While some Major League Baseball teams are facing declining or stagnant fan attendance this 2019 baseball season, it’s another story for the Philadelphia Phillies. Since Bryce Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract this past offseason with the team, their game attendance has been reportedly higher. The Washington Nationals on the other hand are not having a great season since losing Bryce Harper to the Phillies.
While higher ticket sales tell one side of the story, we decided to use location data to see if the reports this season were as accurate as reported. We compared the foot traffic of anonymous mobile devices that attended the first 25 home games of the 2019 season to the first 25 home games of the 2018 season to see how much attendance levels varied year to year.
Despite fans reportedly being unhappy with Bryce Harpers’ performance so far this season, we found that the Phillies have seen higher attendance overall - with an 18% increase in median attendance this season compared to last season. Last year, the Phillies had higher attendance in the first three opening games of the season, but then attendance dwindled as the season went on.
This year, the team is seeing a more even distribution of attendance throughout the 25 games, with more people going to more than one game this season compared to last. Using foot traffic analysis, sports organizers can see repeat visits that they wouldn't necessarily be able to see with just ticket sales. Perhaps Bryce Harper has brought more loyal fans compared to the previous season.
2019 Season Attendance
2018 Season Attendance
The Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals haven’t been so lucky after losing Harper to the Phillies. Their attendance has dropped and the number of people who attended 2 or more games has also dropped from 16% last season to 12% this season. But don’t count the Nats out just yet. They may have lost Harper, but they are actually averaging more home runs this season compared to last.
Most Attended Game So Far
As shown in the first graph above, the data showed a large spike in attendance on May 4th, 2019. This was the first weekend game that the Phillies played the Washington Nationals. We found that most attendees of this game came from Pennsylvania and New Jersey but a fair amount also came from Delaware and Maryland which is the Washington Nationals territory. The Nats also won this game.
Most Popular Days of the Week
Unsurprisingly, the most popular time of the week to see a game this season has been on weekends. But this year also has had a higher number of people going to games on the weekdays compared to last year.
Where Did Fans Come From?
People are traveling from surrounding areas to attend Phillies home games. Philadelphia, West Chester, Media and Bensalem are the top cities that people are coming from to watch a game.
The majority of fans attending Washington Nationals games are also coming from surrounding areas: D.C, Maryland and Virginia.
Brand Preferences of Phillies Fans
Above-and-beyond attendance numbers, location data can provide insights into fan behaviors when they are not attending a game. For a deeper look into the makeup of these live sports fans, we looked into the brand preferences of Phillies fans to get an idea of their shopping habits. Knowing what fans brand preferences are is helpful for teams to identify potential partners or sponsors that match the interests and shopping habits of their fans. Teams can then approach these brands with data that backs up why they would be a good fit to partner with.
We found that Phillies fans frequent a lot of regional brands and like to visit ACME, Weis, PriceRite, and Giant food stores. For national grocery stores, they over-index at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Convenience Stores & Pharmacies
Also for regional brands, Phillies fans like to go to Wawa stores. They are also more likely to shop at Rite Aid pharmacy as their pharmacy of choice.
Phillies fans like to stay fit and like to hit the gym at Retro Fitness, YMCA and Planet Fitness.
While sports fans in Philadelphia are known to love local restaurants like Pat’s King of Steak’s, Chickie’s & Pete’s and Geno’s Steaks, they also enjoy going to Dave and Buster’s, Panera Bread, Chick-fil-a, Sbarro and Applebee’s when it comes to national brands.
The Bottom Line
Gauging attendance levels is just one example of how location data can be used by sports teams.
Location data also provides deep insights into fans that aren't available by traditional methods like ticket sales. With these insights, the Phillies, or any sports team, can better understand fan behaviors as well as brand preferences and shopping habits. Armed with this information, sports teams can use it to enhance their fan experience, improve logistics and increase revenue through partnering with other brands.
While Bryce Harpers’ performance hasn't been satisfactory, the data proved that his spot on the team still drew people to the stadium and had an influence on attendance numbers so far this season. However, the Washington Nationals haven’t had the same success since losing Bryce Harper. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues with the Phillies’ recent slump and the effect it will have on ticket sales for both teams in the future.