New Westwood One and Horizon Media Sports Study Examines Reasons Why Artificial Fan Noise Increases Ad Receptivity at Live Sporting Events

Monday, 21. December 2020 17:00

NEW YORK, Dec. 21, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- CUMULUS MEDIA’s Westwood One, America’s largest audio network, and Horizon Media today released their findings of an ongoing study of sports fans’ reactions to the Fall sports schedule and fanless games along with insights from fans on why sports audiences have declined.

“Fans yearn to experience sports in person,” said Karen Van Vleet, Vice President, WHY at Horizon Media. “However, while the heart may be willing the head is saying ‘not so fast.’ As uncertainties over COVID continue, sports fans are leaning more into a variety of types of media and interests to meet their sports needs,” said Van Vleet.

“This new study reveals that AM/FM radio attracts the most engaged and active sports fans,” said Suzanne Grimes, EVP Marketing, CUMULUS MEDIA and President, Westwood One. “More than a third of heavy sports radio listeners said they actually listened to more sports despite the COVID related shifts in sports seasons and game schedules – that is 36% more than heavy TV sports viewers,” said Grimes.

Across all sports, the fans play an important role within the game-day experience. With COVID restrictions keeping many fans out of stadiums, the study examined how broadcast and production treatments, including adding recorded fan noise to an otherwise quiet live event, impacted people’s receptivity to video and audio advertising.

“As one of largest buyers of sports media, it was essential for us to understand how our clients’ investments were being received and advise on how to best optimize these investments in these new environments,” said David Campanelli, EVP Chief Investment Officer at Horizon Media.

The study showed ads performed well in both fanless and recorded fan noise scenarios. However, those tested in a fanless scenario, without supplemental fan or crowd noise, resulted in video ads feeling less informative and audio ads seeming less helpful than those within the supplemental fan noise environment.

“Sports are about community and connection, so not seeing or hearing their fellow and rival fans in the stadiums and arenas alters the experience. Supplemental fan noise helps restore the baseline, creating a richer experience by providing the buzz, cheers and atmosphere craved by fans,” said Van Vleet. “Since the quality of sports experience influences ad receptivity, the presence of fan noise or lack thereof can have a direct impact on a fan’s engagement with ads,” said Van Vleet.

The study also showed that while supplemental fan noise may restore some of the feelings and sounds of normalcy, fans want a more participatory experience even if they can’t attend in person. More than 50% sports fans say they supported at least one of two augmented and virtual fan-engagement opportunities proposed.

Some highlights from the study were that 40% of fans say a big part of the game experience is the fans themselves – the chants, songs, and reactions. Despite scheduling changes, most sports fans continued tuning in to their usual sports, and younger fans were more likely to tap into new ones.

“While some sports saw a decline in their television viewing audience, the total sports viewership aggregated across sports has been similar to past years. However, there was more competition between the leagues and, given the schedule shifts, viewership was spread out making each individual sport’s rating dip,” said David Campanelli, EVP Chief Investment Officer at Horizon Media. 

When asked why sports audiences were somewhat lower this Fall, fans theorized that it was due to COVID, fanless games, sports season changes, politics and social justice in sports, and a lower priority for sports overall.

This study was conducted in two waves. The first wave focused on the likelihood and intention of sports fans tuning into fanless games and engaging in sports-related activities. The second wave examined actions taken by sports fans, since many sports seasons were either in session or concluded at that time. MARU/Matchbox was retained to help execute the study, the first wave of 1,060 persons was fielded between July 27, 2020 and August 10, 2020 and the second wave of 347 persons fielded between November 17, 2020 and November 24, 2020.

About Westwood One
Westwood One, the national-facing arm of CUMULUS MEDIA, offers iconic, nationally syndicated sports, news, and entertainment content to over 250 million monthly listeners across an audio network of nearly 8,000 affiliated broadcast radio stations and media partners. Westwood One is the largest audio network in America, home to premium content that defines the culture, including the NFL, the Masters, the Olympics, the Academy of Country Music Awards, and Westwood One Backstage. The rapidly growing Westwood One Podcast Network delivers popular network and industry personalities and programs. Westwood One connects listeners with their passions through programs and platforms that have everyone listening. For more information, please visit

About Horizon Media
Horizon Media, Inc. is a leader in delivering data-driven business outcomes for some of the most innovative and ambitious brands. The company was founded in 1989, is headquartered in New York, and has offices in Los Angeles and Toronto. With estimated billings of approximately $8 billion ($9 billion pre-Covid) and over 2,400 employees, Horizon is the second largest U.S. media agency per the AdAge Datacenter.

Recognized as one of the world’s ten most innovative marketing and advertising companies by Fast Company, Horizon Media has been named Media Agency of the Year by MediaPost, Adweek and AdAge and is known for its highly personal approach to client service. Renowned for its culture, Horizon is also consistently named to all the prestigious annual Best Places to Work lists published by AdAge, Crain’s New York Business and Los Angeles Business Journal, and was named by Fortune as a best place to work for Diversity, Women and Millennials.

Bill Koenigsberg, President, CEO and Founder of Horizon Media, has earned a host of industry accolades and, in 2019, garnered the industry’s highest honor when he was inducted into the American Advertising Federation (AAF) Hall of Fame.

For further information please contact
Horizon Media
Stephen Hall

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