The Top 10 “Bandwagon” or Demanding Fans in the NFL

An analysis we have had fun with this summer involves looking at fan response to winning rates. This encompasses looking at how different fan bases respond to variations in winning. If fans only show up when the team wins, does this mean they are bandwagon fans? Or does it mean that they demand quality?  We report, you decide.

Studying which city has the most “bandwagon” or demanding fans is a challenge in the NFL. The issue is that many teams sell-out regardless of the team’s performance. How can we differentiate between the Steelers and the Packers when the stadiums are always full? As such for the NFL, we only present a top ten list of the cities with the most fair weather or discerning fans. (We looked at the last thirteen years of data for our study. For more details on our methodology, please click here.)

2014 NFL Bandwagon

The winner, or maybe that should be the loser, of this ranking is the Arizona Cardinals. These fans are most responsive to winning percentage in the NFL based on our statistical model of attendance. Arizona is followed by New Orleans, Buffalo, Oakland and Washington.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

Yahoo Sports: Cowboys, Steelers fans rank as NFL’s ‘best,’ new study finds

Yahoo Sports: Cowboys, Steelers fans rank as NFL’s ‘best,’ new study finds

The Sports Marketing Analytics project at Emory University tracks a variety of statistical measures to track fan loyalty. The project, the product of professors Mike Lewis and Manish Tripathi, has determined that the fan bases of Dallas and Pittsburgh rank at the top of two important statistical categories.

Dallas leads the way in “Fan Equity,” a metric designed to track just how much a fanbase supports its team financially. The ranking is an average of the last three years, but even so, Dallas has led in this category for five years. Rounding out the top five are the fan bases of the Patriots, Jets, Giants, and Colts.

NBA Fan Base “Personalities” – Philly Fans are Most Abusive and Unbalanced?

Note: This summer we are studying the fan quality of various sports leagues.  We have already examined MLBNHL, and College Basketball.  For Part 1 of our NBA study on Fan & Social Equity, please click here.  For Part 2 on Attendance sensitivity to wins and price, please click here.

Social media is increasingly being used as a market research tool, and we believe that it provides opportunities to develop some richer descriptions of NBA fan bases.  The foundation for today’s analysis is something known as social media sentiment.  The idea behind sentiment is that we look at the “tone” of tweets surrounding each team.  In this study, we are examining the distribution of positive versus negative tweets for each team over the past three years.

Our actual approach uses a variety of statistics used to characterize distributions (e.g. mean, variance, skewness, kurtosis, etc.…), and then we employ a technique known as cluster analysis.  We will avoid the details (feel free to contact us) but the general idea is to find teams that have similar distributions of social media sentiment.  We use cluster analysis on team social media sentiment on Twitter over the past three seasons to dynamically segment fan bases (we allow fan bases to move across clusters over time).  Perhaps, it is more accurate to describe what we are doing as segmenting the types of relationships fans have with their teams.  Do fans have unconditional love for their team?  Do they have violent mood swings?*

Based on our dynamic cluster analysis of Twitter sentiment, we are able to describe each NBA fan base.  The chart below summarizes the social media “personality” of all NBA fan bases over the past three seasons.  Please note that the summary statement for each team is our description of the Twitter sentiment based cluster.   Our decription is the least scientific aspect of all of our fan quality analyses.

NBA Twitter Personality*One caveat to this study is that since this is all based on Twitter data, the results reflect the opinions of fans on SOCIAL MEDIA only.  Also, please note that unlike our previous study of NBA social media equity that was based on the size of each team’s following, this analysis is based on sentiment or tone.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

2014 NBA Fan Quality Part 2: Demanding or Bandwagon Fans?

Note: This summer we are studying the fan quality of various sports leagues.  We have already examined MLBNHL, and College Basketball.  For Part 1 of our NBA study on Fan & Social Equity, please click here.

An analysis we have had fun with this summer involves looking at fan response to winning rates.  This encompasses looking at how different fan bases respond to variations in winning.  If fans only show up when the team wins, does this mean they are bandwagon fans?  Or does it mean that they demand quality?  We report, you decide.

We looked at the last fourteen years of data for our study.  For more details on our methodology, please click here.  Our analysis suggests that the city with the most bandwagon or demanding basketball fans is Detroit.  Pistons fans are followed by 76ers fans and Pacers fans.  At the other end of the spectrum, we have fan bases that either always or never show up, regardless of the team’s fortunes.  The Spurs fan base is the most indifferent to winning (or the most loyal, if you’re a glass half-full type).  New Orleans, Oklahoma City and the Lakers also have fans whose attendance doesn’t seem to have much to do with the team’s success.

2014 NBA Attendance Sensitivity to Wins

This summer we have also looked at the fan bases that are the most and least responsive to ticket prices.  The table below shows the five cheapest (or value-conscious) fans bases and the five that don’t seem to react to prices.

