Now that I’ve returned to the world of sports after 5 years in general consumer research, I would like to note some research “rules of thumb” that differ between surveying for consumer products/services and for sport/team fans. General principles and guidelines that apply to panel studies or surveys about toothpaste work in the “traditional” research world, but if you’re planning to apply them to sports-focused research, you will need to make some adjustments.

Don’t Terminate
When surveying fans, terminating is not recommended. From my experience with consumer product research, respondents weren’t usually upset by not being able to take a survey, but that’s not the case for a fan who receives a survey invitation from a favorite team or school. If you only want to survey a segment of your fans (i.e., those 18-64), I suggest that you still allow all fans to answer the survey, then weed people out on the back-end. Otherwise, you risk upsetting the terminated respondents.

If the best option is to terminate fans because that fan is not relevant to the study (for example, maybe the project is a concessions survey, but the respondent has never purchased food at your venue), use the opportunity to ask some “why not” questions. Being able to voice an opinion will leave the disqualified respondents with a better feeling than being “cut off” of the survey.

Don’t Hesitate to be Open-Ended
Fans are passionate and often want to give open feedback. In the consumer world, respondents may grumble about having to write in open-ended opinions. However, in the sports world, fans love to share their thoughts and may actually be upset if there aren’t areas for them to give feedback on their experience with the event/sport. If your survey is about overall event experience, ask directed questions about certain event elements so that you won’t have to sift through endless paragraphs of feedback.

Appreciate Fans’ Time
Lastly, but not least, show your appreciation for your respondents’ opinions. From everything I’ve said, it may sound like sports fans are the jackpot of survey research respondents (and, to be honest, they are!), but make sure not to take advantage of their willingness to participate. While you may get the desired number of completes without an incentive, a small offering will make fans feel better about using their time to take your survey. A raffle for a goody bag or a merchandise/concessions coupon are some low-cost options that will encourage responses and improve sentiment towards the brand. Just pick an incentive that doesn’t bias the types of people that will complete the survey.