After devising the The Cat’s Whiskers Panthers fan survey once again for 2018 Paul Balm has pulled all the data together. Here are the results of our survey for 2018.
Back in May 2017 we published the first TCW fans survey. The idea behind it was to try and measure the mood of the #PanthersNation. We knew what people thought about the team (as in the players) following a disappointing season (Continental Cup victory aside) but what did you think about the club itself? We set out a range of questions to try and get to the bottom of it. Whether we succeeded or not is open to interpretation (statistics always are) but we got what we wanted – a snapshot of your mood.
This year’s survey set out to do the same thing. We’ve asked a lot of the same questions to see if another disappointing season has had any effect on your perceptions of the club. Asking the same questions means we can do a direct comparison between this year and last year to see what, if anything has changed.
With the exception of the question about what you thought of this season we’ve deliberately shied away from asking about the on ice product. We, as fans, have no real ability to change that and I’m not sure we should have. That’s down to the coach and he should have sole responsibility for it. Ironically, it’s also the thing that we, as fans, spend most of our time complaining about or revelling in.
As I write this I’m still at the data creations stage (I wanted a break from it) so I don’t know exactly what the stats will show. I, personally, doubt there will be many surprises in store. I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what the Panthers fan base thinks from reading social media etc. There seem to be great divides between the two most vociferous camps. What about the silent majority though? Are they actually a majority? Do they even exist? We’ll find out as we go along but first there are some things that I need to explain.
The sample size has dropped since last year. There are a number of reasons for this:
- Timeframe – the period of time that the survey was open to responses was shorter this year due to various issues
- Potential apathy – After another disappointing year where certain aspects have not appeared to change why bother? I can’t answer that nor can I promise that anything in this survey will change anything. I can only thank you for taking the time to complete it.
- Diminishing returns – There’s nothing better than the first time. First TCW show, first player of the week poll, first fan survey. They all got more responses/viewers than any following week.
Having said all that though we did get over 400 responses and I think that’s enough. If you take away the fans who are just there for a night out, the friends of the sponsors etc I reckon our core fan base is about 4,000. I can’t substantiate that but I think it’s close enough for our purposes. That means that we’ve had responses from around 10% of the core Panthers fan base and that is probably all we need. More would obviously have been nice but I need to get this done before I go on holiday.
You have to take the figures in this report with a certain amount of caution. It doesn’t speak for the whole Panthers fans base. It speaks for a portion of it. That means that I can’t say categorically that 15% weren’t happy last year or 37% were happy with merchandise. I am confident though that we’ve got a good slice of that fan base though and that whilst the figures won’t be 100% accurate they’ll be close and will form a good representation. In many ways this is more of a cross-section of Cats Whiskers listeners and readers, although not exclusively but we’ll get to that in due course. There does seem to be one particular area that does not appear to be entirely representative of the Panthers fan base and that is relating to the gender split. For both this year and last year the split is approximately 2:1 in favour of men and that is not something that I would say I see replicated in the crowd. Now, it might be that men were more inclined, for whatever reason, to fill out the form or the TCW audience is predominantly male. I don’t which, if any, it is so if you do please let us know.
The difference in sample size means that it is not always simply a case of comparing the two sets of figures as the 2017 figures will appear higher than 2018 when dealing with actual figures rather than percentages. As a result I have re-calculated the 2018 figures to match the 2017 sample size (a factor of approximately 2/3rds).
Bias and agenda
Anyone who tells you that they’ve created a survey without any form of bias and agenda is either far better at creating them than I am or they’re a liar. I’ll guess that the latter is true in most cases. You can’t create a survey without having an agenda. There are things you want to know, questions you want to ask, answers you expect to receive. That’s human nature. How many times do you ask a question hoping for a particular answer? Probably a lot.
I can say that I have tried to avoid doing that with this survey. I have tried but I’m not sure I always succeeded. I’ll openly admit that I’m nosy at times and the questions in the first section about you are as much there to set a bedrock on which the information can be split and compare as they are to let me find out about the demographic of the TCW listeners. Having said that the “This is the first time I’ve heard of TCW” option in the how often do you listen? Question had a surprising number of answers.
