Music and sports are natural complements to one another the way suits and ties are to Justin Timberlake. The relationship between the two is so tight that it’s no surprise to see how music has become engrained in the tradition of many sports events. After all, who doesn’t know the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”? Would baseball even be the same without the crowd singing along during the 7th inning stretch? Outside of the traditional standards, today’s biggest artists are performing at live sporting events, revising their original songs to be more sports themed and helping launch seasons with their performances. When it comes to pairing music and sports, what factors must be considered by those curating these relationships in order to ensure the best fit? With football season starting next week, we take a closer look at this combo.
Music performances have also become part of big sporting events. The Super Bowl’s halftime show is nearly as famous as the event itself, and its headliners are always greatly anticipated by music and sports fans alike. These performances provide so much exposure that they’re typically followed by significant spikes in sales the week after the event. The Olympic Games’ Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the World Cup (which actually adopts official songs like 2010’s “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” by Shakira featuring Freshlyground, which has sold 1.7 million tracks in the U.S. alone), and the NBA and NHL All-Star games are other events that feature big-time live performances – all of which are met with press coverage and massive television audiences.
With professional football, it’s not uncommon to have artists sing the opening themes to various sports television broadcasts – although sometimes the artists deliver the lyrics with a twist. Hank Williams Jr. remade his song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” to “Are You Ready For Some Football” so that it could be used as the opening to a number of Monday night football programs from 1989-2011. The original song alone has sold 254,000 downloads to date. In a similar fashion, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts re-worked their “I Hate Myself For Loving You” lyrics for Sunday Night Football – the original track has sold over 581,000 downloads to date. And when Faith Hill started singing the remade version “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night” in 2007, the match was so well made that she ended up headlining the program for six years until just recently, when she passed the baton to Carrie Underwood.
But does Beethoven or jazz fusion fit with sports? Not as much as some genres. So why all the country and rock? The energetic genres simply resonate well with the audience. We found that TV sports viewers are 42 percent more likely to purchase alternative country music than the average adult internet user and they’re 23 percent and 16 percent more likely to purchase hard rock/heavy metal and rock. These sports TV viewers are not only passionate about sports, but passionate about music as well.
As for radio programming listenership, the sports fan is a serious enough follower to listen to sports talk shows (they are 153% more likely than the average adult online user). They’re also 22 percent more likely to be tuning in to satellite radio and 18 percent more likely than the average adult user to purchase live concert tickets online. So when artists get involved with sports, they’re actually reaching some of music’s biggest fans—a big opportunity for reach and exposure.
Some sports and music tie-ins are as in your face as a linebacker bearing down on Tom Brady. Artists aren’t shy in sharing their love for their favorite teams. Jim Jones re-mixed “We Fly High” into a “New York Giants Remix,” and the original song has sold over 1.6 million digital downloads to date. One of the biggest hits of 2012 was Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow,” titled after the colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers, his hometown football team (in the video, he also pays tribute by wearing a Steelers sweatshirt). The song has sold over 4.1 million units and has been streamed more than 20 million times. In addition, the Ying Yang Twins amped up their love for football even more for “Halftime (Stand Up & Get Crunk),” dedicated to the New Orleans Saints, by donning matching Reggie Bush jerseys in the music video. That title has sold over 237,000 downloads.
It doesn’t take a sports buff to see how music and sports tie in together. Both are rooted in events that are full of life, competition, celebration, and ultimately entertainment. Next time you are at a sporting event, count the number of times that music is integrated into the game, from the Fratellis’ “Chelsea Dagger” playing during the Blackhawks’ run to the Stanley Cup to each batter having their own theme song when they step up to the plate, to the crowd-hyping “Welcome to the Jungle” or “Enter Sandman” being used to whip the crowd into a frenzy during a critical moment. Sporting events combine large in-stadium audiences and, often, millions of TV viewers with the emotions of competition.