Buxton College GameDay BrandWatch: Ohio State at Nebraska

Buxton College GameDay BrandWatch: Ohio State at Nebraska

When it comes to deciding where to watch their team, Buckeyes and Cornhuskers strongly prefer to gather in locally owned bars and restaurants.

Not one national chain registers among the top 10 dining options for Ohio State and Nebraska fans in the latest study of foot traffic by Buxton, the leading provider of customer analytics. 

In fact, among the 27 identified restaurant brands with at least five locations where Nebraska fans are more likely to visit than the average college football fan, 18 (66%) are chains with fewer than 50 outlets. Among the 51 brands they are less likely to visit, 78% are chains with more than 50 locations.  

The allegiance to local independents is even more pronounced for Ohio State followers. Of the 22 brands they are more likely to visit than the average fan, fully 99% have fewer than 50 locations, while of the 78 brands they are less likely to visit, 60% have more than 50 locations.

This overwhelming preference for local brands is unique so far in Buxton’s analysis of ESPN’s Game of the Week matchups this season. Using its Live Mobile Insights platform, Buxton compiled the results from anonymous location data generated by mobile devices over the past two college football seasons to determine the dining, apparel shopping and hotel preferences of fans of the Big Ten universities.

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Back In Lincoln

ESPN’s College GameDay returns to Lincoln, Nebraska, on Sept. 28 for the first time since 2007. The fifth-ranked Buckeyes (4-0) are seeking a ninth national football title and first since 2014. Unranked Nebraska (3-1) won the last of its five national championships in 1997 and has sold out every game at Memorial Stadium since 1962. The Buckeyes have won the past four meetings going back to 2012, including a record 62-3 demolition of Nebraska three years ago in Columbus, Ohio.

Live Mobile Insights discovered that the favorite hangout for Buckeyes fans is Bier Stube, a 53-year-old dive bar on the south end of the Ohio State campus, followed by Donerick’s Pub, which has six locations dotted around the Columbus area. No. 3 is the more upmarket J. Liu Restaurant & Bar, which serves Italian and Asian dishes at Worthington and Dublin locations.

It’s not until you scroll to No. 13 that you find a dining preference with venues further afield than the Midwest, in Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, which has about 30 locations from Wisconsin to Florida, each featuring a tasting room and retail store in addition to a winery and restaurant.

Big Brand Bother

By contrast, nationally recognizable brands including Baskin Robbins, Chili’s Grill & Bar and Dunkin’ Donuts are among Ohio State fans’ least-favored dining options, according to location data, which aren’t restricted to game day. Others in the bottom 20 include Chick-fil-A, Sonic, Church’s Chicken, TGI Fridays, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Denny’s and Wingstop. 

It’s a similar story with Cornhuskers, whose preferences are dominated by local choices mainly in the Omaha and Lincoln areas. Not until Culver’s and Papa John’s, at Nos. 14 and 16 respectively, do you come across well-known national brands, while the bottom 10 has a familiar ring, featuring names such as Denny’s, Wingstop, Baskin Robbins, Chili’s and Chick-fil-A.

National Hotels

But the strong preference among both sets of fans for independent bars and restaurants doesn’t extend to the hotels and apparel retail categories.

The top three accommodation choices for traveling Buckeyes are Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites and TownePlace Suites by Marriott, while Cornhuskers gravitate to Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Red Roof Inn and Econo Lodge. Overall, both sets of fans have a preference for budget hotel brands.

Apparel Diversity

Favorite apparel retailers indicate Ohio State fans may vary widely by age and income. Upscale outfitters such as Ann Taylor, Jos. A. Bank, Bill’s Khakis and J. Crew are joined by discounters Gabe’s and urban streetwear outlet Citi Trends, while the top 10 also includes David’s Bridal, Express, which targets young adults, outdoor gear and athleisure stores lululemon athletica and Eddie Bauer, and plus-size women’s retailer Avenue.

Eddie Bauer and Ann Taylor are also top 10 choices of Cornhuskers fans, whose list is led by local boutique Misty’s. The No. 3, Dressbarn, has said it will close all its roughly 650 outlets by the end of this year, which may be a boon for the next women’s clothing store in the table, fifth-ranked Maurices. 

Apart from Ann Taylor — which targets affluent, career-minded women and is the No. 2 choice for both sets of fans — more upscale brands feature a little lower in the Nebraska list compared with Ohio State, with J. Crew coming in at No. 11, two places above Johnston & Murphy, while maternity wear retailer A Pea in the Pod at No. 8 may indicate that Nebraska fans skew slightly toward young families.

For the analysis, Buxton defined a fan as someone whose device was geolocated at a home football game and who also lives within 50 miles of the Ohio State or Nebraska football stadiums. The results were then compared against those for the average fan, defined using the same parameters, of teams in nine major college football conferences and were adjusted to reflect the presence of a brand within 50 miles of each team’s respective stadium, to ensure accurate comparisons.


For more information about Live Mobile Insights powered by Buxton, call (817) 332-3681.

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