Who are the best fan bases in Major League Baseball? A quick Google search of “best MLB fan bases” produces more than a million results. Specific rankings are published by entities ranging from news organizations to ticket brokers. In general, these rankings are based more on subjective opinion than data and analysis. In contrast, we take a 100% data-driven approach.
That said, we readily acknowledge that fan base analysis is a complex topic. Our core metric is something we term “fan equity.” This metric is based created using a revenue-premium model of brand equity. This model is driven by the financial support shown by fans conditional on team performance and market characteristics. This approach has significant advantages in that it is based on spending behavior and not driven by short variations in winning. But, the revenue-premium approach is not perfect. Therefore, this year we will be publishing a number of rankings (and providing descriptions of the strengths and weaknesses of each approach). Click here for an overview of each method.
Today, we present three analyses of MLB fan bases. We begin with the fan equity / revenue-premium model (based on the last three years), a trend analysis of fan equity growth over the past 15 seasons, and an analysis of each team’s social media equity.
The winners in the fan equity analysis include the Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Phillies, Cardinals and Twins. The Red Sox and Yankees placing at the top of the list is simultaneously unsurprising and interesting. It is unsurprising because these are two of the league’s most prominent teams, and interesting because the two teams are bitter rivals. The intense competition between these two teams provides an added factor that may be lacking for teams like the Cubs or the Phillies. And yes, we do know that Cardinals fans love to beat the Cubs. (Click here for more details on our methodology for fan and social equity)
At the bottom of the list, we have teams in cities with great weather (or maybe summers that are too hot) and teams that are generally regarded as number two in their markets. The bottom five are the White Sox, Angels, A’s, Mets and Rays. As an aside, how about the “Portland A’s”?
We know the winners and the losers, but fan bases are not static entities. As teams win, lose or market themselves, their fan equity evolves. As a second analysis, we examined fan equity trends over the past 15 years. This analysis revealed that MLB’s high equity teams are tending to even greater levels of fan support. In this analysis, the Yankees finished first followed by the Red Sox, Cubs, Nats, Phillies, Dodgers and Giants. This list of teams is overwhelmingly concentrated in the largest markets. At the bottom of the list, we have teams like the Diamondbacks, Indians, Orioles, Padres and Rays.
The last analysis for today is something we term social media equity. This analysis looks at each team’s social media following (again controlling for market size and winning). Social media equity is important because it is unconstrained by stadium size, unaffected by a team’s pricing decisions and provides a measure of national following. It may also be a forward looking indicator if social media participants are younger than those fans who attend games.
The social media ranking is fairly different. While the Yankees are number one, the top five also includes the Padres, Brewers, Rangers and Pirates. Perhaps, the revenue-premium measure is picking up the economics of the big markets while the social media metric is best for identifying current interest. However, the bottom of the social media list is consistent with the bottom of the fan equity list with teams like the Mets, A’s and Angels.
In our next post, we will present analyses of fan base sensitivity to winning and pricing.
Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.