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Loyola University

Adrian Avalos, John Loxas, Mikal Muhammad, Jonathan (Jack) Thompson, Ramzy Wehbi
Team Name: Adrian & the Boys Consulting
BSAD 343(Business Analytics)
Professor Kalish
November 28, 2018
A. Introduction

Baseball has always been a sport deeply ingrained in American culture. In the early 20th

century, it took off to such an extent that key players like Babe Ruth became prominent figures

of American history and are still known for their impressive achievements today. Despite this

growth and popularity, alongside the recent growing popularity of other sports such as basketball

and football, the hype behind baseball seems to have died down significantly today. Our firm,

A&B consulting, has been hired by the MLB in order to investigate whether baseball is in fact

becoming less popular over time. For this reason, our primary stakeholders include the MLB, the

players, and other baseball clubs around the nation that depend on us to uncover the reality

behind the fate of this sport. Our project will review the validity of these claims and, if true, the

impact that they may have on our primary stakeholders.

This report will first review sources and authors that have studied this phenomenon

closely in order to help us develop a hypothesis. We selected variables based on our hypothesis,

collected data on these variables, and ultimately analyzed this data in order to come up with a

conclusion and any recommendations we can give on our results. As a result, this report will

involve deep dive research to assess the truth of a problem and then offer a potential solution.

B. Review of Previous Findings

While the declining popularity of baseball seems to be a more recent phenomenon, many

news sources and statisticians have been working hard across the last decade to understand

whether it is true and why this may be the case. An article written by Carson Kesstler for Fortune

indicates that in this year alone, “MLB attendance has dropped to its lowest average in 15 years,

down 6.6% from this time last year and 8.6% overall, according to Stats LLC” (Kesstler 2018).

From this article, we noted that MLB attendance has dropped to its lowest average in 15 years.

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This finding was a clear indication that, unless baseball bounces back as it did 15 years ago, the

sport is in fact on the decline as attendance has been dwindling significantly, especially in this

last year.

Analyzing youth participation is a good indicator of the future of any sport, as it

determines the extent to which the next generation continues to play any given sport for the rest

of their lives. In regards to youth participation, an article, written by Brian Costa for the Wall

Street Journal in 2015, indicates that baseball popularity and participation among little league

communities and other youth leagues in New York has been rapidly declining. New York City is

where the rules of modern baseball originated and where baseball dominated the culture for a

long time, so the declining popularity of the sport for the youth in this state is a major indicator

of a change in the major sports. Our team firmly believed that the culture for baseball in New

York would stay strong, and with this fact, alongside the idea that baseball attendance is also

dropping, indicates that we have strong reason to believe that baseball popularity is on the

decline.

Coupled with the fact that MLB attendance and youth participation is dwindling, its

popularity does not resonate with many other younger age groups. Building off of the data we

discovered with regards to youth participation, Kari Paul emphasizes that, “The average age of

baseball viewers is 53, compared with 47 for the NFL and 37 for the NBA, according to the

ratings” (Paul 2017). This is a clear indication that not only is the popularity of the sport

declining in terms of attendance and youth participation, but the largest demographic consists of

older generations. We believed it was critical to compare this age demographic to other sports,

such as the NFL and NBA, to see whether all sports faced a similar problem. From this article

alone, this does not seem to be the case.

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To assess the truth behind all of these claims, we have uncovered some very useful raw

data on this topic, developed by Sports Market Analytics, Statista, and a high school database

called The National Federation of State High School Association. This data, along with our

background knowledge on the problem, will help us analyze the problem and develop a

hypothesis.

C. Model and Variable Selection

The first step in assessing the nature of this problem is developing a hypothesis and

selecting our variables based on this hypothesis. From the research that we found in the previous

findings step and our own ideas about the popularity of baseball, we believe that baseball is in

fact declining simply because of peoples changing preferences and the many existing alternatives

to the sport. Included in what we consider alternatives are things like video games or other

esports, which seem to attract younger age groups more and more each year. Therefore, we

believe that less and less people are watching baseball simply because of the changing nature of

the world and the growing popularity of alternatives.

