For part 2 of our analyses of MLB fan bases, we change direction and focus on fan response to team performance and pricing. These analyses complement the analyses of fan equity by drilling down a bit, and considering how demanding fans are of their teams. We develop our fan sensitivity rankings using statistical models of consumer demand (attendance). These models are built to estimate team-level response to price and winning percentage. We use data from 1998 to 2013. For more on our methodology, please click here.
Our first analysis looks at the responsiveness of fan demand to team winning percentage. This can be thought of as a measure of how demanding fans are of their teams. In other words, we are looking at the tolerances fan bases have for losing (or maybe we could view this as insight into which cities are the most prone to bandwagon behavior).
The most demanding MLB fans live in Philadelphia. This fits the stereotype of Philadelphia fans as aggressive, demanding fans that are willing to cheer injuries and boo Santa. The numbers say that Philadelphia fans require their team to perform or they won’t show up. Following the Phillies are the fans of Baltimore, Oakland, the White Sox, Detroit and Cleveland.
At the other extreme, the teams with fans that are the least sensitive to winning rates are the Yankees, Cardinals, Marlins, Red Sox and Diamondbacks. This group of non-demanding fans bases probably includes two types. We have the loyal and passionate fans of the Yankees, Cardinal and Red Sox. But, we probably also have the apathetic fans of the Marlins and the Diamondbacks.
Our second analysis examines the relationship between average ticket prices and attendance. This analysis is focused on the degree to which fan bases are sensitive (or insensitive) to high ticket prices. We should point out that the analysis of price sensitivity in sports is a tough issue (so the results should be taken with a grain of salt). We are using average prices in the analysis. Given the range of prices within a stadium, this is debatable assumption. But it’s the best data we have access to, and we’re all friends, so why not.
We find that the most price sensitive fans live in Arizona, Cleveland, Baltimore, Seattle, Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Frankly, we are not sure what to make of this list. Several of the cities are located in warm weather cities (which seems to reduce fan interest). Cleveland and Baltimore are older cities and Seattle is a vibrant city in the Pacific Northwest.
At the other extreme, we have Milwaukee, Anaheim, Minnesota, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Perhaps these cities should raise prices. The case of Philadelphia is especially interesting given that Phillies fans are also the most sensitive to winning. It seems the Phillies should charge more and use the funds to invest in players.
The Brewers are another fascinating case. This team does well in social media equity and the fans don’t seem to be very price sensitive. This seems to be a team that is rapidly developing a highly loyal following.
Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.