Other questions are there to help satiate my curiosity about what the fans think about recent events. There’s also a question someone else wanted asking because they had a particular opinion about that subject so, you see, there is an agenda but I hope it’s one that you’ll excuse as all it really does is give a set of questions to ask and an order to ask them in.
There’s also the question of interpretation to consider. How I’ve read the comments and messages may well be different from how someone else would read them. Again, that’s human nature. How I’ve perceived things is always going to be based on my point of view and that may mean that there are times when I see what I want to see rather than what as meant. If you don’t agree with my interpretation of any of the data I’m sorry but there’s not a lot I can do about it. I think I’ve got it right throughout but I might have missed the point occasionally.
One final note in this pre-amble is that the questions about the Cats Whiskers aren’t included in this report. Not because there’s anything to hide in them (although I am secretly pleased that written articles won the vote for your favourite part of TCW) it’s just that there’s nothing of any real interest to you in those answers. They do make a lot of interesting points and they’ll be taken into consideration when our preparations begin for the 18/19 season.
Enough of this, let’s get on with why you’re here – to view the numbers.
Section 1 – About You
We wanted to find out about the people who were responding to the survey. This not only gave us the chance to look at the make-up of the Panthers fanbase but it would also help us split up the answers to later questions to give us a more in-depth view and allow us to split responses against age, length of time etc. It was also used to find out the happiest block to sit in but that will be revealed later. These questions were also the only ones within the survey that were mandatory
Question 1: What Is Your Age?
|17 and under||17||4.12%||3.09%||1.03%|
|18 to 24||46||11.14%||13.91%||-2.77%|
|25 to 34||89||21.55%||23.49%||-1.94%|
|35 to 44||61||14.77%||16.69%||-1.92%|
|45 to 54||98||23.73%||22.87%||0.85%|
|55 to 64||77||18.64%||14.06%||4.58%|
|65 to 74||23||5.57%||5.41%||0.16%|
|75 and over||2||0.48%||0.46%||0.02%|
Unsurprisingly, there is very little difference between this year’s and last year’s figures. It does show that Panthers’ fan base has a bias towards the older end of the spectrum with the largest group replying being the 45 to 54 age range.
Question 2: What is your Gender?
Another set of figures that is unsurprisingly different to last year’s. The split in responses remains in an almost 2:1 ratio of men to women. There is very little change between the two years which is understandable, I haven’t noticed a change in the make-up of the Panthers crowd.
Question 3: How Long Have You Been Watching Panthers?
The main thing that strikes you about this graph is how women outnumber men in the 0 to 5 years column but then after a largely similar figure in 6 to 10 the men begin to dominate. The fluctuation between periods is something I can’t really explain. You would have expected that the figures would start high and then gradually tail off as the number of years increases but this isn’t the case. The trendlines show that there is a downward trend for both male and female but why do the numbers in the 31 years and upwards category outweigh the dip in the 21 to 30 years? Reasons may be that the 1988 to 1997 were periods where it was hard to get a regular ticket in the Ice Stadium so fewer people were able to start watching the Panthers or it might be that the Panthers weren’t exactly great during that period but that’s something that could apply to a lot of years.
Question 4: Were you a season ticket holder in 2017/18
A healthy amount (over 50% in each case) of respondents were season ticket holders in 2017/18. This is similar to the results of the 2017 survey and brings in to question the yearly statement that season ticket sales have reached record levels. Our figures would show that there is more of a stagnation in the numbers. This is further confirmed by figures released by the hockeydb.com website that show that Panthers average league attendances dropped last season compared to the year before: (obviously we cannot validate this data).
Question 5: Will you be a season ticket holder in 2018/19?
Again this is a picture of stagnation or worse. Simply put the vast majority of people will not be changing how they attend games next season. If you were a season ticket holder this season, you’ll be a season ticket holder next season. There are two points, though, to notice from this. The first is that the number of people who will not be renewing their season ticket is outweighed by people getting a season ticket who didn’t have one last season which is good news for Panthers which may explain the record sales headlines. The other is the maybe column. They are almost exactly the same with only one person difference. The people in those two columns won’t have a massive effect on the size of crowds but may be an indication of what is to come. A maybe now could become a yes or a no in the future.
Question 6: Where do you sit?
