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May Day: Will May 2 be the Next Big Day in Sports History?

4 minute read | April 2015

June 17, 1994, is a day that will live on in sports history. On that day, golf legend Arnold Palmer was playing in his last U.S. Open, soccer’s World Cup was kicking off on U.S. soil, the New York Knicks were tipping off against the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals and the New York Rangers were showing off the Stanley Cup trophy during a hometown parade. And then there was Football Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson, who was speeding off in the infamous and highly-televised car chase. According to Nielsen, primetime TV usage averaged over 80 million people and hit a crescendo between 10-11 p.m., when an average of more than 92 million Americans had their televisions in use—nearly 60% of U.S. homes!  

And another, potentially just-as-eventful, sports day is on the horizon: May 2, 2015.

On this spring Saturday, the NFL draft will get underway early, the NBA and NHL playoffs will be in full swing, horse racing lovers will enjoy the 141st annual Kentucky Derby, the New York Yankees will face off against rivals the Boston Red Sox and, of course, the biggest boxing match since the heyday of Iron Mike Tyson will play out as Floyd Mayweather finally takes on Manny Pacquiao.

Sofa Jockeys

According to a Nielsen study conducted online by Harris Poll, over half (52%) of U.S. adults say they plan to watch, listen to or attend at least one of the events taking place the first weekend in May. And while there is a full lineup (pun intended) of sports for consumers to connect with, it seems baseball still rates as the national pastime among Americans. During the weekend, 29% of adults note that they will watch, listen to, or attend an MLB game. Following baseball, over a fifth of adults (21%) say they will watch, listen to or attend the Kentucky Derby. 

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Food and drinks are always a big part of sports festivities—and 70% of consumers are looking forward to noshing on delicious snacks and beverages while catching their favorite event. But what will they eat? Many are sticking to tried and true party food this year, with over a quarter (27%) saying they will enjoy traditional fare such as soft drinks (32%), pizza (32%), wings (25%), fruit/vegetables (23%), hot dogs (21%) and burgers (23%). Salty snacks are also popular with 29% of us planning on eating chips or pretzels.

Forty-three percent of Americans 21 years and older say they plan on drinking alcohol, with beer topping the list (32%), followed by spirits (aka hard liquor; 19%) and wine (12%). While only 36% of female consumers plan on drinking alcohol, consumption rises considerably to almost half of male consumers (48%) and even further to almost two thirds (66%) of younger males (aged 21-34).

To celebrate, we’re not all staying home this year—one in five consumers will be hitting a bar or restaurant, lured by a promotion or special pricing around one or more of the programming events. Americans also like to show team spirit—30% of us plan on dressing up for the occasion. Six in 10 males (59%) aged 21-34 plan on wearing team gear such as jerseys or baseball hats with logos. In addition, 14% of that segment hopes to help their team’s odds of winning by wearing a lucky piece of clothing.

Social Score

Sports are often a favorite topic of conversation, so it should come as no surprise that the big May 2 weekend involves what has ostensibly become the new water cooler: social media. In fact, it seems some consumers have a drive to stay involved and up-to-date on the sports action regardless of whether they’re fans of the respective sporting events. While 77% of U.S. adults say they will tune into one of the sporting events taking place over the May 2 weekend because they are fans of that particular sport, 20% of respondents say they would do so simply to stay aware of the current events.

And consumers’ need to stay current might help inform social chatter.

More than two in five Americans (42%) say they plan to use social media during the event(s), primarily to see what others are posting (24%) but also to post photos, images, or videos (17%). And 17% say they plan on using social media during the events to either post status updates or Tweets (17%) themselves.


TV usage data citing June 17, 1994, is from Nielsen Galaxy Explorer, HUT/PUT, Total Day. Harris Poll, an online, English-language-only survey of over 2,000 U.S. adults, was conducted April 9-13, 2015.

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