Nielsen released its annual "Year in Sports Media Report" last week, a fascinating look into who consumed sports in 2013 and how they did so. There's tons of great trend data if you're into this sort of thing—TV viewership is down for the NBA while every other sport has grown; mobile devices are taking over the world—but what's most interesting are the stats on local fans.
Here are the figures provided in the report for the top NFL and NBA fan bases; the measurement is the "percent of population that watched, attended, or listened to the team in the past 12 months":
Market size is important here, as it's easier for small market teams to "reach" a larger portion of the local population, especially in terms of attendance. The Packers and Saints have rabid fans for sure, but Green Bay is the smallest city in the U.S.—by far—to have any major pro team, and New Orleans is the second smallest to have an NFL team. Still, the fan support for the Packers and Saints is ridiculous.
Competition matter as well. Oklahoma City and San Antonio represent some of the smallest markets in the NBA, but they also support no other pro teams. Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Kansas City, all big NFL cities, support no NBA teams. In this light, the fan base figures for the Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls—both representing some of the largest cities in America and competing with several other teams—are maybe the most impressive (we'll withhold judgement on the Heat until they stop winning titles).
Here are the top five local fan bases for MLB and the NHL, U.S. teams only:
Still keeping an eye toward city size, the two large metros that that stick out on these lists are Detroit and Boston, which crack the top 5 on both these lists. St. Louis and Pittsburgh are kind of borderline cases—they're still "small" markets, but they're a lot larger than the very smallest markets, and the outpouring of support for the Cardinals and Penguins is very impressive.
Nielsen declined to provide us with the full rankings, which would have let us really nail down the the effects of market size and competition on local fandom. Go check out the full report for more stats, plus info on the MLS, NASCAR, golf, college basketball, and college football.