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No Stick, No Ball, No Problem: Sports Fans Embrace the Kentucky Derby

2 minute read | April 2018

The “Run for the Roses” only takes a couple of minutes, yet the Kentucky Derby attracted more than 150,000 fans in person and an average of 16.4 million television viewers throughout the country last year. According to Nielsen Sports Sponsorlink, 14% of U.S. adults consider the Kentucky Derby a “can’t miss” event, putting it on par with the Masters golf tournament and the NHL Stanley Cup Finals.

With an array of professional sports personalities like Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, MLB legend David Ortiz and PGA Tour golfer Rickie Fowler known to attend in person, it should be no surprise that “stick and ball” sports fans as a whole are more likely than the general population to be interested in the Kentucky Derby.

For instance, NHL fans are 45% more likely and MLB fans are 38% more likely to watch the Kentucky Derby.

People who spend some time and money gambling also have more interest in the Kentucky Derby than the general population. Adults who watched the Kentucky Derby last year were more likely to make a trip to a casino, put money in a slot machine, or play table games like blackjack, craps, poker and roulette.

And, of course, with the bourbon-based mint julep as the traditional Derby drink, Kentucky Derby fans are more apt to celebrate their wins and drown their sorrows with an alcoholic beverage compared to the general population. Of 2017 Kentucky Derby viewers, 46% say they drank a beer in the last 30 days, 14% drank bourbon and 6% drank scotch, all above the general population averages of 41%, 11% and 5% respectively.

The 144th annual Kentucky Derby will be held Saturday, May 5, 2018, at Churchill Downs in Lexington, Ky.


The insights in this article were derived from the following sources:

  • Nielsen NNTV Program Report (Live+SD | TV | Linear with VOD NBC May 6, 2017)
  • Nielsen Sports Sponsorlink US (April 2017 – March 2018 ages 18+)
  • Nielsen Scarborough USA 2017 Release 2 (June 2016 – Nov. 2017 ages 18+)

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