The World Baseball Classic is twice as popular in Japan as in the US
March 19th, 2023, Rishad Dsouza

The World Baseball Classic is twice as popular in Japan as in the US

As the US and Japan prepare to light up the final of the 2023 edition of the World Baseball Classic, we dive into our data to see where the tournament is most popular.

YouGov Global Fan Profiles, which tracks data variables relevant to various sports and esports properties, also gives us a peek into the attitudes and behaviors of World Baseball Classic fans.

Of all the key markets we look at in this piece, it is in Japan where the World Baseball Classic enjoys the biggest fan following. More than a quarter of consumers in the land of the rising sun say they are interested in the World Baseball Classic (27%). This share is halved among their co-finalists at the 2023 edition – USA (14%).

The event has certainly carved a strong presence in the APAC region with a quarter of consumers in Taiwan (25%) and about one in seven in Australia (15%) and China (15%) stating their interest.

The tournament has a sizeable footprint even in the Americas. Nearly a fifth of Mexicans (18%) and a slightly lower share of Brazilians (16%) say they are interested in it, as are 13% of Canadians. The event is yet to quite make its mark in Europe, however, with only 5% of Germans and 2% of UK consumers showing an interest.

These wider numbers are especially promising, however, given that the World Baseball Classic is returning after a break of six years, with the scheduled 2021 edition having been delayed due to the pandemic. One can reasonably expect these shares to rise a little after the conclusion of 2023 event.

So, who are these fans?

Compared to fans of the FIFA World Cup in these select markets, fans of the World Baseball Classic are a slightly younger, more affluent lot. Nearly half of them are aged between 18 and 34 (47%) compared to 43% of World Cup fans. Compared to the overall population, World Baseball Classic has a noticeably smaller share of those aged 18-24 (17% vs. 22%), but over-indexes in the 25-34 age group (30% vs. 26%).

A tenth of them are in the higher-income group (10%) as opposed to 7% of World Cup fans and 6% of the overall population in these markets.

While the female share of fans of World Baseball Classic isn’t quite representative of their share in the overall population, it eclipses the FIFA World Cup. Nearly two fifths of them are women (38%) compared to a third of World Cup fans (34%).

Global Fan Profiles also allows us to look at the methods that audiences use to watch and follow sports. Data for World Baseball Classic fans reveals some interesting points, especially when compared against the channels used by FIFA World Cup fans.

World Baseball Classic fans are less likely to watch sports live, whether on TV (53% vs. 68% of World Cup fans) or via live streams online (43% vs. 51%). Instead they are noticeably likelier to follow the action on social media (39% vs. 34%) orread about it in the newspaper (19% vs 16%). They are, however, more likely to watch it out of home at a bar or restaurant (17% vs 14%) or at someone else’s house (17% vs. 13%).

Which sports do they follow regularly?

Interestingly, basketball is the most popular sport among this group with three in ten saying they watch or follow it on a regular basis (29%), followed by baseball (23%) and football (23%). This would mean that many of those who are fans of the World Baseball Classic don’t necessarily follow baseball throughout the year. This could be in large part because in many of the markets assessed in this piece, baseball isn’t a well-established sport and offers limited opportunities for fans to follow it round the year.

This illustrates the importance of World Baseball Classic in the context of growing the game further, giving an opportunity to local leagues in non-traditional baseball markets like Australia and Brazil to bask in its afterglow and using it to attract new fans.

Other sports that this group follow regularly include table tennis (22%), swimming (19%) and tennis (18%).

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Methodology: YouGov Global Fan Profiles, which includes data from 51 markets, is based on continuously collected data from several sources, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Respondents are aged 16+ years in China and 18+ years in other markets. Data from each market uses a nationally representative sample apart from China and Taiwan which use online representative samples.