in Data & Insights

College Football Playoff Fan Faceoff: A Look at SB Nation Readers

For the first time in its history, the NCAA football champion will be determined on the field by a four-team playoff, when Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State square off next month. Many advertisers are hoping the new college playoffs can be the next major tentpole in the sports marketing calendar, alongside the Super Bowl and March Madness. Given this potential, smart marketers will leverage data to dig into the larger college football audience.

Despite its wide national appeal, college football is also a regional sport with niche audiences. The fan bases of the final four playoff teams exemplify how unique these different groups actually are. We partnered with Vox Media’s SB Nation to take a look at visitors to sports blogs of each of the four playoff contenders as proxies for those fan bases: Roll Bama Roll for Alabama, Addicted to Quack for Oregon, Tomahawk Nation for Florida State, and Land-Grant Holy Land for Ohio State. Despite the fact that each focuses on a nationally recognized team, each blog boasts its own unique demographic audience.

Click on any of the images to download a deep dive on any of the playoff teams:

College Football Is a Year-Round Sport

The first thing we took a look at was the yearly traffic pattern for each of these blogs, and it turns out that fan bases have very different interest levels throughout the year. It’s no surprise that traffic for Roll Bama Roll and Tomahawk Nation reached peak levels later in the season. Both fan bases have seen prolonged recent success, so it appears these readers simply expected a lengthy postseason run.

Meanwhile, the Addicted to Quack and Land-Grant Holy Land blogs saw more consistent traffic throughout the year. Both teams were widely anticipated to be championship contenders after several years of coming up short, so their audiences were likely reading up in anticipation throughout the offseason.

Hometown Ties

College sports will always tie into strong regional loyalties, and college football might be the most intense example of that. However, for all of these blogs, the majority of visitors were from outside of the school’s home state. In fact, only 27% of Roll Bama Roll visitors were from Alabama.

Instead, many readers are dispersed among the nearest major job centers, which oftentimes are not in the same state as their school. In the case of Roll Bama Roll, 11% of the visitors were from Georgia, and Atlanta was the second-largest DMA among its readers (behind Birmingham). Atlanta was also a top five DMA for Tomahawk Nation, whereas two of the top five DMAs for Oregon were the major job centers on the West Coast: Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

Deep Wallets

All four blogs have different profiles when it comes to average household income; however, each over-indexes on the high-income demographic groups that marketers covet. Ohio State and Alabama readers in particular are more likely than the average US Internet user to make more than $150k.

All Football, All the Time

When we dove into the browsing habits of visitors to these blogs, we were not surprised to find that their readers are hardcore football fans. For most of the blogs, eight of the top 10 sites that their readers were likely to visit were other college football sites.

However, Oregon fans who visited Addicted to Quack did show a broader range of interests, with five of the top six sites they were most likely to visit being local news sites. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Oregon has only recently become a dominant football team, and the Pacific Northwest lacks the regional football reputation that South and Midwest enjoy.

Fans for Life

Not surprisingly, all four blogs over-index on the age 25-34 demographic, as recent grads are the most likely to read up on their alma mater’s football team. However, Alabama and Ohio State readers also strongly index against older demographics, with both over-indexing for every age group through age 65. In fact, Ohio State readers are 26% more likely than the average US Internet user to be older than age 65.

Growing the Fan Base

The other way to become a fan for life is to be born into a household of fans; Alabama and Florida State appear to have a leg up in this regard. The readers of Roll Bama Roll and Tomahawk Nation are both more likely than the average US Internet user to have kids in the household.

Takeaways for Marketers and Publishers

To take advantage of what is quickly becoming one of the premier events on the sports calendar, marketers should not treat every college football fan equally. There are broad similarities, but each fan base represents a unique audience with widely varying demographics. Smart marketers can use data to dig a level deeper and find their true target audience, while publishers can break down the wide “college football fan” segment to easily display a more niche, valuable audience to advertisers.

To learn more about using Quantcast Measure to get granular audience insights, reach out to us at

Posted by Nick Binder, Product Marketing Manager, Publisher Solutions