NFL Viewers Aren’t Bettors: They Spend On This Instead

Written By Chris Gerlacher on August 29, 2023
playmaryland nfl spending habits survey

While sports betting’s expansion has captured media attention, many NFL viewers don’t participate in sports betting. A PlayOhio survey found that 40% of NFL viewers didn’t do sports betting and weren’t planning on participating in it.

To find out what NFL fans really spend their money on during game day, PlayMaryland conducted a survey of 1,000 NFL fans who admitted to spending money on the NFL. Across the 1,000 respondents:

  • 78% spent money on NFL merchandise
  • 49% spent money on NFL streaming services
  • 38% spent money on NFL tickets

Forty-eight percent of the respondents’ annual purchases fell in the $50-$200 range. This would cover game tickets and some merchandise purchases. Twenty-four percent had annual NFL expenses in the $200-$500 range, which could encompass several Ravens tickets and several pro shop purchases. About 14% of respondents spent more than $500 and the remaining 14% spent less than $50.

Frequent Buys And Expensive NFL Game Day Purchases

Game day is expensive, and most of the money goes to the same few purchases. The NFL-related goods that respondents bought most often were:

  • Apparel – 84%
  • Merchandise – 52%
  • Tickets – 37%

NFL apparel and other bits of merchandise were more common purchases than game tickets. Interestingly, streaming services were not listed as frequent purchases even though roughly half of the survey respondents admitted to paying for a streaming service. Streaming services were listed under “other” for frequent purchases, and made up seven of the 12 open-ended answers in the “other” category. This is likely due to the single registration step and the silent charges each month.

Given the frequency of apparel and merchandise purchases, whose prices can run in the low $100s, it’s no wonder that 79% of respondents agreed that attending games was “a special event.” Of the remaining portion, 13% attended NFL games “regularly” without season tickets. Only 9% reported attending games “regularly” because of their season tickets.

NFL Game Day Budgeting

Just over half of respondents claimed to set budgets for game day, but they were split. Twenty-nine percent “set a budget for game day and stick to it.” The final 26% “set a budget for game day but [found it] difficult to keep to it.”

Getting into the venue and securing NFL swag is already expensive. The intuitive way that many NFL fans approach game day budgeting drives the price even higher. Thirty-one percent of respondents “do not set a budget for game day and try to keep spending to a minimum.” Another 14% “do[es] not set a budget for game day and…expect to spend a lot.

With a range of approaches to budgeting, it’s easy to see how annual NFL expenditures can surpass $500 per year.

That’s without factoring in concessions, which were the most common game day purchase reported by respondents. When asked what they spent money on during the game, respondents reported:

  • Concessions – 85%
  • Merchandise – 61%
  • Raffles – 10%
  • Other – 4%

Concessions include food and drink that can be priced in the mid-teens and twenties, well above the price of meal courses in restaurants outside of NFL stadiums. A drink and a burger for one person can increase spending over the course of a year, but doing it with kids and families can add hundreds of dollars in spending to an already expensive event.

Cost Impacts The Number Of Games NFL Fans Attend

NFL tickets may not be the largest expense that fans incur when they attend a game. However, many of the other game day purchases are unnecessary without getting into the NFL stadium. Apparel and merch can be bought without attending games, but game attendance presents so many chances to spend, especially when the newest jerseys are available a relatively short walk away from fans’ seats.

Consequently, 81% of respondents “attended fewer NFL games as the price of tickets increase[d].“

Separately, 67% considered cost a “major factor” when deciding to attend a game. Another 24% admitted that cost was a factor but “[found] a way to attend as many games as possible.” Only 10% of NFL fans did not consider cost a factor.

Among the fans for whom cost was a factor, 81% chose to spend less on other purchases to make room in their budgets for NFL games. NFL fandom is so intense that the cost of NFL games drove respondents to spend less on:

  • Miscellaneous items – 27%
  • Other entertainment – 26%
  • Eating out – 22%
  • Grocery shopping – 5%

The remaining 19% reported not spending less, despite cost being a factor in their decision to attend NFL games.

Game day costs add up over time and can become large parts of a household’s annual entertainment budget. However, the passion that fans have for their teams and the sport keeps them coming back for more. Game day is an irreplaceable experience that keeps fans coming back regardless of cost.


PlayMD conducted a survey through Pollfish of 1,000 people who spent money on the NFL. Respondents had to answer affirmatively to spending money on the NFL to gain access to the remaining questions.

Respondents who answered they watched NFL broadcasts to question six, “Are there any other ways you support the NFL?” were given access to questions seven through 10 and question 12. Only 370 of the original 1,000 answered questions seven through 10 and question 12.

Respondents who answered affirmatively to question 10, “Does cost impact your decision to go to a game?”, were given access to question 11. Of the original 370, only 344 answered question 11, “If cost is a factor, do you spend less elsewhere to make attending a game a possibility?”

Survey respondents were 57.1% female and 42.9% male. The age demographics were:

  • 18-24 14%
  • 25-34 23.1%
  • 35-44 24.9%
  • 45-54 20.4%
  • 54 17.6%

PlayMD’s survey has an estimated margin of error of 3% with a 95% confidence level.


Illustrations and graphics by PlayMaryland

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