Southern College Football Fans: Tailgate Spending Habits

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Southern College Football Fans: Tailgate Spending Habits

The top three purchase destinations for tailgating necessities are Walmart, which is preferred by 39% of the fans, Target by 22%, and Amazon 20%. Tailgaters are predominantly men 79%, while 8% are females. Generally, tailgaters have a college degree 59%, and their most favorite social media channel for posting and interacting is Facebook.

I. Tailgate Spending Habits

  • Findings from the most recent survey on the top tailgating trends indicate that Walmart is the leading store for tailgating necessities according to 39% of the respondents, followed by Target 22%, Amazon 20%, Dick's Sporting Goods 9%, Academy Sports + Outdoors 6%, and Bass Pro Shops at 4%.
  • In another survey, it was noted that the most important accessory for tailgating is a full barbecue. However, other essential items tailgaters purchase include tailgate grills, smokers, fryers, smaller tailgating tables, utensils, balloons and banners, folding chairs, tailgate games, entertainment, etc.
  • Equally, tailgaters prefer to purchase these games — corn-hole, proffered by 49% of the respondents, beer-pong 16%, frisbee/catch 11%, flip cup 10%, ladder toss 7%, and washers 7%.
  • Likewise, the most purchased food items to prepare for tailgating include chicken wings preferred by 25% of the survey respondents, hamburgers 22%, pizza 15%, hot dogs 14%, nachos 13%, and tacos at 11%. Tailgaters also consume different types of beverages, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • National data released by the U.S. Census shows that U.S. consumers aged 15 and older spent approximately 10 hours shopping for a month in 2018. In this regard, the average time spent shopping for a day is 20 minutes; therefore, it is likely that tailgaters also spend approximately 20 minutes in the store.
  • Research also shows that tailgaters should arrive at the venue four to five hours earlier, to enjoy the big crowds, and avoid getting rushed through the tailgating process. Therefore, preparing for a tailgate should consume a minimum of four to five hours.
  • Findings from a 2019 tailgating survey shows that 75.9% of the fans spend less than $500 for the entire football season, while 13.8% spend $500 — $1,500. Another 5.6% of the fans spend $1,500 — $2,500, whereas 2.8% spend $2,500 — $5,000. The highest spenders, 1.1% use about $5,000 — $10,000, while only 0.8% of the fans plan to spend over $10,000.

Research Methodology

While most of the data regarding tailgate fans and their spending habits is online, specific data regarding how much time they spend in the stores shopping for tailgating items is not publicly available. Thus, we used national data that generalizes U.S. consumers' time spent on shopping as a proxy for the time tailgaters spend in the store picking tailgating items.

II. Tailgating Fans: Demographic Analysis

Generally, tailgaters are predominantly men aged 35-44 years. This cohort attends an average of 6 – 10 tailgate parties every season. These individuals also travel for less than one hour to get to the tailgating venue.

Income Level

  • Based on publicly available data, the reported annual incomes of tailgaters range from $6,500 to $800,000.
  • The mean income of tailgaters is $97,734.24, while the mode is $80,000.

Marital status

  • Since 79% of tailgaters are men and 18% are female, to determine the marital status of tailgaters, the national marital status data is used since there is no recent data providing insights into the marital statuses of tailgaters. According to Statistical Atlas, 44% of females in the U.S. and 47% of males are married.
  • Therefore, to determine the marital statuses of Southern College Football Fans, the national percentage of married men and women is calculated using the percentages of men and women who tailgate.
  • Thus, 47% (married men in the U.S.) of 79% of men who tailgate equals to 37.13%. Equally, 44% (married females in the U.S.) of 18% of women who tailgate is equivalent to 7.92%.
  • In this regard, it is assumed that about 37.13% of men and 7.92% of women who tailgate are married.

Education level

  • According to research published by, 23% of the fans have a high school diploma.
  • Likewise, 59% of college football fans have a college degree, while a minority, 14% of the fans have graduate degrees.

Gender and Ethnicity

  • Statistics to show who tailgates more indicate that 79% of tailgaters are men, while 18% are female.
  • Unfortunately, no statistics provide a racial breakdown of tailgaters; however, according to a 2016 Nielsen report, college football reaches approximately 23.5 million African-Americans and about 15 million Hispanics, which represents about 60% of all African-American and about 30% of all Hispanic viewers.

Research Methodology

The lack of hard statistics explicitly focusing on the marital statuses and ethnicities of Southern College Football Fans necessitated the research team to use national data to determine those demographic elements. Therefore, we used a Nielsen report to show the major ethnic groups in the South that college football reaches, and national marital data to calculate the marital statuses of Southern College Football Fans who tailgate.

III. Social Media Spending Habits: Before and During Tailgates

  • Despite the lack of generalized reports and surveys with statistics specific to the social media spending habits of Southern College Football Fans before tailgates, analyses of individual stories reveal that the type of content most fans post relates to sports, the teams, the players, and the event in general.
  • Another common social media habit around tailgating relates to sending shoutouts, using jokes to comment, and even critiquing players, teams, organizations, coaches, etc.
  • Fans also use social media to react to major announcements. For instance, the recent (National Football League) NFL announcement that there would be no tailgating for Super Bowl 54 in Miami was met with resistance and harsh tweets and posts across social media.
  • Regarding the frequency of posting, an analysis of three Twitter accounts for tailgaters showed that during the 2019 season, Hawkize, PlannedSickDays, and Irrational Hawkeye Twitter accounts tweeted 158 times, garnering a total of 4,047 likes.
  • Fans also use imagery to reinforce the messages they post on social media. For example, in this scenario, a tailgating fan called Arrowhead Addict posts their tweet with an image of a previous tailgating event. In this link are other examples of tweets and posts showing how fans use imagery on their social media commentary.
  • Research findings did not indicate the most preferred social media channel for tailgaters; however, a USC Annenberg report shows that 43% of weekly Facebook activity and 33% of the weekly Twitter activity happened during the last quarter of 2016 NFL games.
  • Equally, another report by Rosy Strategies notes that for sports in general, Facebook is the most popular channel for discussing sports at 75%, then YouTube at 52%, and Twitter 37%.
  • Fans use social media more during the games. They use Facebook 5.8 times or more, Twitter 5.6 times or more, and Instagram 4.4 times or more.

Research Methodology

Extensive searches through publicly available data show the lack of hard statistics specific to tailgating fans and how they use social media before and during the games. Unfortunately, most reports focus on sports and social media usage in general, and not specific to tailgaters and social media use. In this regard, generalized statistics for tailgaters alone are currently unavailable in abundance; however, statistics for specific social media use cases by some popular tailgaters, and general social media use in sports are provided. Therefore, the research team used a combination of sources showing how specific tailgaters use social media before and during the game, along with reports on sports and social media in general.

Next, we attempted to scour local news outlets, sports fanatics' blogs, and press releases from sports organizations specific to the Southern College Football region. But still, most had generalized statistics relating to sports and social media as opposed to social media and tailgating. Thus, we used information contained in reports focusing on social media use by sports fans, as recent information regarding tailgaters and social media is currently not available in the public domain. While continued searches did not uncover meaningful findings specific to social media spending habits of tailgaters, we combined the useful findings from the diverse sources examined. The sources helped provide a more in-depth analysis of the social media spending habits of Southern College Football tailgaters.