s average 13 buzz score was a distant second to the NFL until after the Super Bowl and the Saints scandal broke out. It dropped down to 8 when the Daytona 500 was delayed and Montoya crashed, but it has since surged to the lead, currently at 16.

Both the MLB and NHL have attention scores that have traveled along close and similar paths – and are significantly behind the NFL, NASCAR and the NBA. However, when it comes to buzz scores, their paths diverge.

The NHL was just a few buzz score points ahead of the off-season MLB on February 1st (6 vs. 4) when baseball’s spring training opening began to lift the MLB past the NHL and then just about everybody else. The MLB’s current buzz score is 14, just a couple of points below NASCAR’s leading 16.

From its 6 buzz score on February 1st, the NHL cooled down slightly to 4 and 5 scores in the second half of the month. It rose as high as 11 at the end of March, but is seemingly overshadowed by the other leagues, and now resides at 7.