If you spend even five minutes on Twitter, it’s hard to escape Barstool Sports and its omnipresent President, Dave Portnoy. Their prolific and amplified social media presence seems out-sized for a company of its tenure and overall notoriety.
Indeed, when you look at top-line CivicScience data on Barstool and its audience, you see a media company mired in low-levels of overall market penetration. Here’s a recent sample of over 53,000 U.S. consumers age 13 and older who were surveyed about Barstool:
At first glance, you see that a full 81% of respondents say they have “never” consumed Barstool content and another 3% used to but don’t anymore – meaning that only 16% of Americans engage with the brand at all. Compare that to, say, BuzzFeed that reaches 38%. Vox property, SB Nation, reaches a similar 16% of the U.S. audience, on par with Barstool.
If you add up Barstool’s Daily, Weekly, and Monthly users, you reach a proxy for “Monthly Active Users” (MAUs) equaling about 11% of the U.S. teen-plus population. That’s the identical number we see again for SB Nation and less than half of the MAUs for Snapchat. Though, in fairness, Snapchat MAUs were only 11% as recently as 2015.
Meet the Stoolies
But all of those top-line numbers fail to tell the real story of Barstool’s power. The brand’s most avid audience – so-called “Stoolies” – are rabidly loyal to the property, watching content across the platform and even purchasing merchandise in large numbers. Over one-third of Barstool’s total U.S. audience engages with the brand on a daily basis. Meanwhile, only 17% of SB Nation’s audience, 16% of Vox’s, and 23% of BuzzFeed’s identify as daily users. While their absolute numbers still have room to grow, the loyalty of Barstool’s audience is unmatched.
But that loyalty still only paints a partial picture of Barstool’s power and potential. You need to dive into the profile of those Stoolies to really understand the story.
First, as anyone who follows Barstool would suspect, the majority of its fanbase is male. Over two-thirds of daily users are men. And considering occasional criticisms of the brand for its “boy’s club” demeanor, it’s not shocking that the majority of lapsed users (ie. people who used to consume Barstool content but no longer do) are women. Admittedly, since CivicScience only began tracking Barstool in May, we don’t know how much the gender distribution has improved over time, but we suspect it has.
The Gen Z and Millennial Gold Mine
Where Barstool really earns its advertiser attention, however, is its age cohort. A whopping 67% of daily Barstool users are under the age of 30. 15% of all college-aged kids visit Barstool properties every day and 26% every week. Overall, 27% of Gen Z Americans engage with Barstool content at least monthly. That’s not quite the 38% of Gen Z’s who visit BuzzFeed every month, but it’s within shouting distance for a company only a fraction of BuzzFeed’s size.
And when we dig into the CivicScience data even further, we see an audience profile for Barstool that would make almost any media company envious. Stoolies over-index in all sorts of notable areas: brand-centric shopping behavior, frequent restaurant (especially QSR) dining, alcohol, and entertainment consumption, technology adoption, and – in the least surprising news of all – cannabis consumption. Brands like Uber, Gatorade, Dunkin, and Under Armour are off the charts in relative popularity among the Stoolie crowd.
Who knows where Barstool will go from here? The history of the Internet is scattered with fast-rising and fast-falling media companies, from Gawker to AOL. And Barstool’s penchant for outspokenness and controversy will always be a high-stakes game.
But for now, they’re winning.