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One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer: the Adult Beverage Choices of Kentucky Derby Fans

2 minute read | May 2017

With bourbon whiskey being a key ingredient of the mint julep, the traditional beverage of the Kentucky Derby, it should come as no surprise that race viewers’ consumption of whiskey rises in May. According to Nielsen Sports and Scarborough research, those who watched last year’s Kentucky Derby were more likely to consume bourbon, scotch or any kind of whiskey than the general public. Throughout the rest of the year, however, beer and wine are the most popular adult beverages for Kentucky Derby fans.

In the year ended Jan. 28, 2017, on-premise whiskey sales grew 4%, and sales in the the total spirits category grew 3%. Within the broader whiskey category, bourbon sales outperformed by posting growth of 5.6% in on-premise channels. The whiskey category’s versatility means it stays relevant for virtually all occasions and certainly for those looking for a treat or to try “something new.”

The television viewing audience for Kentucky Derby is older, more educated and affluent than the general public. According to Nielsen viewership data, 42% of last year’s viewing audience was older than 65.

More than 76% of Kentucky Derby viewers have attended college, and 35% live in homes with a household income of more than $100,000 per year. In addition to big hats, the Kentucky Derby also attracts big-name sports celebrities. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, world champion downhill skier Lindsey Vonn and golfer Brandt Snedeker were among those in attendance in 2016.


The insights in this article were derived from:

  • Scarborough USA+ 2016 Release 2 (Aug. 2015 – Nov. 2016)
  • Nielsen National TV Toolbox, Reach & Frequency Report, 2016 Kentucky Derby live telecast on NBC, Live+SD P2+ viewing, 6-minute reach qualifier
  • Nielsen CGA on-premise measurement, total U.S., 52 weeks ended Jan. 28, 201

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