Population Migration and Team Loyalty in Professional Sports


  • *Direct correspondence to Scott Tainsky, Assistant Professor, Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, University of Illinois, 104 Huff Hall, 1206 S. 4th St., Champaign, IL 61820 〈tainsky@illinois.edu〉. The authors will assist those who wish to replicate the study. The authors thank the editor and anonymous reviewers for their suggestions.


Objectives. Within the long line of inquiry on demand for sport, one area that has gone relatively unexamined is that of domestic migration. In this research, the relationship between population migration and team loyalty is explored.

Methods. A linear mixed model uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Nielsen Company to analyze the effect domestic migration has on demand for National Football League games.

Results. Ratings were higher in population centers with smaller per-capita population inflow (regardless of the origins of the inflow). The results further showed that increases in population flow from City A to City B were associated with increased demand for broadcasts in City B when Team B visited City A.

Conclusions. The first finding suggests that sports viewership is not utilized as a vehicle for domestic transplants to integrate into their new community. The second finding suggests there is a nostalgia effect for an individual's previous hometown, though not necessarily for the team representing it in the league.