2014 NBA Attendance Sensitivity to Price

New Orleans is an interesting fan base:  indifferent to performance, but the most price sensitive in the league.  We are starting to feel very sorry for 76ers management.  Philadelphia’s basketball fans are the most demanding in terms of winning, but the least willing to pay.  Quite the dilemma!  At the other extreme, we have an interesting collection of teams.  Orlando, Portland and Atlanta also seem to have attendance that is minimally affected by average prices.  It’s an interesting list, because Portland is generally regarded as having passionate fans, while Atlanta is not.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

2014 NBA Fan Quality Part 1: Fan & Social Equity

Note: This summer we are studying the fan quality of various sports leagues.  We have already examined MLB, NHL, and College Basketball.

This week we turn our attention to analyses of the NBA fan bases.  Today, we start with our signature “Fan Equity” analysis that is based on a revenue-premium measure of brand equity.  We also include a ranking based on our “Social Media Equity” metric.  The Fan Equity measure is our gold standard because it reflects what fans are willing to spend after controlling for team performance and market potential.  In general terms, marketers are almost always better off assessing customers based on how they spend their money rather than what they say.  However, no metric is perfect, and our Fan Equity measure can definitely be criticized.  Our Social Media Equity measure, while only based on a couple of years of data, is a useful supplement to the Fan Equity measure.  The Social Media analysis allows for fans from outside the market to be counted in a team’s equity score; the social media equity measure is not constrained by capacity limitations, and team pricing strategies less influence the measure.

2014 NBA FAN EQUITYFan Equity

The winners in our 2014 Fan equity rankings are fairly consistent with the conventional wisdom.  We rank the Knicks 1st, the Lakers 2nd, the Celtics 3rd, the Bulls 4th and the Heat 5th.  The Knicks finish is largely driven by their exceptional pricing power.  The Knicks sell out while charging the highest prices in the league.  The Lakers are second in terms of pricing, and also do very well in terms of attendance.  This is indicative of exceptional fan loyalty, given that the Lakers won only 33% of their games last year.  Miami is perhaps the most intriguing team on the list.  Future years will reveal how much “Fan Equity” is owned by the Heat, and how much was temporarily contributed by LeBron James.

The next few teams on the list are where things get especially interesting.  Portland finished 6th on the list.  This finish continues to provide support for the notion that Portland is an extraordinary sports town for a small market team.  While market size is important in terms of TV deals, when leagues consider expansion Portland should not be neglected.  Cleveland’s finish is also notable.  While Cleveland has suffered in recent years, there does appear to be a solid base of support.  With great young talent and LeBron returning, this should be an fascinating story to watch.  Of course, on the downside, Cleveland fans are likely to find their loyalty rewarded with higher prices.

At the bottom of the list, we DON’T have the Atlanta Hawks!  The Memphis Grizzlies are second from the bottom.  Memphis simply doesn’t generate the revenues that they should for a team of their quality.  At the very bottom, we have the Nets.  Yes, they are in New York, and even more so in the hipster paradise of Brooklyn.  They draw and play well.  So, what is the problem?  When you compare the Nets fan support to that of other big market teams like the Knicks, Bulls and Lakers, the Nets just don’t have the pricing and drawing power that they should.

Please note that we develop our revenue forecasting models using thirteen years of data, but only use the last three years to rank Fan Equity.  We limit the Fan equity rankings to three years because while fan loyalty and brand equity are enduring, they do change over time (this is also why we don’t simply estimate fixed effects).

Social Media Equity

As we have previously noted, Social Media Equity has some advantages (and disadvantages) relative to our Fan Equity measure.  The big difference is that the social media metric isn’t constraint by prices, capacities and travel distances.  Maybe the biggest disadvantage is that we only have limited data for these calculations.  In the table below, we provide our Social Media Equity rankings, and also a ranking for the year-over-year growth rates.

2014 NBA SOCIAL EQUITY

The top teams in terms of social media equity very similar to the Fan Equity rankings.  The Lakers are 1st followed by the Bulls, Heat and Celtics.  In 5th place, however, we have the Rockets.  These rankings again show the extreme strength of the Lakers and Bulls.  The Miami results should again come with an asterisk due to the LeBron James effect.  The Rockets results suggest hope for the future.  Social media users tend to be younger and less affluent, so perhaps the Social Equity measure is more of a leading indicator of where a fan base is going.  Of the top teams, the Lakers and Bulls are at the top and growing while Celtics and Rockets show slowing growth.

The bottom of the list includes the Pistons, Grizzlies, Knicks, Raptors, and again in last place, the Nets.  The Knicks are the most interesting story.  While this team draws and extracts maximum prices, they may be falling behind with younger fans.  However, playing in Manhattan, we seriously doubt that this team will ever struggle with fans.

In our next post, we will examine the sensitivity of attendance (demand) to price and winning.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

2014 College Basketball Fan Equity Rankings

As we publish our ranking of college basketball fan base support across the “power” conferences (AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Big East, SEC, & PAC 12), we can already hear the abuse we are about to take on Twitter and through the media.  Our rankings are based on a statistical analysis of self-reported revenue data.  We create a statistical model of revenue as a function of team quality (winning percentage, NCAA tournament qualification, etc…) and market potential (conference affiliation, median income, area population, number of students, etc…) and then compare the model’s prediction to the self-reported revenues.  Yes, we get that this self-reported revenue data can be a bit quirky, but it’s what the schools choose to report.

