There are few sporting events that capture a global audience quite like the World Cup. In major US cities, it is nearly impossible to walk by a bar, restaurant (or office conference rooms for that matter) without seeing all eyes anxiously glued to the TV and overhearing raucous excitement when a favorite team makes a goal. This inevitably leads to the topic everyone likes to analyze every four years – is this the year when pro soccer finally takes off in the United States?
According The New York Times, the US vs. Portugal game drew a US audience of 25 million – reaching more viewers than either the NBA Finals or the 2013 World Series. While that is certainly an impressive stat, it doesn’t provide the full picture or put these numbers into a global perspective. Just how popular is soccer in America, and what insights can we uncover by analyzing Fifa.com and comparing it to America’s other sporting obsessions – baseball, football, basketball and fast cars?
First, just how popular is the World Cup vs American sports on a global scale? Let’s first create a site comparison and dig into the traffic trends of Fifa.com, mlb.com, nfl.com, nba.com and nascar.com. During the month of June, when the World Cup began, Fifa.com took off. At a high of approximately 2%, the global reach (or the % of global internet users who visited the site) of Fifa.com blows all of the American sports out of the water. Even during Super Bowl season, nfl.com only reaches about 0.7%. And what about the #1 sports destination, espn.com? Well it only averaged a 1% global reach over the past year.
In addition, Fifa.com’s Global Traffic Rank has outstripped the rank of all American sports sites – mlb.com, nba.com, nfl.com and nascar.com.
Aside from the traffic dominance of Fifa.com, is its audience fundamentally different than those of other sports? Does the die-hard soccer fan behave differently than the baseball or football enthusiast? We can dig deeper into audience engagement and demographics behind Fifa’s impressive reach to find out, focusing on three key metrics – pageviews/ user, bounce rate and time on site. Again, comparing Fifa.com to American sports, it looks like they are all right in line. While pageviews/ user is slightly higher on Fifa.com, bounce rate and time on site almost exactly the same. From an engagement perspective, it looks like this is a tie. “A sports fan is a sports fan.”
Diving deeper into Fifa.com’s visitors on its Site Overview page, what is truly amazing is that Fifa has a higher in-country rank in the US than Soccer-mad Italy, who won the World Cup in 2006 and Spain who won the last World Cup!
In the US, Fifa.com is more popular than all American sports sites except for baseball (mlb.com). This would indicate that the World Cup, while understandably commanding a global audience, is also riding the significant inroads soccer has been making in the US. While only time will tell if America’s interest in soccer extends beyond the World Cup, it is clear that for at least one exciting summer month, they are just as passionate as any other international fan.
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