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Who Attends NCAA Final Four Events?

by 
Ezra Carmel
 on 
April 16, 2024
Who Attends NCAA Final Four Events?

Final Four weekend capped off the NCAA “March Madness” basketball tournaments with a full schedule of fan experiences on both the men’s and women’s sides of the ball. 

The Women’s Final Four took place between April 4th and 7th, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio with on-court action at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. “Tourney Town” – an interactive basketball exhibition – ran concurrently at the Huntington Convention Center.  

The Men’s Final Four commenced on April 5th at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, culminating with the championship game on April 8th. The multi-day exhibition “Final Four Fan Fest” took place at the Phoenix Convention Center. 

We dove into the location analytics and audience segmentation for visitors to several Final Four events to better understand the fans in attendance throughout the tournament weekend.

Key Takeaways

  • Every event on Final Four weekend attracted a different mix of out-of-town guests and locals.
  • The men’s championship had the largest share of high-income visitors, while free or nearly free events drove visits from lower-income fans. 
  • Singles constituted a greater share of visitors at women’s Final Four events than at men’s, reflecting the growing young fanbase of the women’s sport. 

Locals and Tourists Have Event Preferences

The men and women’s Final Four weekend attracted spectators from near and far, with each event attracting a unique mix of out of town tourists and locals. 

Both men and women’s championship games attracted a relatively large share of out-of-town guests, likely due to the excitement surrounding a national title game. Analysis of visitors by home location revealed that the men and women’s championship games had the smallest share of visitors from less than 100 miles away – 29.8% and 33.3% respectively. In other words, these two events had the largest share of visitors that lived more than 100 miles from the venues. 

The men’s open practice appeared to be more popular with long-distance travelers than the women’s, perhaps because all four men’s teams participated – as opposed to just two at the women’s open practice. The men’s practice was also followed by an all-star game which likely increased its appeal for visitors traveling from afar in the hopes of spotting their favorite players. The data revealed that more than half of the spectators traveled over 250 miles to watch the men’s practice, as opposed to under a quarter of spectators for the women’s practice. 

Meanwhile, the women’s experiential exhibition at Huntington Convention Center drew more out-of-towners than the men’s exhibition at Phoenix Convention Center – only 23.3% of visitors to the women’s exhibition came from under 30 miles away, compared to almost half (48.3%) of the men’s exhibition visitors. The larger share of out-of-town visitors to the women’s exhibition may be because the event was close to the arena, making it a more convenient stop for non-local fans. On the other hand, the distance between the men’s exhibition in downtown Phoenix and the stadium in Glendale meant that the off-court experience was more out-of-the-way for tourists who had traveled specifically for the on-court action. 

Wealthy Fans Dominate the Men’s Game

Analysis of Final Four visitors by income level provides further insight into the differences between each event’s fan base. According to the STI: Popstats dataset, the women’s events generally drew visitors from areas with a lower median household income (HHI) compared to the men’s events, although the gaps between the men and women’s visitor bases varied from event to event. Some of the difference in trade area HHI may be due to regional variance and the mix of locals and tourists at each event.

The visitor bases of the men and women’s championship games exhibited the widest disparity, with the men’s championship spectator base coming from areas with a median HHI of $99.9K, compared to $74.6K for the women’s championship’s trade area. The difference may be due to the relatively higher face value of tickets to the men’s championship game – even though the star-power of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark drove up the price of women’s tickets on the secondary market. In contrast, both the men’s and women’s practices and exhibitions were free or nearly free events and drove traffic from relatively lower-income areas – even though visitors to the men’s practice still came from more affluent areas than the trade area of the women’s championship match.

Visitors to the men and women’s convention center exhibition displayed the smallest income differences, with respective trade area median HHI of $80.0K and $76.6K. The data also reveals that visitors to the women’s exhibition came from a trade area with a median HHI that was higher than the median HHI for both the championship game and the open practice, perhaps because the exhibition drew a relatively large share of tourists who could afford to be in town for a slightly longer stay.

Single Fans En Masse at Women’s Events

Further demographic analysis indicates that a greater share of singles – who tend to be on the younger side – attended the women’s Final Four events than the men’s. During the women’s championship, 41.0% of households in the trade area of the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse were made up of one-person households. This segment also made up 34.2% and 36.3% of the households in the trade areas of the venues for the women’s practice and exhibition, respectively. On the men’s side, singles comprised just 29.3% of the championship’s trade area, 28.4% of the practice’s, and 27.0% of the exhibition’s.

This reflects the growing popularity of women’s college basketball players on social media which is bringing more viewership to the sport. 

Want more data-driven visitor insights for sporting events? Visit Placer.ai.

This blog includes data from Placer.ai Data Version 2.0, which implements improvements to our extrapolation capabilities, adds short visit monitoring, and enhances visit detection.

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