The Bizarre Link Between NFL Predictions and Luxury Cars

Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images for Monster Products

Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images for Monster Products

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and in many respects, that’s true. But you can gather a lot of information about others just through visual cues – not just by physical appearance, but by who they’re palling around with, the clothes they’re wearing, and the things they own. But one link you probably never thought to make was someone’s ability to correctly pick NFL winners, just by checking out what kind of car they were driving.

And with the Broncos and Panthers on tap for Super Bowl 50, you may want to pay closer attention. Especially if you plan on winning a bet or two.

The link between NFL picks and luxury cars apparently exists, at least according to some new research recently published by CivicScience. “Can we identify people who are better than average at predicting NFL playoff games? For every playoff game that has been played so far, we asked about 5,000 people to pick a winner,” CivicScience’s brief reads, referring to this year’s (2016) NFL playoffs.

For those games, here are the overall results:

Ross-NFL-Playoff-post-chart-1

Obviously, a lot of people saw some of these games as easier picks than others, and some of the picks, as CivicScience says, may have to do with biases against certain teams. The Chiefs-Patriots match-up, which less than half of people correctly predicted (despite the Patriots being an overwhelming favorite), can mostly be attributed to the fact that a lot of people don’t like the Patriots, for example.

It can be interesting to dig into the motivations behind these predictions, but the truly telling stuff is under the surface. CivicScience’s work aimed at identifying who good predictors actually were, and identifying what made them better than others at making a correct pick. That’s no easy task, but there were some interesting findings.

Ross McGowan, the lead researcher and author of the study, crunched the numbers and used an algorithm to identify respondents who performed better than average when making their picks. McGowan identified these as “sharps,” of which he flagged 1,507 of the 5,000 or so participants. From there, he found three main attributes to define them.

Those attributes were domain expertise, frequent grocery shopping habits, and – as hinted at – luxury car fandom.

Weird? You bet.

Let’s dig in: as far as “domain expertise,” McGowan says that these individuals are basically big sports fans. That only makes sense, and is “super obvious,” as people who actually pay attention and follow sports would probably be better at making correct picks than those who do so based on which mascot would win in a hypothetical fight, or by flipping a coin.

As for grocery shopping? “A number of grocery-related attributes popped,” McGowan says. “Basically, if you shop frequently at big chain stores (grocery specific or more general), you’re more likely to be a sharp. Perhaps this is a proxy for football fans who buy lots of food for pre-game tailgates.”

You can see the numbers themselves in this chart, with folks who hit Target more than once per week or several times per month having a slight edge:

Ross-NFL-Playoff-post-chart-4

Finally, we get to luxury cars. The respondents who were fans of high-end auto brands – specifically Audi – had a significant statistical advantage over those who were not familiar with them. Here are the numbers:

Ross-NFL-Playoff-post-chart-3

One way to explain this is by thinking about simple income distributions. People who like Audi and other luxury car brands would likely skew toward the upper end of the income spectrum, whereas people who aren’t as familiar would probably have less. Taking that further, you could surmise that people with higher incomes might have more time on their hands (they’re not working two jobs, or going to school) – time with which to watch football, or pay attention to sports. But we can’t say for sure.

What we can take away from CivicScience’s efforts, in the words of McGowan, is that “higher-end, engaged consumers are more likely to follow sports and, therefore, to be able to predict sports outcomes.”

While all of this might not be of terrible importance, it does show us that there are some interesting relationships between sports, time allocation, and consumption habits. So, if you are hoping to make a winning Super Bowl pick, and take home your office’s betting pool, you might want to follow the guy who drives an Audi.

The numbers are on your side.

Check out the complete study at CivicScience.

Follow Sam on Facebook and Twitter @SliceOfGinger

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: