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Sport, movies and the pub: how we spend our leisure time

Brands need to be increasingly savvy if they are to capitalise on opportunities to connect with Britons during their leisure time, research from YouGov reveals.

Over a third of adults have been to the pub five times or more over the past six months

Over a third of adults have been to the pub five times or more over the past six months

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Findings from YouGov’s SixthSense Leisure report provide an in-depth picture of how consumers in the UK are spending their leisure time. 

In this article, we show that the three big British institutions of sport, the cinema and the pub are alive and well and remain the key channels for advertisers seeking to connect with consumers when they are out and about.

How we like to spend our leisure time

According to our survey, eating out is still ranked as the most popular leisure activity. Almost all adults have eaten out at least once in the past six months and 45% have done so five or more times. 

And while staying in is the new going out for some – visiting friends for a meal or inviting friends over are the next most popular activities – the great British pastime of going to the pub continues to have an enduring appeal: over a third of adults have been to the pub five times or more over the past six months. 

Sport and the cinema also figure heavily in the average consumer’s leisure activities, with 28% having been to a live sporting event in the last six months and the under 40s spending a significant amount of time in the cinema.

It’s all about the beautiful game


According to our research, football is the sport that dominates Britons’ leisure time. Around 80% of all sport fans watch football on TV and a quarter attend live matches, making the sport by far the most popular live event.

For brands wishing to target the masses, the traditional channel of advertising at football matches shows little sign of waning.

And while a healthy quarter turn up to matches in person, the main opportunities to communicate with football fans remains via TV – among those who follow sport, 82% of men and 72% of women watch football on the box. 

While the gap between the number of men and women who attend matches in person remains wide – men are more than twice as likely to attend a match as women - the gender gap among TV viewers is much narrower at just 10%.

Unlike all the other sports in our survey, football is the only sport so far to have acquired a significant audience for internet viewing. Almost a fifth of sports fans are watching football online, boosted by the 2010 World Cup where all matches were streamed live by the main broadcasters.

We will be interested to see whether this demand to view online will be replicated in other sports, and in particular whether the 2012 Olympics provides an opportunity to translate watching online into a mainstream behaviour among British viewers.

Method of following sport
Sport On television Live at the event On the radio Via newspaper Streamed on the internet None of these
Football/soccer 78% 25% 27% 29% 18% 18%
Tennis 55% 4% 6% 12% 4% 40%
Formula 1 51% 3% 3% 10% 4% 46%
Athletics 45% 2% 2% 5% 2% 52%
Cricket 33% 9% 11% 13% 6% 59%
Rugby union 35% 7% 4% 10% 3% 62%
Snooker 35% 2% 1% 3% 1% 63%
Golf 31% 2% 2% 7% 2% 67%
Boxing 28% 2% 2% 6% 2% 69%
Darts 24% 2% - 2% 1% 75%
Rugby League 20% 3% 2% 5% 1% 77%
Cycling 19% 1% 1% 3% 2% 79%
Ice skating/dancing 20% 1% - 1% - 79%
Snowsports 21% 1% - 1% 1% 77%
Horse/greyhound racing 14% 6% 1% 3% 1% 82%
American football 8% 1% 1% 1% 2% 91%
Basketball 4% 1% - 1% 1% 94%
Hockey 3% 1% - 1% - 96%

Base: 1,543 nationally representative sports followers aged 16+
Source: YouGov SixthSense Leisure Time survey (9-11 July 2010)

Freeview and subscription services dominate

The two main TV platforms for watching televised sport are Freeview (55% of viewers use this often/all the time) and paid subscription services (39% use this often/all the time).

Platform usage correlates strongly with age, as regular Freeview sports viewers are more likely to be aged under 40, with men under 25 most likely to use this all the time.

Pay subscription viewing (mainly Sky Sports, plus ESPN since August 2009) peaks among men and women aged 40- to 54-years-old. Despite the hype around 3D TV, our survey found that very few sports lovers are yet to experience sports coverage in 3D – just 4% of our sample have accessed 3D sports coverage.

Preferred method of watching sport on television
Method All the time Often Occasionally Rarely Never
Freeview/terrestrial TV 29% 26% 18% 7% 21%
Cable or satellite - free to view 12% 16% 12% 6% 54%
cable or satellite - subscription 24% 15% 8% 4% 50%
cable or satellite - pay per view 2% 2% 5% 9% 82%
High definition television (HDTV) 12% 11% 8% 3% 66%
3D Television - 1% 1% 2% 96%

Base: 1,459 nationally representative TV sports viewers aged 16+
Source: YouGov SixthSense Leisure Time survey (9-11 July 2010)


On the terraces or on the sofa?

