The 2017 Indianapolis Colts season is about to get underway, and Central Indiana sports fans will be paying close attention -- closer than they do with any other area sports team or entity.
According to a study of 500 Central Indiana residents about their perceptions of sports leagues and teams, conducted by the Sports Innovation Institute at IUPUI, the Colts and the NFL are by far the most popular. When asked to choose one favorite hometown team, 221 of 500 respondents picked the Colts, four times as many as chose the second-favorite team, and 159 of the 500 said the NFL was their favorite league.
The survey was conducted in mid-July across a wide range of fans over 18 years of age, with an average age of 47.
"Every way you can look at the NFL and the Colts, they share the strongest brand image and position in the local market," said David Pierce, an associate professor in the Indiana University School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at IUPUI, who oversaw the survey for the Sports Innovation Institute.
Respondents were asked to rank their overall feelings about sports leagues on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being highest. The NFL scored a 4.47, even higher than "sports in general" at 4.26.
The Colts scored a 4.36 among respondents asked for their overall feelings on a scale of 1 to 5 about hometown teams and major events; nothing else scored above 4. Following the Colts were Butler men's basketball at 3.97, the Indianapolis 500 at 3.95, and then a tie between the Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Indians at 3.94.
"The Indians' score is pretty competitive for something that's at the minor-league level of competition," Pierce said. "That speaks to the team's game experience."
The second-favorite league/entity after the NFL among respondents was college basketball, and IU men's basketball was the second choice for favorite hometown team behind the Colts, with 54 of the 500 respondents choosing the Hoosiers.
A question of "hometown fandom" allowed respondents to choose more than one favorite team/major event, and more than half of all respondents -- 77.2 percent -- named the Colts. They were followed by the Pacers, at 49.8 percent, the Indianapolis 500, at 44.2 percent, IU men's basketball, at 38 percent, and Butler men's basketball, at 36.2 percent.
Pierce said that future installations of the survey will be intriguing to watch in terms of whether any teams or leagues become more or less popular. The LPGA Tour, for example, is debuting a new tournament this weekend in Indianapolis. The LPGA ranked 21st out of 23 leagues for overall feelings by respondents.See Indy Sports Poll results