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The NBA Finals: A Location Intelligence Perspective

by 
Ezra Carmel
 on 
June 22, 2023
The NBA Finals: A Location Intelligence Perspective

The 2023 NBA Finals between the Western Conference champion Denver Nuggets and the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat was a spectacle for fans at the games and those watching at home. Stars like Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets and Jimmy Butler of the Heat put on a show, with the series ultimately culminating in the Nuggets winning the franchise’s first championship. We dove into the data in order to reveal the demographic attributes of attendees of the 2023 NBA Finals and gain insights into arena visitors on game days. 

Sharing the Action 

The NBA Finals are played each year in the home arenas of the Eastern and Western Conference champions, with each team playing at least two games of the best-of-seven series in front of their home crowd. In 2023, the first, second, and fifth games of the Finals were played in Denver while games three and four were played in Miami

While each team got to play in front of their hometown audience multiple times, Trade Area Analysis of the arenas on gameday revealed the significant shift in fans in attendance each night. In general, a venue’s trade area will be consistent from day to day. But in both cities where the 2023 NBA Finals games were played, the arenas’ true trade areas (TTA) for each game had a lower than expected overlap. This suggests that each game drew many new visitors from game to game. 

The overlap between the live audience of the different games of the Finals mean that there is a high likelihood that ads displayed in the arenas will be seen by new visitors each night. Comparatively, TV ads are more likely to repeatedly reach the same audience since fans following the series at home likely tune in to watch multiple games.

Pay to See Them Play

Diving deeper into the demographic characteristics of NBA Finals attendees revealed that fans in attendance tend to be high earners – which may not come as a surprise since NBA Finals tickets are a considerable expense. However, it is noteworthy that 2023 NBA Finals attendees in Denver had a higher median disposable household income (HHI) than fans in attendance in Miami. And during the 2022 Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics, fans in attendance in San Francisco – where the Warriors play – had a higher median disposable HHI than those at the games in Boston.

Denver and San Francisco have higher median HHIs than Miami and Boston, respectively, which accounts for much of the discrepancy between disposable median HHI of fans at the games. But the data also reflects each team’s progression through the contest. During the 2023 Finals, the median disposable HHI at Denver games was higher for game one than game two and highest for game five. The fact that the Nuggets were playing for their franchise’s first championship likely drove up the demand for tickets to the series opener and game five – when the Nuggets were expected to hoist the trophy in front of the hometown crowd. This had the potential to drive up ticket prices and outprice more lower income fans for these games.

Similarly, for game six of the 2022 NBA finals, the series headed back to Boston’s TD Garden with the Warriors up three games to two over the Celtics. This likely decreased the demand for tickets to the game since fewer Celtics fans were interested in seeing the Warriors win the championship as guests in Boston. Therefore, more lower income fans were able to get tickets and the median disposable HHI fell to the lowest of any game of the series. 

One-on-One

Further analysis of demographic characteristics of arena visitors revealed that Finals attendees are likely to come from one person households – i.e. individuals living on their own. This contrasts with the growing number of visitors from large family households that attend the NFL’s championship event – the Super Bowl.

All of the 2022 and 2023 NBA Finals games had a share of attendees from one person households that was larger than the nationwide average share of one person households. This trend could be attributed to the time of day the NBA Finals are played. Unlike the Super Bowl – which typically kicks off at 6:30 pm ET – the 2023 NBA Finals tipped-off at 8 pm ET on weekends and 8:30 pm ET for weekday games. The late start times could dissuade some families – especially those with children – from attending the games. However, this is something that the NBA attempted to remedy by making weekday Finals games in 2023 30 minutes earlier than in previous years. The data suggests that this move had some effect since the 2023 Finals had a smaller share of attendees from one person households than the 2022 Finals. 

Buzzer Beater

Location analytics reveal the characteristics of spectators at high-profile events like the NBA Finals. These insights can prove extremely valuable for advertisers that invest heavily in getting their brands in front of the right in-person audiences

Year after year, the Finals excite basketball fans everywhere, and for all the analysis of the on-court action, there is plenty to break down about the crowds in the stands.

‍For updates and more data-driven foot traffic insights, visit Placer.ai.

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