Why Criminally Engaging Content Is Good For Sports


Marketers, teams, leagues, events, and athletes often state that a sports partnership delivers engaging content that resonates with companies’ core audiences in unique ways. A recent post in The New Yorker, however, may contain some of the most compelling and surprising evidence yet to prove this point. 

The post highlights recent research conducted by social-science researchers at the University of California at Davis that discovered “decreased crime rates with major televised sports events.” In a study focused on Chicago sporting events, the authors found that:

On Monday nights when the Bears were playing, crime in Chicago was down thirteen per cent—property crimes by three per cent, violent crimes by eleven per cent, and drug crimes by nearly thirty per cent—compared to the same Monday-night time slot when the Bears were off. Crime was consistently lower, though to a smaller degree, during N.B.A. finals games, Bulls playoff games, and Cubs and White Sox playoff games, regardless of whether the games were played at home or away. The Super Bowl had the biggest impact. During the three-plus hours of the game, crime fell by an average of twenty-five per cent—property and violent crimes by roughly fifteen per cent and drug crimes by more than sixty per cent—which amounts to about sixty fewer crimes.

The other crucial finding from the research is that there were not offsetting crime increases when games were not being played. With the exception of the Super Bowl, crime patterns were “cancelled” by sporting events. More specifically, crime rates did not change around sporting events meaning that criminals were not just time shifting to before or after games to commit crimes. 

The authors of the post recommend that this evidence shows that more sporting events should be played in the summer when “rates are highest” to help combat crime. There is a more practical application of this research to the sports industry. As we have mentioned in previous posts, B6A has found the companies are no longer looking for the content that reaches the largest audience. Instead, many sports sponsors are specifically looking for highly engaging content that commands an audience’s attention. It is difficult to think of a clearer piece of evidence (sports is so compelling that it stops crime) that would resonate with sports sponsors.  

There are clearly some limitations to this study. The authors only focused on the city of Chicago and the event with the largest impact, the Super Bowl, did not see crime “cancelled.” From a partnership / sponsorship perspective, virtually every company is not looking to target criminals, so a decrease in crime does not necessarily mean an increase in the ability to reach a targeted demographic. 

This story, however, does create a compelling narrative for sports rights holders to communicate why sports represents uniquely engaging content. Combining a compelling narrative (sports is so engaging that it even stops crime) with quantitative evidence (reduced crime rates during sporting events) should create a clear way to communicate to companies why sports provides a unique way to engage their customers.