To truly understand whether or not baseball is dying, A&B consulting has selected

variables that are most associated with the popularity of baseball. For this reason, our consulting

team has chosen four key variables to look at in order to assess this problem. The first variable

we have chosen is physical attendance at MLB games relative to the attendance of other major

sports. The reason for this is to see whether attendance is going down and whether or not this

decline is shared among all sports and not just baseball. The best way to know if baseball is truly

losing popularity is to see whether or not all attendance for all sports is on the decline, otherwise

this is not a problem that is unique to baseball alone.

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The second variable we chose is television ratings, as physical presence at MLB games is

not the whole picture and many fans do watch at home. We also intend to compare this variable

to other sports and track this variable as it changes over time. If both attendance and TV

viewings are considered, a considerable portion of how baseball is watched will be taken into

account and any decline in both numbers will help us assess whether or not people have stopped

caring about baseball and if its losing popularity.

Due to the growing popularity of the internet and streaming online, we expect that TV

ratings for all sports are all declining equally and so we will also look at a third variable relating

to Twitter followings and growth to assess the growing or declining online popularity of each

sport. Therefore, our third variable will track the Twitter pages and statistics relating to the

growth of the four major sports that we have outlined in order to see which sports are more

popular and to what extent they are growing. Baseball has less of a following on social media

platforms than basketball and football, however, it was originated around the same time as the

other sports.

Lastly, in order to map out the future of baseball, we have decided to analyze youth

participation which shows popularity of the sport among younger generations. We believe that

data about the major leagues for each sport is important, but the lasting sustainability of a sport

depends on the participation and engagement of future generations. The source that we found in

our review of previous findings stage states that the age demographic for baseball is 55 and

older, which would not be good for the long term survival of the sport.

D. Data Collection

Including the statistical data that we have collected prior to selecting our variables from

various sources such as Sports Market Analytics, we will also be collecting primary data. The

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data we will collect directly will occur during our presentation to the shareholders of MLB. We

will give a survey before starting the presentation asking whether they personally enjoy baseball

and watch it often. We will use a website called Poll Everywhere to conduct this survey. This will

be a critical primary source of data as it will determine the popularity of baseball among our own

age demographic. According to several sources that we collected during the review of previous

findings step, the age demographic for the average baseball fan is above 55 years old, and so we

expect the results of this survey to show that the room will have very few actual baseball fans.

From our data collected by secondary resources, we found a lot of useful statistics

provided by Sports Market Analytics. This website provided us with data with the potential of

satisfying all but two of our variables. We were able to find data on physical attendance at

baseball games and all sports in general, TV ratings for all sports, and revenue earned by all

major sports organizations as well as what they were spending on paying players and for

advertising. This website was incredibly convenient in providing data as it gave the same

variables and statistics for every sport in the same layout, meaning we could easily extract what

we needed from the same place. As we collected this data, it became clear that some of our initial

suspicions were true as the numbers for the three variables have declined. However, for other

sports, we found similar trends in some variables especially for hockey, but not to the same

degree of decline for baseball.

Our third variable can easily be found by looking at the Twitter pages of 3 or 4 of the

sports that we are identifying. This data is available to everyone and speaks for itself by looking

at the inception of each sports twitter page and the following they have amassed since the start.

Overall, collecting and measuring this variable will be easy and we expect this to be a useful

indication of the online presence of baseball fans.

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For our last variable relating to youth participation, we found data provided by The

National Federation of State High School Association about how the younger generations have

participated. As we collected this data we realized that it was not in the same organized format as

the other data we collected. It took time to observe, arrange, and format this data to see what was

really going on so that we could later analyze and see if the trends in youth participation

reflected the concerns of some of the sources we took note of in our review of previous findings

step.