There’s not a lot to say about this. People sit where they sit.
I wanted to find out what the “happiest” block was. This might not be quick enough for the early bird pricing but I wanted to offer people the chance to know where to go to if they wanted to minimise their exposure to moaning. It’s not as easy to work out as I first thought. I think it’s probably block 12. Nobody thought the season was terrible and it had the largest proportion of people who thought it was great. At the other end of the scale is block 6 which just beats blocks 7 & 18 to the title of unhappiest block because it has some terrible responses where 7 doesn’t and more responses than block 18 despite that block not having a single good or great response. Want to sit in the middle then block 14 is the place for you.
Question 7: Rate This Season
How you saw the season appears to be affected by your gender, how you buy your tickets and your age.
Men were more likely to rate the season as OK or worse than women although the number who thought it was great was fairly equal (and small).
Season ticket holders were almost twice as likely to rate last season but three times as many non-season ticket holders said it was great.
Oh the callowness of youth. Look at the under 17s. Not a single one who responded thought the season was poor, never mind terrible and no 18-24 thought the season was terrible. Quite why so many 35-44 year olds thought the season was great I really can’t say.
The one thing that strikes you from all three graphs is that the majority of people thought the season was either OK or poor. They are by far the largest groups amounting to over 77% of responses. This is very similar to the 2016/17 season when the two amounted to 75%. What is extremely different though is that this year “Terrible” only amounted to a little over 5%, the season before it was almost 20%. Was this season that much better or are we getting so used to a poor product that we’ve become more accepting. Either might be correct but there’s another factor.
N.B. The 75 and over group were not included in this question as their sample set was not large enough to give useful information.
Question 8: Why did you think that?
It’s good to be able to add a little context to a question like the previous one. There can be any number of reasons why someone thought last season was good, bad or indifferent (or terrible, poor, OK, good and great in this case). Everyone sees things differently and last season was no different. The reasons you gave why you came to the conclusion you did about last season were distilled down to the elements or themes that they contained. As an example “Loved this team, we had high & lows but is was entertaining. Took a while to get the line up right but by the end of the season with Pither and Vasky they were working well together“ was entered as inconsistent, good team and entertaining. These were obviously open to interpretation and you may have interpreted them differently to me but someone had to do it and I think the results would have been roughly the same. In total there were 39 different reasons. Some of those reasons inevitably occurred more often and the top 10 were:
|Poor Domestic Performances||102|
|A team that never showed its potential||37|
|Lack of effort||15|
|Not winning trophies||15|
The CHL appears, understandably, to have been a high point for a lot of people. That 148 represents about 40% of responses to this question and there were a number more that didn’t cite the CHL experience specifically but mentioned the start of season and then the rapid descent thereafter. Rapid decline was one of the categories and I’m quite surprised it didn’t make the top ten. The CHL was also a very powerful modifier for the previous question. A lot of responses stated that without the CHL the value chosen would have been lower.
I’ve also broken down the figures by the rating of the season as this gives both what people thought and why.
|Poor Domestic Performances||5|
|Poor Domestic Performances||43|
|Potential not fulfilled||21|
|Poor Domestic Performances||49|
|Potential not fulfilled||13|
|Enjoyed every game||6|
|Poor Domestic Performances||5|
|Enjoyed every game||5|
The figures show pretty much what you expect. As the rating of the season improves so the reasoning changes. What is interesting, and only slightly unsurprising is that in Good and Great inconsistency is mentioned alongside enjoying every game.
Question 9: How Many Home Games will you be watching next season?
This looks fairly healthy for the Panthers. More people saying they’ll attend more games than less and a large proportion attending the same number. One thing to try and remember for next time is to get people to quantify how many games they attended in the coming season so we can provide a better figure.
Question 10: How Many Away Games will you be watching next season?
Looks like the Panthers travelling support is going to increase as well. Good news for the coffers of the other clubs in the EIHL.
Question 11: Did you buy any merchandise?
There’s good news and bad news here. The good news is that the percentage of people who bought merchandise is higher than last year. The bad news is that only just over half bought any merchandise last year. That’s got to be of concern to the Panthers. It seems to me that there is a missed opportunity here. OK, some of those 48% would never spend any money on merchandise but I know for a fact that there are some that would but don’t because they simply don’t like what’s on offer. I know that because I’m one of them.
