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 through Opening Day weekend 2021.
The short answer is, yes, Opening Day drives a huge increase in market demand for MLB team gear. The week of Opening Day 2021 (March 28 through April 3) saw a 116% in average daily demand compared to the typical day throughout the year.
Here’s a day-by-day view of consumer demand for MLB team gear:
As you can see, April 1st, 2021 (Opening Day) saw the highest demand for MLB team gear of any single day in our analysis since January 2020, eclipsing both the holiday shopping rush and Opening Day 2020.
Also evident in this chart is the impact of COVID-19 had on consumer demand last year. Demand stayed consistent as lockdowns began, but quickly plummeted upon announcement that the 2020 season would be postponed.
Consumer demand then skyrocketed when the 2020 season resumed on its new Opening Day, July 24th, 2020, but it’s clear that fans are more engaged this year with the prospect of a more “normal” season ahead.
Opening Day 2021 brought an even more outsized 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 demand on Opening Day 2021, demand for MLB team hats was up a whopping 138% compared to the average day in our analysis.
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 each individual team 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.
Defending World Series champs, the LA Dodgers, were a clear second. And perennially popular teams, the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, and Boston Red Sox, rounded out the top five.
In fact, the top five teams on Opening Day 2021 were each the top five teams in terms of total market share of MLB baseball caps throughout our entire analysis:
So that next got us wondering, which teams got the biggest Opening Day boost this year? Or, in other words, which teams fans this year appear to be 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 day overall.
Most of the teams in our analysis experienced a significant boost in demand for team hats during the week of Opening Day.
The Royals and the Angels both saw demand go up by nearly 150% compared to a typical day during the rest of the year. The Mets, Reds, and Phillies rounded out the top five teams, but thirteen teams all experienced an increase in demand of 100% or more.
The San Francisco Giants, who haven’t yet played a home game, experienced the smallest increase in demand. The Cleveland Indians, who have announced they will be changing their team name next season, saw the second smallest increase in demand.
To even better understand which fans might be the most (or least) excited about their teams, we also compared demand for team hats on Opening Day 2021 to Opening Day 2020.
On the back of their surprise run to the World Series last season, the Tampa Bay Rays have experienced an impressive 213% increase in demand on Opening Day this season compared to last season.
Padres and Tigers fans are also far more optimistic this season, with demand up more than 150% compared to Opening Day 2020.
Two teams actually experienced a drop in demand on the week of Opening Day this season when compared to 2020’s Opening Day.
The Washington Nationals, who had to delay their first game of the season due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the team, saw demand drop by 30%. Cleveland fans, anticipating their forthcoming name change, saw demand drop by 26%.
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 Tampa Bay Rays:
As you can see, demand skyrocketed by over 700% as the Tampa Bay Rays made it to the World Series. And, as we showed in the previous section, that excitement has continued to a 213% increase in demand at the start of this season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, an already popular franchise, also experienced a significant bump during the World Series:
Demand for Dodgers hats went up by 178% during the World Series, an impressive feat considering how high demand for Dodgers hats is to begin with.
To put it into perspective, let’s compare the top five selling teams plus the Tampa Bay Rays:
The highest demand for any team hat at any point since January 2020 was for Dodgers hats during the World Series. The Rays 700% surge during the World Series was undoubtedly impressive, but still didn’t manage to surpass demand for the Yankees.
To further underscore just how popular the Yankees are, their Opening Week demand came close to matching the Dodgers demand during last year’s World Series.
A lesson for brands
Our analysis shows the excitement that comes with Opening Day (especially this year after 2020’s COVID-condensed season) is driving significant increases in demand for MLB team gear as fans look to express their passion and excitement.
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.