E. Data Analysis

The first step in our data analysis was to determine what statistical tools and software we

would use to analyze and graph the data that we discover. We decided as a team that it would

make the most sense to use RStudio to run statistical tests by using the summary function for

example in order to uncover things like the mean, median, and assess the overall structure of the

many datasets we discovered. We then selected the critical data sets and used Tableau along with

Excel to graphically map out the data. In this process, we discovered clear trends that supports

our hypothesis and other trends that did not, but overall the data made it clear that the popularity

of baseball was clearly declining.

Beginning with our first variable of attendance, we used the data available through Sports

Market Analytics to compare the physical attendance among different age groups at major events

for the sports of baseball, basketball, hockey and football. For baseball, the data indicated that

among those who attended a MLB event in 2017, 3.1% was age 13 to 17, 22.8% was age 18 to

34, 32.5% was age 35 to 49, and the remaining 41.6% was age 50+. From these numbers alone,

our initial hypothesis of baseball being less popular among younger age groups was correct. The

true assessment of our hypothesis comes from the trend of baseball, and this analysis also makes

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it clear that baseball is declining for certain age groups. In measuring the same statistics six years

ago, for 2011, 7.5% of those who attended MLB events were age 13 to 17, 37.5% were age 18 to

34, and 27.8% were age 35 to 49 with the remaining 22.8% being age 50+. In comparing these

numbers, it is clear that the attendance dropped about half for those ages 34 or younger.

However, all groups that were aged 35 or higher attended more games since 2011, indicating a

growth in popularity among those age 65+. This drop and spike in the attendance of different age

groups from 2011 to 2017 is indicated in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: 2011 vs. 2017 Attendance Changes Among Different Age Groups

Relative to other sports, namely football and basketball, attendance was seemingly

stagnant for all age groups. For example, attendance at any basketball event in 2011 consisted of

8.5% of people ages 13 to 17, while in 2017 this age group was about 8.1% of those who

attended, seeing no significant increase or decrease. The rest of this data was presented similarly,

meaning that the sharp decline in attendance among those ages 13 to 34 is a phenomenon shared

by baseball alone.

Our second variable relates to TV ratings especially when compared to other sports in a

similar manner to our first variable. In our analysis of this variable, it was evident that among

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younger age groups, all sports experienced a similar decline in the TV age demographic. For

example, baseball TV viewings among those age 18 to 34 accounted for 27% of the viewers in

2011 and only 16.7% in 2017. Similarly, for football, TV viewings among those age 18 to 34

accounted for 28.2% of viewers in 2011 and 19.3% in 2017. Despite this drop is age groups, it is

worth noting that the level of popularity in terms of ratings for both basketball and football,

especially with regards to the Super Bowl, are much higher than baseball. From this variable, we

concluded that with the advent of streaming and watching online, TV ratings would not be a

strong indication of the rise or decline of any sport. We did consider the fact that overall TV

ratings for other sports were still considerably higher than baseball, meaning that the other sports

are still much more popular in terms of their fanbase. Most people among many age groups

prefer to watch things online instead and so, in lieu of this variable, we have decided to look at

the growth of each sports Twitter following over the course of the last few years.

Similarly, looking at the current Twitter followers and popularity for baseball, it pales in

comparison to other sports. The MLB Twitter page has approximately 8.22 million followers

whereas the NBA and NFL Twitter pages have 27.4 million and 24.2 million, respectively. This

is a strong indication that while the MLB does have a significant fanbase, it is not as significant

and did not grow to the same extent as other two sports. This is important because while we do

not expect Twitter to track a decline in popularity, it is important to consider the growth of both

sports. For example, the MLB Twitter page was launched in December of 2008 and since then

has amassed its 8 million followers. In contrast, the NBA and NFL joined Twitter on and January

2009, respectively, and amassed three times more followers than the MLB. This is a strong

indication that as these other sports grow significantly in popularity, MLB does not and may not

ever reach the popularity of other sports if it continues to have a decline in both attendance and

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TV ratings while also having a weaker social media base online. Each respectives sports current

Twitter following is reflected in Figure 2 below, showing a clear different in popularity between

the Twitter followings of baseball and other sports.

