Professional Sports

The professional sports industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Every weekend, fans flock in their thousands to stadiums to watch their favorite team play, whether it be a soccer match in the English Premier League or a basketball game in the National Basketball Association. Millions more also tune into the games back home, making the professional sports market a highly lucrative one for broadcasters and advertisers alike. In an increasingly commercialized industry, brands seek to take advantage of the sporting world's biggest names in order to sell their products in stadiums, on television, and on social media.

However, the pro sports industry came to a grinding halt in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Major sporting events were cancelled and leagues were forced to suspend or postpone their seasons. While many of these games were eventually played out, often in empty stadiums, it remains to be seen what long-term impact the crisis will have.

Market size

It's not just sport, it's a billion-dollar industry
Sports media rights market size in North America from 2006 to 2023 (in billion U.S. dollars)*
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Revenue from the global professional sports market reaches into the billions each year. Much of this revenue is generated through sponsorship, merchandising, and media rights, the latter of which is worth billions of U.S. dollars in North America alone.

With more money in the industry, clubs can afford to pay more to hold onto their prized assets - the players. Some of the highest earning sports stars worldwide earn millions for their services and even more through sponsorship deals.

Sports in Europe
Coronavirus impact on the sports industry
Potential revenue growth of selected sports

Market segments

Broadcasters pay the big bucks
Broadcasting rights revenue of selected sports leagues worldwide in 2019 (in billion U.S. dollars)
Further details: Visit original statistic

With potentially millions of eyes on any given sporting event or match, broadcasters know the value of securing both domestic and overseas rights deals with some of the world's biggest sports leagues.

Ticketing revenue is also a huge part of the industry, with the biggest sports teams selling out their stadiums to thousands of fans every week. This segment was hit particularly hard by the global pandemic as teams lost one of their main sources of revenue - tickets and matchday spending.

Sports on U.S. TV
Sports sponsorship
Potential ticket revenue loss in sports leagues due to COVID-19

Industry trends

Technology enhances the sporting experience
Most popular in-stadium experiences using emerging technologies according to sports fans worldwide as of December 2019
Further details: Visit original statistic

Although much of professional sport, including the laws and the whole spectacle, has remained unchanged for decades, recent technological advancements have changed the industry for both the players and the fans. In-stadium experiences such as live player stats and food delivery straight to your seat have changed the way fans watch live sport. Back home, fans can consume professional sport content in a range of ways, from listening to podcasts to watching highlights online or on their phones.

Types of sports content watched by generation
Optimal OTT sports media experiences
Impact of new technology on sports fans' experiences

Industry leaders

Sport's global appeal
Average per game attendance of the biggest European soccer leagues from 1996/97 to 2018/19 (in 1,000s)
Further details: Visit original statistic

The most popular sports leagues are watched by millions across the world. In recent years, the National Football League (NFL) has seen its reach grow massively, with several regular season games now taking place outside of the United States.

In the world of soccer, the Premier League is often touted as the best league in the world. It is the German Bundesliga, however, which boasts the highest average per game attendance of the biggest European soccer leagues.

National Football League (NFL)
Premier League
Money in women's sport

Regional overview

Different sports in different regions
Average per game attendance of the five major sports leagues in North America in 2019
Further details: Visit original statistic

The interest in professional sports leagues varies from region to region. While the Big Four leagues are king in North America, cricket is one of the main passions in other areas of the world, including in parts of Asia and in the UK. The latter is also a hotspot for rugby, which is equally enjoyed in areas of Europe, South America, and Australasia. Soccer nevertheless remains a powerhouse of global professional sport, with its global appeal culminating in the FIFA World Cup every four years.

Indian Premier League
Rugby in the UK

Industry Definition

The professional sports industry encompasses mainstream and niche sports from across the world. While some of the big players in the industry include football, basketball, baseball, and soccer, there is also a huge appeal for sports such as cricket and hockey. The industry can also be broken down into the aforementioned team sports, and individual sports such as tennis and golf.

However, the professional sports industry is about much more than just what happens on the pitch. It also includes the fan experience and the incredible revenue potential within the market. Revenue steams from broadcasting rights, sponsorship deals, and ticket sales have transformed professional sports into a multi-billion dollar industry and into an appealing prospect for brands and advertisers alike. For decades, one of the key indicators of success for any given sports league have been the attendance figures, while TV viewership and online engagement have become more recent measures of success.

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