“Play Ball!” – A familiar cry soon to be heard throughout MLB stadiums across the country as opening day for the new baseball season arrives Thursday. It’s been an eventful offseason for the sport, which saw its biggest star Shohei Ohtani sign a $700 million contract and then face a sports gambling scandal allegedly surrounding his interpreter. Additionally, teams will be playing in a new uniform style, which has also caused a stir

How will these and other noteworthy storylines affect consumer sentiment around MLB as the season begins anew? Here’s a look at the latest CivicScience data exploring how fans are gearing up for the new baseball campaign:

Positive Momentum Looks to Continue for MLB in 2024

Last year was a record-breaking one for Major League Baseball attendance, and fresh polling data from CivicScience show that momentum has the potential to carry over into 2024. Forty-one percent of U.S. adults report they plan on following baseball at least ‘somewhat’ closely this year, an increase of eight percentage points over polling ahead of last season. 

In terms of opening day itself, additional data reveal nearly 2-in-5 Americans typically watch at least one of the games, while 22% say they usually tune in to watch multiple opening day games (excluding ‘does not apply’).

Take Our Poll: How excited are you for the upcoming MLB season?

Division on Sports Betting Integration Amid Ohtani Controversy

At least some of the excitement for the new season is overshadowed by the major story involving star player Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter, who allegedly stole $4.5 million from Ohtani’s account to cover sports gambling debts. Major League Baseball is investigating. It has thrust sports betting back into the spotlight at a time when all four major sports leagues have substantial deals with sports betting platforms. Game broadcasts now heavily feature betting segments, live odds in-game, and several ads for sports betting platforms. 

For their part, those who follow Major League Baseball are nearly evenly split as to whether they are favorable (35%) or unfavorable (37%) toward the integration of sports betting during in-game broadcasts. Meanwhile, over 3-in-10 of those who watch baseball say they will likely bet on MLB games this season, which is not too far off from overall sports-betting data late 2023.

Despite Noise From Players, New Uniforms A Hit With Fans

Despite some outcry from players and fans alike, the Nike-designed, Fanatics-produced Viper Premier uniforms will debut this season. The jerseys are particularly noteworthy because they’re made from 90% recycled material. MLB fans are far more likely to be favorable (41%) or neutral (42%) toward the new uniforms than they are to dislike them (16%) (n= 1,152 from 03/22/2024 to 03/27/2024).

Those who are favorable to the new uniforms are overwhelmingly concerned about the environment and climate change – 95% have at least some environmental concerns compared to 61% of those unfavorable (n= 307 from 03/22/2024 to 03/27/2024).

Which of the Big Four’s Fans Plan to Spend the Most in the Months Ahead?

A look at fans of the four major sports leagues shows that NBA fans are the most likely to spend on game tickets and/or team merchandise in the next six months as the postseason draws near. MLB fans follow close behind in terms of spending but are also the most likely to spend $250+. NFL fans unsurprisingly lag behind their counterparts with the 2024-25 season not kicking off until September. 

Weigh-In: What is the most you’ve paid for a single sporting event ticket?

Even with a potentially major sports betting scandal, the data show Major League Baseball has much to be optimistic about heading into 2024 – fans are more likely to follow this season and appear prepared to open their wallets to spend more than any other major North American sport. Will the league be able to knock it out of the park? 

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