Figure 2: Twitter Followings of the MLB, NBA, and NFL as of November 25, 2018

Our fourth variable relates to youth participation, as the participation of upcoming

generations in any sport is critical to understanding whether it will continue to grow or decline.

In our analysis of data retrieved from The National Federation of State High School Association,

there were some interesting, yet unexpected results. As a team we decided that we would

compare baseball with three other major sports including: basketball, ice-hockey, and football.

Overall, contrary to the report, upon looking at the average youth participation in each sport it

seems that baseball is not doing as bad as many people think it is. There is a steady constant

value of on average nine to ten thousands participants in any given year. However, basketball and

football are much more popular with an average participant count of 19 to 22 thousands

participants. This data proved to be contrary to the article mentioned above, however, upon

closer examination of the data gathered using a median approach instead of an average approach.

The sport is in a slight decline in recent years, therefore, if the trend we discovered continues it is

very possible that baseball is very much in the decline. With less youth participants there will be

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fewer major players in baseball in the future, as well as less people that are interested enough to

attend baseball games or watch them on the television.

F. Conclusions and Recommendations

Based on these results, we came to the conclusion that our hypothesis was only partially

correct, and that the bigger picture showed that most sports were suffering from something

similar to the decline of baseball. Due to the fact that the data showed baseball declining at a

much more accelerated rate, this observation that we made was simply more noticeable.

Attendance for sports such as football or basketball stagnated or experienced a slight drop since

2011, while baseball experienced a more significant drop among certain age groups. In terms of

TV ratings, all sports faced a decline as more and more fans switch to viewing sports online,

however, this decline was far more significant for baseball. Similarly, we found that for all

sports, youth participation has been dropping for all sports, but has not grown at all and is slowly

declining in hockey and baseball. Despite this, based on the online presence for each sport in

regards to their Twitter following, we suspect that the other sports like basketball and football

will continue to be extremely popular due to the larger online presence and more significant

growth over time.

As we cannot confidently say the same for baseball, we have developed various

recommendations to present to our stakeholders based on our analysis. Firstly, we would

recommend that the MLB aggressively launch advertising campaigns and actively fund online

marketing ads in order to regain its foothold in American culture and develop a stronger online

presence. We feel that since the revenues for the MLB are still strong, much of this money can go

towards funding growth initiatives in an attempt to prevent the decline of the sport. If the major

leagues become popular and more people across other age groups become more involved, we

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feel that the youth groups will be more active in participating in the sport and ultimately, bring

the sport to its status as Americas primary past-time.

References

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Activate. "Share of Sports Viewed on Selected Devices by Viewers in The United States in 2017,

by Age." Statista - The Statistics Portal, Statista, www.statista.com/statistics/786744/sports-

viewed-selected-devices-by-age/, Accessed 25 Nov 2018

Vee, Gary. “Baseball Is Losing Popularity and Ratings – Phone Call With Sports Illustrated.”

YouTube, YouTube, 20 Oct. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2ooD0NmGRY

Costa, Brian. “Why Children Are Abandoning Baseball.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones &

Company, 20 May 2015, www.wsj.com/articles/why-baseball-is-losing-children-1432136172.

Hudgens, Laura Hanby. “The Decline of Baseball and Why It Matters.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 8

Apr. 2016, www.huffpost.com/entry/the-decline-of-baseball-a_b_9630782.

Kessler, Carson. “MLB Attendance Drops to Lowest Average In 15 Years.” Fortune, Fortune, 15

June 2018, fortune.com/2018/06/15/mlb-attendance-rate-declining/.

Notte, Jason. “The Sports with the Oldest - and Youngest - TV Audiences.” MarketWatch,

MarketWatch, 30 June 2017, www.marketwatch.com/story/the-sports-with-the-oldest-and-

youngest-tv-audiences-2017-06-30.

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Appendix

NFL Attendance: 2011 to 2017

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NBA Attendance: 2011 to 2016

MLB Attendance by Age Group: 2011 to 2017

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MLB TV Ratings: 2011 to 2017

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Youth Participation of All Sports Since 2002:

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