The key point in the analysis is that we are looking at support after controlling for team quality.  Some of our critics seem to think that selling out a 16,000 seat arena when your team regularly wins 30 plus games and makes deep tournament runs is amazing support.  Reality check: pretty much any major school would be able to sell out under these conditions.

Our overall top 15 schools are listed in the table below.  Louisville repeats last year’s 1st place finish.  The rest of the top five are Duke, Arizona, Texas and Xavier.  Other notables include Kentucky in 7th, North Carolina in 11th and Indiana in 12thWe fully realize that Kentucky fans will once again be incensed by these rankings. 

2014 CBB Fan Equity

Strictly speaking, the fan equity rankings are probably most appropriately done within each conference due to conference revenue sharing, but it seemed like more fun to do a simple list of the top schools.  At the other end of the spectrum, we have the bottom finishers in each conference (based on conference affiliation in 2013-2014).  In the ACC, the data says that the worst fan base is Boston College.  In the Big Ten, Iowa is in the cellar.  The last place fan base in the Big Twelve is Baylor.  Seton Hall just beats out DePaul for last place in the Big East.  Colorado is last in the Pac 12.  In a surprise, given their recent success, it appears that Florida basketball still ranks after football and spring football as sports that the Gator nation cares about.  And finally, at the bottom of the AAC we have the Cincinnati Bearcats.

For more on the concept of fan equity, please click here and here.  For our ranking of the “non-power” conferences, please click here.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

2014 College Basketball Fan Equity: Introduction and “Non-Power” Rankings

When we evaluate college sports fan bases, we find ourselves in an altered environment from the professional leagues.  There are differences in data availability (both good and bad) and differences in structure of the leagues that must be considered.

In the case of data, for example, we do not have sources for ticket prices, and team payroll is not relevant (as of now).  However, on the plus side, we have self-reported revenue for each sport (and yes, we know that schools employ different accounting rules).

The other major issue is that of league structure.  While Division I college basketball operates as a singular entity for the purposes of championships, revenue sharing for basketball and football occurs at the level of the conferences.  This makes it a bit tricky to compare schools across conferences since a bottom tier school in a power conference starts out with significant revenue, while a non-power conference school has to earn their own keep.  For example, if we don’t adjust for conference membership, Northwestern ranks as a top five fan equity team simply because their Big Ten shared revenues are by themselves a phenomenal haul for a team of Northwestern’s quality.

Because of this conference issue, we prefer to report our fan equity rankings at the conference level rather than a single ranking for all D-1 teams.  Today we begin with the “non-power” conference teams.  For the purposes of college basketball, we are identifying the “power” conferences as: AAC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, SEC, & PAC-12.  Our top ten teams are based on the last 3 years (for our statistical analysis we use all data since 2001 but for the rankings we use team results for the last 3 years).  The rankings reflect the conference the team played in during the 2013-2014 season.

The top ten “non-power” conferences rankings are given below.  The number 1 fan base was Dayton.  The Flyers were followed by Gonzaga and UNLV.

2014 Fan Equity Non Power

When we do these rankings we always have to make the point that our estimates of fan base quality are based on fan support AFTER controlling for team quality and market potential.  Therefore a team like Duquesne can still make the list because the fan support is very good despite the team struggling on the court.

At the other end of the scale, the bottom 10 teams in terms of fan equity are given below.  The team with the worst fan support in all of D-1 college basketball is UNC Greensboro.

2014 Worst Fan Equity Non Power

We can also evaluate which teams are trending upward and which are falling fast.  We do this by comparing the fan equity for the first three years of our data with the last 3 years.  This analysis is important because it speaks to which coaches and athletic directors have been the most successful.  At the “non-power” conference level, this list might be a good place for major schools to search for coaches and athletic directors.  Unlike  the traditional approach of just looking at winning or losing, this change metric speaks to the creation of “economic value” while controlling for factors such as team tradition, investment, capacity and other fixed factors for which sports executives should not get credit (or blame).

2014 Risers Non power

The biggest risers in the non-power conferences include Gonzaga, Kent State, Dayton, Northern Iowa and Nevada.

In terms of moving in the wrong direction, Montana & Florida A&M had the biggest drop in fan equity.

For more on the concept of fan equity, please click here and here.  In our next post, we will examine the fan equity rankings for the “power” conferences.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory 2014.    

AdWeek: Tim Howard Talks About the Perfect Brand Partner

AdWeek: Tim Howard Talks About the Perfect Brand Partner

As for Howard, “Tim can make some money in the U.S. I wouldn’t call it a big payday compared to other athletes,” says Paul Danforth, head of global sales at CAA Sports. Manish Tripathi, a marketing professor at Emory University who focuses on sports, advises Howard to “make deals as soon as possible. Once the World Cup ends, the enthusiasm will wane. Think Landon Donovan after he had the big goal against Algeria in the last World Cup.”