Are the Bills Really Canada’s Team? How Having Better Data Helps You Retain Fans 

November 6, 2023

If you work for a sports organization, a sports-related organization, or are simply a sports fan yourself, you know how dedicated sports enthusiasts—whether NFL fans, NHL fans, or fans of a different league—are. Known for sticking by their teams, even during sometimes severe losing streaks, they represent an extremely loyal customer base.  

However, like all Canadians, sports fans have been impacted by inflation and rising interest rates. According to our recent State of the Canadian Economy report: 

  • More Canadians plan to pull back on than increase their discretionary spending over the next six months. 
  • When it comes to sporting and other entertainment events, more than one-quarter of Canadians say they will spend less, compared to 12% who plan to spend more.  
  • More than three times as many Canadians (20%) plan to reduce their spending on lottery/sports betting than increase it (6%). 

We know that you may be dealing with limited research budgets that may make it difficult to understand your target customers. In this article, we’ll share how conducting research in poor economic times can help you stay ahead (it might be less expensive than you think) and share the key highlights of our latest survey on sports fandom (with a focus on the NFL).  

Why leveraging market research in tough economic times can pay off 

One of the best times to do market research is during economic uncertainty. Knowing what truly matters to your target customers and acting based on data will help save money in the long term and reduce wasted spend on tactics that won’t truly have an impact. There is also an opportunity to reach new customer segments with the right research, and it may be less expensive than you think.  

Leger’s Omnibus is a fast, easy, and affordable option to meet your needs—whether or not your brand is sports-focused. This tool gives you access to the largest proprietary panel in Canada to survey Canadians, residents of a certain province, or even residents of certain large cities, with results available within a week. You can explore awareness of your brand, better understand Canadians’ buying behaviour, create a demographic profile of your target audience, and much more.  

We recently used our Omnibus to dig deeper into Canadian sports fandom, discover the insights below, and don’t forget to download a copy of the report.  

Key highlights of our survey on Canadian sports fandom 

1. About one-third have a favourite National Football League team 

Our research found that 31% of Canadians— approximately 12.5 million—have a favourite NFL team. The top three teams are the Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks, and Kansas City Chiefs. However, there is a great deal of regional variation among NFL fans. For instance, the Buffalo Bills are on top by far in Ontario, and the Seattle Seahawks are favoured in British Columbia and Alberta—unsurprising given that these provinces are in such close proximity to the states in which these teams are based. On the other hand, Quebecers prefer the 2023 Super Bowl winners, the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Understanding which regions of the country follow which NFL teams provides a more targeted marketing opportunity for brands. For instance, consider the explosion of interest and media attention around the recent coupling of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. Brands marketing Chiefs products have an enormous opportunity to engage a new audience segment—Swifties living in Quebec. And let’s not forget another Quebec connection to the Chiefs: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who won a Super Bowl with them before leaving the team to serve at a Montreal long-term care facility during the pandemic.  

2. Fantasy football is more popular among younger Canadians 

The overall participation rate for fantasy sports in Canada is relatively low: 6% for football and 7% for hockey. However, younger Canadians are nearly twice as likely to play (11-14% of 18-34-year-olds).   

Even with fewer participants, there’s still an opportunity to consider how your brand can own the experience across live games and gaming. For the most avid fans, sports are all-consuming, and they crave ongoing, full-spectrum connection to the game, team, and other fans. Offering new and better experiences across media and devices, from ads to apps, can allow sports brands to connect with fans across multiple touchpoints in a way that stokes longer-term loyalty.  

3. Hockey still ranks first in league fandom 

The National Hockey League (NHL) is Canada’s overwhelmingly preferred professional sports league in all regions except Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where the Canadian Football League (CFL) tops the list. This is an important distinction for brands looking to regionalize their marketing. For example, brands looking to reach consumers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba via TV might want to prioritize spots during CFL, not NHL, games, and vice versa for the other provinces. 

4. All of these fans represent a crucial target market 

Canadian NFL Fans, pro sports supporters in general, and fantasy sports players represent a crucial target market: primarily younger men who tend to have higher income and education, Western Canadians, and Canadians who identify as BIPOC.  

Considering the unique nuances of this market (and the differences between key segments within it) is key for brands who need to know how to advertise most effectively. Sports advertising produces the best results when its themes have contextual relevance and connect directly to the individual sports environment. For instance, you wouldn’t deliver the same brand message to an NFL fan as an NHL fan.  

Connect with Canadian sports fans by conducting research 


Becoming more acquainted with sports fans is the key to marketing the right products to the right audiences at the right times and in the right places.  

If you want to learn more about Canadian sports fans to better position your brand, contact us for more information on how Leger’s Omnibus (or one of our custom market research solutions) can help. 

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