Note: The rest of the merchandise were contextual so if you completed the survey and are seeing the results of questions here that you don’t remember answering it’s not that you missed them it’s just that they didn’t appear based on answers to previous questions.
Question 12: Did you buy a jersey?
No surprise here, jerseys are always going to be the biggest seller.
Question 13: Did you buy any other clothing?
Again, this is good news for the Panthers. Two thirds of people bought a jersey and bought other clothing items (although not necessarily both). They just need to try and broaden the range so that there are items that those people who would buy something if it was there get the opportunity.
Questions 14 & 15: Other Vendors
Out of the people who responded only 29% had bought items from other vendors such as 5on3, Cross Check etc. Whilst that makes the sample quite small the results of how Panthers clothing compares are quite favourable for the Panthers. The graph shows a fairly predictable spread but there is a weighting towards the positive end with almost 85% rating their merchandise as OK or above.
Question 16: Did you buy non-clothing merchandise?
Less positive results this time with only 56% having bought non-clothing items. Whilst the opportunities are comparatively less compared to clothing, I think this is where Panthers merchandising really falls down (I don’t like the Warrior shirts either but that’s a different story). I can’t think of a single item of non-clothing merchandise that I would want to buy, they’re either not what I want, wrong (remember the Panthers Legends sweatshirts with the unforgivable spelling mistakes?) or just too expensive.
Question 17: How would rate the items you bought in terms of price and quality?
It appears my statement in the previous question puts me in a majority. Overall Panthers come out very favourably when it comes to price and quality.
Question 18: If there was ONE thing you could change about the Nottingham Panthers what would it be?
I was going to do one of those word cloud things for this. You know where the size and prominence of the word is affected by the number of times the word appears in a list you submit. I used a similar process as in question 8 to condense your answers to a set of single words. I put the list into the word cloud generator and it gave me a result that omitted the words that I knew should have been front and centre. Basically the results broke it and only by changing the size did I manage to get the words to appear but they were so much larger than the rest that only a few words were actually discernible. So, no word cloud.
|Mindset/ethos (towards winning games)||33|
The difference between fan interaction and appreciation, I think, is an important one. From your comments it seems that you don’t always feel appreciated as fans, particularly those of us that have been around the rink a few times. It didn’t make the top 10 but the words cash cow appeared a lot of times. I expected webcasts to be higher but maybe the constant rebuttals are starting to have an effect. It also seems that plenty of people are happy with their lot with ‘Nothing’ making the top 10.
A question like this shows that we all want something different from our team. Whilst there were a lot of calls for a change of general manager there was also someone who said that he should be praised and not sacked. I’ve concentrated on the most popular but what about those lone wolves whose, equally as important, opinion varied from everyone else? Here’s some of the responses that only got one vote:
- More Games for GB Netminders
- Sports Psychologist
- Smell of fish in the arena
- Comfy seats for those working the penalty boxes
- Less fan interaction
I’m all for the first three and the fifth proves that you’re never going to get everyone to agree. The whole list does show that whilst there’s a lot we agree on there are plenty of issues to address (including the perceived detrimental effect of one of the teams sponsors).
Question 19: How Would You Describe Panthers Relationship With Their Fanbase?
I put this question in to see whether my perception that the relationship has improved was the same as the rest of the fanbase. I, personally, think that this is an area that Panthers needed to improve and, mainly through the social media work of Calum Chalmers, they have. I still think there’s work to do, but what did you think?
It looks like you agree with me. A good start has been made but there is still a long way to go. I wish I’d thought to ask this question last year as it would give an indication of how far they’ve come and I think that is the key point here. The overwhelming trend here is that you think the relationship is either poor or OK. I get a feeling that Calum’s work has had the same kind of modifying effect that the CHL had on the season ratings. Without it there would be a lot more in the very poor. Interestingly (and I know I keep using that word but it is interesting to me) season ticket holders feel there’s a better relationship than non-season ticket holders. Again, men prove themselves to be the grumpy ones as well when compared to their female counterparts.
