This research report was created for the University of Tennessee at Martin. Surveys were conducted of UTM Students and the lessons are directly applicable to UTM but can also serve as a basis for other small schools looking to increase their athletic participation.
The University of Tennessee at Martin is home to 14, school sponsored sports. Most of the teams are competitive in their respective conferences with many advancing to playoffs and competing for national titles. The problem at UTM is that student attendance at home athletic events is very low. Our object was to conduct research to understand both the behavior of students who attend games and to determine what the University could do to increase student attendance at these athletic events.
What we hoped to learn:
We conducted 30 surveys of students at UTM using an approved questionnaire and using convenience sampling. The sample size was decided by Dr. Park. The questionnaire measured levels of behavior, satisfaction, spending habits, and demographics as well as student’s perception about athletics. The survey was confidential, and participants could opt out of any question. By measuring these categories, we hoped to learn what the UTM athletics department could do to increase student support of athletic events and student attendance at athletic events.
The first thing we did was to see how many of the students sampled were student athletes. As these people were on a team, their results would be biased and not helpful in determining how to increase attendance. We then asked some behavior questions. The first thing we found was that almost a quarter of students do not attend athletic events at all during the semester and 65% attend between 1 and 5 times. The second interesting piece of information we discovered was that more than 80% of students enjoy attending athletic events. Therefore, there is an opportunity to grow the number of students who attend athletic events as more people enjoyed going to athletic events than actually attended athletic events.
The next step was to determine what were factors that students cared about and to research which methods of improvement would be most effective at increasing attendance. Three questions we asked that had results that we expected. “Does the competitor affect your decision to attend?” 60% of respondents said it did not while 40% said it did. The next question was, “Does the weather affect your decision to attend athletic events?” 88% of students said it did. Finally, we asked students if they attended athletic events with anyone else. The response was over 93% of students attend an athletic event with someone else. None of these results are surprising and yield no information into how to improve athletic event attendance however they do provide some basic information into the habits of students.
Females more than males?
Next, we cross referenced the number of students who attend athletic events with gender and found that females attend many more events than males. In fact, none of the females who took the survey attended no athletic events in the past semester. This was a surprising result. However, the most interesting statistic was that females enjoyed going to athletic events approximately 15% less than males and more females said they do not enjoy attending athletic events.
Lower Classmen attended more
When the number of events attended was cross referenced with school classification, all freshman attended at least one athletic event while all sophomore attended more than 5. Juniors and seniors both attended some events but no non-traditional student we surveyed attended any athletic events even though all said they enjoy going to them.
Friday was the most popular day of the week
Students were also asked questions about which days of the week they were most likely to attend events on. The most popular day of the week was Friday at 41%. Saturday was next at 32%, and Thursday was third at almost 15%. The rest of the days of the week were under 3%.
Which sports were most popular?
We next wanted to see which sports students have attended and if they have attended them more than once. This would show us which events students enjoyed going to the most and which had the best opportunity to increase events with the least amount of investment. The percent of students who have attended each sport are: Football at 85%, Basketball at 62%, Rodeo at 47%, Baseball and volleyball at 27%, Equestrian at 12%, Tennis at 6%, and Other sports at 18%. The percent of students who have attended an athletic event more than once are: Football at 70%, Basketball at 40%, Rodeo at 31%, Basketball, Volleyball and Equestrian at 12.5%, and Tennis at 3%. Although there is lots of information there, the data shows that the sport with the highest percentage of students who attend more than once is Football, Basketball, and Rodeo. These sports would offer the highest return on investment from the University in terms of student attendance.
Communication, Communication, Communication
The next opportunity for increasing student attendance at athletic events is with communication. 62% of students said they would be more likely to attend athletic events if UTM advertised more. This is an easy way that UTM could increase attendance at athletic events. So the next step, then, was to determine how students received information about athletic events so as to best advertise to them. 82% of students receive information about athletic events from friends. Although there isn’t a great way to increase student’s friends awareness of events (since the majority of student’s friends are also students) the next best way to advertise is with social media and on campus posters. 60% and 41% of students, respectively, receive information through social media and campus posters.
Concessions must be improved!
Concessions were the next thing we asked about to see if there was room for improvement. Of the students surveyed, 68% did not purchase concessions at athletic events. Of the people that did purchase concessions, 30% spent less than $1 and another 30% spent between $1 and $4. Food and beverage was purchased the most with 92% of students purchasing food and 58% bought beverages. As far as opportunities for improvement, we asked if students would be more likely to attend athletic events if concessions were discounted for students or if there were local catering options available. More than 70% of students said they either definitely would or probably would be more likely to attend events if UTM offered discounts to students. When asked about local catering options at athletic events, 20% said they definitely would attend more often and 50% said they probably would.
Alcohol, Yes Please!
Alcohol was the next big questions asked. We wanted to know exactly what students thought about Alcohol and if students would be more likely to attend athletic events if Alcohol was allowed. 60% of students surveyed said they would be more likely to attend athletic events if Alcohol consumption was allowed at Athletic events. 18% said they probably would be more likely to attend while 18% said they definitely would not be more likely to attend.
Four major opportunities:
The research conducted provides four major opportunities for improvement in student attendance of athletic events. The first is to increase the advertising of the time and place of athletic events. The second is to put most of the effort into Football, Basketball, and Rodeo events as those have the highest percentage of students coming back. Most students support Alcohol consumption at athletic events, so we feel that is a great opportunity to increase attendance. Finally, exploring more catering options would more than likely increase attendance.