There is broad disagreement about whether sport is best enjoyed live or in the comfort of your own home. At just under a quarter each, responses are split evenly amongst those who believe that you get a better view from your armchair and the belief that you can’t beat the excitement of attending a live sporting event.

Strong correlations can be made by age however, and there is a clear trend to favour watching at home among older sports followers – 40% of men and 27% of women over the age of 55 believe that there is no better view than from your armchair.

Although this trend holds true for both sexes, more sports fans under the age of 55 would opt for 'the real thing' than would choose to stay at home and watch it on TV.

This highlights the need for marketers to think carefully about their target demographics when allocating sponsorship budgets – there is a clear dividing line between viewers in and out of home, a trend which is likely to be exacerbated as consumers rein in spending on sports events.

We wanted to examine what kind of opportunity the 2012 Olympics represents for advertisers and which consumer segments are most likely to engage with the games live. 

With less than two years to go, the response is fairly muted – even in London itself, where interest in attending is highest, only 17% say they would do anything for a ticket, compared with almost a third who would like to go but only if they were given a ticket.

According to our findings, younger audiences represent the best targets, as a quarter of men under 40 and a fifth of women under 25 do express strong enthusiasm.

Trips to the flicks

For the majority of cinemagoers (73%), a trip to the movies is an occasional activity. Mid-week is the most popular time to visit the cinema with 42% of cinemagoers restricting their visits to Monday-Friday. Nearly a third visit the cinema both at the weekend and during the week.

Propensity to visit the cinema - frequency

Base: 1,154 nationally representative cinema goers aged 16+
Source: YouGov SixthSense Leisure Time survey (9-11 July 2010)

The research shows a clear delineation between the cinema going habits of families and friends.

Men under 25 and women under 40 are the likeliest groups to go the cinema on both weekdays and weekends, while men aged 40 to 54 are by far the most likely to confine their visits to the weekend.  

A look at companions reveals the motivation for this trend – middle-aged men tend to go mostly with their families at the weekend, whilst women of this age group are likely to go with their friends in the week.

A look at companions reveals the motivation for this trend – middle-aged men tend to be going mostly with their families at the weekend, while women of this age group are likely to go with their friends in the week.

Several years since its launch, Orange Wednesdays is making a big mark on cinema going habits. 37% of people who have visited the cinema in the last six months have taken advantage of the service. 

This contrasts to just 3% who have purchased membership of a film club such as Cineworld’s Unlimited Card. Connecting with consumers during their leisure time is paying huge dividends to a brand such as Orange, but the level of market penetration now achieved means that other brands considering this approach have probably left it far too late to benefit from a similar strategy.

We’re going down the pub

The well-worn tradition of going down the pub is alive and well and shows little sign of declining in spite of the current economic environment.

However, for most Britons, going to the pub is an occasional activity. Four in 10 go less than once a month, one fifth never go at all and only a fifth go once a week or more.

Socio-economic differences do emerge, with ABC1s and women being more occasional, "less than once a month" visitors than C2DEs and men. Going to a local pub remains a huge draw with location being cited by 76% of pub visitors as the key factor in their choice of watering hole.  

63% of pub visitors agreed with the statement that there are too many anonymous pub chains, and less than 40% agree that the pub is the heart and soul of the community.

Propensity to visit the pub

Base: 2,082 nationally representative adults aged 18+
Source: YouGov SixthSense Leisure Time survey (9-11 July 2010)

Factors influencing choice of pub visited


Base: 2,082 nationally representative adults aged 18+
Source: YouGov SixthSense Leisure Time survey (9-11 July 2010)

While the three pillars of the British consumer’s life away from the office remain intact, the research shows that brands need to be increasingly savvy if they are to capitalise on their opportunities to connect with Britons during their leisure time. 

With consumers reining in their spending, the need to connect with consumers in their homes should be an increasingly important priority for planners.

And while young consumers remain fairly committed to seeking leisure experiences outside of the home, the more lucrative returns are most likely with the older people who, for the most part, are sitting tight at home.

The sample size was 2,152, and the research was carried out in July 2010.

YouGov sixthsense survey

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