While “America’s Pastime” now ranks well behind football in terms of nationwide popularity, Major League Baseball’s opening day is perhaps the most celebrated “kickoff” of any sports league.
Seen as the unofficial start of spring, MLB’s Opening Day has a long and rich history across the United States. Opening Day is so important to baseball fans that Hall of Fame Shortstop Ozzie Smith has been trying to make Opening Day an official national holiday.
Always eager to dive into data, we wanted to investigate the impact of Opening Day even further. Specifically, we wanted to see how Opening Day 2021 impacted consumer behavior, if Opening Day drives fans to buy more gear than the World Series, and how Opening Day this year compares to last year’s COVID-delayed event.
To find out, our data science team analyzed 2020 and 2021 market demand for MLB team merchandise to learn when consumer demand is highest and which teams have the broadest support when it comes to buying gear for their team.
Does Opening Day boost market demand for MLB team gear?
We started by examining demand on Amazon for all MLB teams combined, starting in January of 2020 all the way through February 2022.
The short answer is: yes, the start of a new season does, indeed, increase market demand for MLB team gear. The week of Opening Day 2021 (March 28 through April 3) saw demand rise by 50% compared to the week before.
Here’s a weekly view of consumer demand for MLB team gear:
As you can see, the beginning of a new MLB season brings a clear surge in consumer demand for team gear. But, interestingly, the biggest week of the past two years fell in mid-June, thanks to Amazon Prime Day.
Also evident in this chart is the impact of COVID-19 had on consumer demand last year. Demand quickly plummeted as lockdowns began and the 2020 season was postponed.
Consumer demand then jumped when the 2020 season resumed the week of its new Opening Day, July 24th, 2020, but it’s clear that fans were much more engaged last year in the face of a more “normal” season.
Opening Day 2021 also brought an increase in demand for MLB’s most popular team gear item: baseball hats.
Demand for MLB team hats experienced a similar drop in demand after the 2020 season was postponed, but on the week of Opening Day 2021, demand for MLB team hats was up 45% compared to the week just one month prior.
Once again, demand was up far more during the 2021 season than the pandemic-disrupted 2020 season, and as with team gear it was Amazon Prime Day that was responsible for the largest week of the entire year.
Which MLB teams experienced the most demand on Opening Day 2021?
Next we wanted to see which MLB teams experienced the most demand on Opening Day. To do this, we stuck with examining demand for hats for the 20 most popular teams in our analysis for the week of Opening Day.
It should come as no surprise that the New York Yankees, the biggest team in baseball, experienced by far the highest demand out of any team in our analysis.
Perennially popular teams, the Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, and White Sox rounded out the top five.
So that next got us wondering, which teams got the biggest Opening Day boost this year? Or, in other words, which team's fans were the most excited about the season ahead?
To find that out, we examined average daily demand during the week of Opening Day and compared it to the average week over the past two years.
Most of the top teams in our analysis experienced a sizable boost in demand for team hats during the week of Opening Day.
The Tampa Bay Rays, after their 2020 World Series appearance, saw the biggest opening day boost last year, with a whopping 404% increase compared to the average week over the past two years.
How much does a trip to the World Series increase demand?
Does the World Series affect demand? This one’s pretty straightforward. The answer is yes. A lot.
To illustrate, here’s weekly demand for hats for last year’s World Series runner up, the Houston Astros:
During the week of October 24th, as the Houston Astros entered the World Series, demand shot up by 246% as compared to the overall average.
As you’d expect, the team that ultimately won the world series, the Atlanta Braves, also experienced a tremendous surge in demand:
Unlike the Astros, which saw demand drop immediately the week after the World Series ended, the Braves saw demand surge by 344% vs the overall weekly average after winning the whole thing.
A lesson for brands
Our analysis shows the excitement that comes with Opening Day drives an in demand for MLB team gear as fans look to express their passion and excitement, but success in the playoffs, and even a big shopping event like Amazon Prime Day can drive huge demand for team gear.
Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.
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And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.