Published on December 5, 2023 by David Crump  
Wimbledon Tennis Court Fans
tennis fan by boonkia is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .

In the growing world of sports, the heartbeat of sports fans is growing ever louder. The National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL) continue to be the pillars of team sports in the US. These leagues shape identities of fans all over the country. However, amid the love of these national pillars of sport, there is one entity that demands more attention, the individualistic realm of tennis. In this comparative study, the focus will be unpacking fan enthusiasm, exploring the size and unique characteristics of the NHL, NFL, NBA, and professional tennis fanbases. From the rink to the court, the gridiron to the hardwood, this study unravels the nuanced relationships that attach fans to their preferred sports.


 The data used to create charts in this blog post comes from SBRNet. SBRNet collected data by surveying sports fans annually. Specifically, the data was taken from the 2022 Tennis Fan Study, the 2022 NBA Fan Study, the 2022 NHL Fan Study, and the 2022 NFL Fan Study.


Which Sport is the Most Popular In-Person?

*Fans in 000’s*

attendance at sporting events in 2022

This is a chart detailing the number of fans who went to a certain number of games in 2022. NFL had the most fans attending their games, nearly 20,000,000 people. The NBA and NHL tell a similar story to one another, except for one aspect: 2-3 games. There were more people in 2022 who went to 2-3 games than only 1 game. The biggest story here is the attendance of tennis fans. Not nearly as many fans attended tennis matches in the US as NFL, NBA, or NHL games.

Which Sport is Most Popular on Streaming Services?

Fans in 000’s

streaming of sporting events 2022

** For each of the following charts, the data gathered for the NBA from SBRNet was different from the other sports. Instead of having ranges of 1-2, 3-11, and 12+ games, the ranges for the NBA of 1-2, 3-15, and 16+ games. **

This is a chart that shows the number of fans who streamed Tennis, NFL, NBA, and NHL games in 2022. The NFL is still leading the pack with nearly 60,000,000 fans who streamed the NFL last year. For the NFL, they had more fans who streamed 3-11 games and 12 or more games than fans who streamed 1-2 games. This is a great sign for the NFL. For the NBA, there were more fans who streamed 3-15 games than fans who streamed 1-2 games. This is also a good sign for the NBA. The NHL had about the same number of fans who streamed 3-11 games as fans who streamed 1-2 games.

On the flipside, for tennis, there are more fans who streamed 1-2 games than fans who streamed 3-11 games, and even less for fans who streamed 12 or more games. To put this into perspective, the number of people who streamed 12 or more NFL games was 16.6 million, and the number of people who streamed 12 or more tennis matches was 1.2 million. This shows that the US is not nearly interested in streaming the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) as they are in streaming the NFL or the NBA.

Which Sport is Most Popular on TV?

number of games watch on tv in 2022

This chart shows the number of games watched on TV in 2022. The NFL is the most popular sport watched on TV out of these four sports. They have more people who watched 12 or more games than they have people who watched 3-11 games and 1-2 games. This is even more impressive because there are 18 weeks of the NFL regular season. That is two-thirds of the season. A whopping 44% of the total number of fans who watched an NFL game on TV watched 12 or more games.

The NBA and the NHL tell a similar story to each other. More people watched 3-11 (or 3-15 for the NBA) than people who watched 1-2 games. When the number of games gets higher than 11 (or 15 for the NBA), the number drops off. This shows that there are not as many avid fans of the NBA or NHL as there are of the NFL.

For tennis, a similar story of previous charts is shown here. The higher the number of games gets, the less fans there are who watch that many games. This is not a good sign for the ATP Tour. The matches on TV are not as exciting to people as NHL games, NBA games, and NFL games are.

Which Fanbase Loves Their Sports Apparel More?

amount spent on sports apparel in 2022

This chart details the number of people who spend money on sports apparel for Tennis, NFL, NBA, and NHL. There are no surprises in this chart. Most jerseys and other sports apparel are more than $50. The NFL seems to be the clear favorite. There is a possible explanation for why tennis is so low. Unlike the NFL, NBA, and NHL, there are no teams in tennis. It is just the player. It wouldn’t make sense for the ATP to have jerseys for individual players. This is why the number for buying tennis apparel is so low.

Which Fanbase is Most Influenced by Sponsorships?

sponsorship influence of sports fans

This is a chart detailing the people’s responses to how influential sponsorships are to each sport. For each sport, many people think that sponsorships are not influential. However, more than half of each sport’s responses think that sponsorships are at least slightly influential. This is a great sign for each sport because sponsorships are what drive people’s engagement, association, or reputation of a brand. Furthermore, if people love a specific brand, then there is a good chance they will love the event too.

The NFL has more fans in each category. For each sport, it seems to work in proportions. The biggest proportion of people think that sponsorships are not influential, followed by moderately or slightly influential, and lastly followed by very influential. However, for the NBA, the number of people who think that sponsorships are not influential is about the same as the number of people who think that sponsorships are slightly or moderately influential.

Which Fanbase Uses the Most Social Media for their Sport?

social media habits of sports fan in 2022

This graph details the number of fans who use Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to follow their respective sport. In total, the fans who use social media to watch their sport the most are the NFL, followed by the NBA, then the NHL, and lastly followed by tennis fans. The pattern is the same for each of the social media platforms individually. The social media platform that received the most attention from sports fans is Facebook. The social media platform that received the least attention is TikTok. 


 This comparative analysis of fandom across the NFL, NBA, NHL, and tennis shines a light on the intricate and diverse nature of sports allegiance. As one reflects on the different characteristics of a fan, it is evident that fanbases are shaped by a myriad of factors – attendance, streaming habits, watching on TV, spending habits, sponsorship influence, social media habits, and the very essence of what the sport is. The NHL, NFL, and NBA unite fan bases as a communal identity, celebrating victories and weathering defeats together. On the other hand, tennis, with its solitude on court, unites fans in a different way. Fans are brought together by the sheer will and determination shown by the single player on either side of the net on court. In conclusion, the sport that attracts the least number of fans is tennis, and the league that attracts the greatest number of fans is the NFL.


Boonkia. (n.d.). tennis fan. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from 

SBRNet. Home | Sports Market Analytics | SBRnet. (n.d.). 
Sports Market Analytics Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

About the Author

David Crump Headshot

David Crump is a senior Sports Analytics student at Samford University from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with a passion for tennis and data analytics. He is pursuing opportunities for work in player performance analytics upon graduation. 


Twitter: d_crump_1