If there is one complaint I have about Panthers social media it’s that it can be a bit of on the frivolous. I may be too old for it all but I don’t need to see a Spongebob GIF with every tweet or multiple emojis everywhere and don’t get me started on the almost desperate need to constantly come up with new (or borrow) terms when the simple, more common, ones will do.
With my advancing years in mind I decided to compare the relationship by age range.
The Panthers clearly have a very good relationship with their younger fans but it tails off as they get older. Is that because you get more jaded as you get older and watch more hockey? Or is that just me? It could be, though, that the social media is aimed to directly at that age range (although, that is probably the age range for that kind of media).I can’t quite work out why there’s a bit of a bump in the Good category for the 55-64, maybe they’re the fans who have stuck with the team through thick or thin.
Question 20: How do you get your Panthers information?
Nothing surprising here. The way people get their news has changed over the years. Only 6 people still get their news from a physical newspaper.
Question 21: What One Thing Would You Do To Improve the EIHL?
There were a wide variety of answers to this but four things stood out above the rest, the need for an independent chairman and governance, abolishing the conference system, a TV deal and the need to improve officials. With the possible exception of abolishing the conference system I think anyone would have listed two or more of those if asked. The full top 10 were:
|Abolish the conferences||21|
|Don’t change rules mid-season||4|
Like the question about what you’d change about the Panthers there were a lot of suggestions that only got a single vote:
- An NHL style All-Star Skills Challenge
- Unified junior systems at all clubs
- Final 4 weekend for the Challenge Cup
- Abolish the Challenge Cup
- Get rid of the cheerleaders at the play-offs
- Change The Logo
If I was to sum up this survey in a single word it would be stagnation. If you look at the results from last year and compare them to this there is very little difference in a lot of the questions that we asked both last year and this. That in a lot of ways is unsurprising. The last season was similar to the 16-17 season in a lot of aspects. They both featured a disappointing domestic campaign with the few high points coming from Europe. Those similarities meant that there was never going to be much change in the season rating questions.
The report also shows that there is still a lot for Panthers to do when it comes to their relationship with their fans. A lot still believe that they are seen as little more than unappreciated cash cows by the team who only want to know them when they want their money. The relationship feels like it has improved but it started from a low place and the relatively low scores in that area are probably because of that.
It’s hard to change perception but Panthers have to continue to put the effort in. The similarities in the number of season ticket holders who aren’t renewing compared to non-season ticket holders moving the other way hints at a possible stagnation in crowd sizes and Panthers need to work to retain those fans who don’t feel appreciated. It can’t continue to be about attracting new fans.
There are some positives to be taken away from this report as well for the Panthers. Their merchandise is well received by those who are buying it. That shouldn’t be seen as an excuse to jack the prices up though as opinion can change very easily when it comes to pricing. The key, though, for me at least is the numbers who aren’t buying the shirts, who aren’t buying other merchandise. Something has to be done to attract those people in.
Ultimately, everything points at that relationship. Make fans feel appreciated they’ll like you more, they like you more they’re more likely to spend money on your shop. I’ve walked out of games we’ve lost feeling like I never want to give the team another penny and I’ve felt the complete opposite when we’ve won. We should all feel as though we are part of the club. One entity made of players, staff, management and fans and we clearly don’t. If I was the Panthers that would worry be and I would be working to fix it. I hope it does and I hope they are.
I hope this survey has been as interesting to you as it has been to me. I hope it helps the club as well. We’ve sent them a copy and it’s not to rub their faults in their faces. I’ve never done that nor do I want to. It’s to let them know who their customers are and how they are feeling. Sport is different to any other business because it is controlled by one thing – what happens on the ice. How you are seen as a club lives and dies on that ice but there’s stuff that can be done around it. Sport might be different but it’s also very similar. Any successful business has to know it’s market and it’s customers. To ignore their opinion is ultimately the death of that business (except in sport it usually just means a new set of owners). The Panthers are a successful business but they still need to listen. I hope they read this and take note.
Finally, I just want to thank everyone who took part in this year’s survey. It really couldn’t have happened without you so thank you for taking the time to complete the questionnaire and read this report. It’s been a long slog both for me and you (it was never supposed to be this long) so thank you again. I really do appreciate it.