NFL
April 10, 2021

Game-Day Drinking: Which Sports Fan Consume the Most Alcohol?

There’s nothing quite like sports fans — they are passionate, loyal and always excited to cheer on their teams.

The sports community can be placed on a large spectrum ranging from die-hard supporters to casual fans. They feel moments of elation and moments of despair. Whatever the case may be, many fans have a drink or joint in their hand to accompany them as they watch sports. 

A lot can be asked about sports fans and their intoxication habits. Which fans drink the most? When are they imbibing most heavily? What about marijuana consumption?

All these questions and more help to paint a picture of the connection between sports viewers and substance use.

Game Day Drinking Tendencies

Whether at home or attending a live event, drinking is a staple for many sports fans. While watching sporting events, an average of 3.7 alcoholic drinks are consumed — MMA/UFC enthusiasts led the pack with the highest consumption level, compared to other sports.

Almost always, though, people tended to drink more when at an event versus sitting in front of their TV. This may be attributed to the general intensity of the atmosphere that an in-person experience offers.

Additionally, esports viewers also reported the highest level of binge drinking while watching events (53%), a number 3 to 4 percentage points greater than found among supporters of some of America’s other most popular sports. One reason for this might be due to the fact that the rapidly growing esports industry, with little advertising regulation, is consequently allowing alcohol companies to influence many minors and young adults.

On average, NCAA fans consumed the least number of drinks while at home or at an event; they also reported the lowest level of binge drinking. This is likely due to the demographic of NCAA fans as many are college students who are under the legal drinking age.

Team-by-Team NFL Fan Intoxication 

Clearly, many fans like to drink and smoke on game day. Atlanta Falcons fans appeared to enjoy it the most – 86% admitted to binge drinking, and 77% reported smoking marijuana while watching games. While drinking is legal everywhere in the United States, marijuana laws vary by state. 

Take a look at which NFL team fan bases get intoxicated the most on game day.

Out of the top six highest marijuana-smoking fan bases, only one of the states, Arizona, has fully legalized weed consumption. On the other hand, Georgia (Falcons), Maryland (Ravens), Florida (Jaguars), New York (Bills) and Indiana (Colts) have just scratched the surface of full legalization. 

Either way, five out of the top six teams in both categories were the same: the Falcons, Jaguars, Cardinals, Bills, and Colts all have fan bases who indulged in intoxication more than the supporters of other teams.

New England Patriots fans reported binge drinking and smoking the least. Interestingly enough, the various states that makeup New England, aside from New Hampshire, have fairly relaxed marijuana laws. The same can be said for many other states with lower smoking rates during game day. Seeing as weed legalization is relatively new, and smoking is less mainstream than drinking, this might attribute to its lower usage in some states over others.

Alcohol Habits: Winning vs. Losing

Overall, people tended to feel worse when their team was losing, compared to how good they felt when their team was winning.

Thirty-four percent of fans reported drinking more when their team was behind, versus the 31% who drank more when their team was ahead. The investment that fans make into supporting their team can be so passionate that they can even experience signs of depression when their team loses a game.

Regarding football, Falcons, Jaguars, and Bills fans once again found themselves among the top 5 biggest drinkers, regardless of whether their team was winning or losing. Cardinals fans celebrated heavily when winning, and Ravens fans turned to the booze the most when losing.

Across all professional sports leagues, esports, NBA, and NFL fans reported the highest level of drinking when their team’s behind (33%). These same fans also drank the most when their teams were winning, with NFL fans coming in at 34%, followed by esports and NBA fans (32% each). NCAA fans drank the least, regardless of winning or losing. This might be due to the fact that, once again, many of them are underage and aren’t drinking in the first place.

Game Day Drinks

Unsurprisingly, beer was by far the most popular alcoholic beverage consumed by sports fans on game day — a whopping 76% of fans preferred it over the next most popular choices, vodka and whiskey.

So, what are the most preferred brands? 

Major beer companies have spent many years forming partnerships with sports leagues and teams, solidifying themselves as the ultimate game day drink in consumers’ minds. Additionally, last year alone, beer manufacturer Anheuser-Busch invested $428 million in advertising expenditures, and the industry as a whole spent over $1 billion.

On game day, 18% of respondents cited Blue Moon and Bud Light as their top picks for beer. 

Regarding the amount of money people spend on alcohol per game, esports fans empty their pockets the most; they spend, on average, $71.80, which is over $5 more than the next leading spenders, NBA fans. NCAA fans are the most conservative spenders. Textbooks are expensive, you know.

A Closer Look at Marijuana Consumption

With the usage of marijuana consumption on the rise, an average of 35% of sports fans reported smoking it while watching a sporting event.

In this section, we take a look at game day marijuana habits.

Just over 41% of MMA/UFC spectators admitted to consuming marijuana while watching, more than supporters of any other professional league. UFC president Dana White claimed that more UFC fighters smoke weed than those who do not and wants to ‘loosen up’ the rules in the fighters’ favor. Perhaps the prevalence of marijuana use among the fighters themselves may be linked to the smoking culture of fans as well. Once again, NCAA fans exhibited bottom-tier intoxication habits.

On average, smokers consumed two grams of marijuana per game watched. Regarding methods of consumption, smoking joints and bowls were the most common. Rolling papers and pipes are convenient and relatively cheap smoking accessories, which may explain why they rank high among preferred methods of consumption.

Also, watching sports is a social event — maybe it’s simpler to share marijuana with your friends by passing around a joint or pipe.

Conclusion

With great sports fans come intense drinking and smoking tendencies. Throughout all sports leagues, it’s clear that many people intoxicate themselves while watching. Beer, unsurprisingly, is the most popular choice among fans – manufacturers have poured in hundreds of millions of dollars to make that happen.

With the rapid emergence of the esports community, alcohol companies are capitalizing on the nonexistent advertising regulations to attract young, impressionable consumers. However, not all young adults are drinking excessively – NCAA fans, many of which are students, reported lower levels of intoxication across the board.

Marijuana consumption, too, is becoming a go-to for fans on game day. People still seem to prefer alcohol, but as laws become more relaxed and the idea of smoking weed becomes less taboo, the tide might turn in the future. Either way, there is no denying the passion and investment of sports fans on game day. Don’t miss a minute of the action: Get all your favorite league’s betting tips, scores, news, and updates all in one place at lines.com today.

Methodology and Limitations

We collected responses from 1,683 sports fans using Amazon Mechanical Turk. To qualify for the survey, respondents had to indicate that they were a fan of a sports league (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MMA/UFC, NCAA, or esports) and had a favorite NFL Team. Of the 1,683 fans surveyed, 37.1% were female, 62.6% were male, and less than 1% identified as nonbinary. Additionally, respondents ranged in age from 25 to 75 with an average of 37 and a standard deviation of 11 years.

The main limitation of this study is the reliance on self-report, which is faced with several issues such as, but not limited to, attribution, exaggeration, recency bias, and telescoping. Data are solely representative of self-reported claims by fans, and no association with teams, venues, or cities should be inferred. This survey ran during September 2020.

Fair Use Statement 

Think your readers would find the connections between sports and substance use interesting? Feel free to share our findings. We only ask that you do so for non-commercial use and that you provide a link back to the original page so the study’s contributors earn credit for their work.

Photo: Getty Images