NRG study: Sports fans’ impressions of Caitlin Clark on par with Jokic, LeBron, Tatum

NRG study: Sports fans’ impressions of Caitlin Clark on par with Jokic, LeBron, Tatum

The TV power of Caitlin Clark is already well-documented. Multiple viewership records during the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament translated to her WNBA rookie campaign in spades. The league has seen 11 games this season top 1 million viewers, and Clark’s Indiana Fever squad has played in 10 of them (it had been 16 seasons since the WNBA had topped 1 million viewers for a game coming into 2024).

But what about sports fans’ attitudes toward Clark? A new study from National Research Group (NRG), analyzed by SBJ’s Austin Karp, looks to dig deeper into the “Caitlin Clark” effect among sports fans. The NRG study was conducted from June 7-10 among 1,074 self-identified U.S. sports fans (4 or greater on a scale of 0-10) among the age range of 18-64.

Here are some key data points among sports that stood out:

64% have heard of Clark (compared to 46% for the Chicago Sky’s Angel Reese, who ranked No. 2 among WNBA players). But just 26% of fans said they knew “a lot” about Clark.

34% could identify the WNBA team Clark plays for.

66% have an overall positive impression of Clark (just 4% negative). That is better than NBA players such as Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Jayson Tatum and Kevin Durant (she’s tied with Nikola Jokic, and just below Steph Curry and Luka Doncic).

72% who follow Clark say that they sympathize with her because of the press attention she’s received (60% say the media treats her unfairly). Another 41% have seen coverage of Clark’s rivalry with Reese, or stories about jealousy toward her from other WNBA players.

31% say they watch the WNBA on at least an occasional basis, with 7% saying “often.”

13% say they’ve watched more WNBA this year than they normally do, with 81% of those fans saying Clark is the one of the main reasons.

87% expect Clark’s presence in the WNBA will inspire more girls to take an interest in basketball.

59% of Black fans watch the WNBA on at least an occasional basis, compared to just 26% of white fans. Some 38% of Black fans agree that Clark is unfairly drawing media attention away from Black players. Among white fans, 70% have a positive opinion of Clark, while 52% of Black fans have either a neutral or negative attitude toward her. Twenty percent of those planning to watch the Paris Olympics said that Clark’s absence would make them less interested in watching women’s basketball.

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