Daily Knicks: “Real Fan?” “Bandwagoner” “Does it Matter?”

Daily Knicks: “Real Fan?” “Bandwagoner” “Does it Matter?”

As a result of Linsanity, people that had little to no interest in basketball became fans of the Knicks and, more importantly, fans of NBA basketball in general. I couldn’t give two craps about the “real” fan aspect during a time of when the Knicks were in dire need of a point guard that wasn’t an injured, decrepit Baron Davis. And then, when Lin left, (I’m assuming) fans of Lin and the Knicks shifted over to Houston, because their basketball hero went elsewhere, prompting people calling Knick fans some of the worst fans in the league. But, however, Emory University’s sports marketing analytics department disagree based off of the field of finances, at least.

The “Smartest” NBA Teams

In our “Smartest” Teams series we are using simple statistical models to assess which teams over and under perform on the field, floor, or ice relative to how much they spend.  Thus far we have taken a look at the NHL and MLB.  We now turn to the NBA.

These analyses are in some respects simple, as what we do is estimate linear regression models that predict team performance as a function of team fixed effects and payrolls.  We use a bit more than a decade worth of data.

Astute readers might question the use of fixed effects, since team management (GMs) may change over time, and payrolls may be a point of concern given the prevalence of guaranteed contracts.  Folks might also complain that we don’t consider player ages since rookies are given set dollar value contracts.  Our feeling is that over the course of a decade, these factors (cap management, draft position, etc…) are within the control of teams.

Moving on to the list!  The smartest team in the NBA is San Antonio.  The Spurs are followed by Oklahoma City and the Mavericks.  Houston is a notable 5th.  The top of the list looks very much like a list of successful teams with well-regarded management.

At the other end, we aren’t going to say much.  The bottom two are the Washington Bullets (we are offended by all DC team names so we are going to use whatever we like best) and at the very bottom we have the NY Knicks.  The Knicks are a fascinating team.  They charge the highest prices in the league, have won our most supportive fan base both years, and make the worst player decisions.

1 San Antonio
2 OKC
3 Dallas
4 LA Lakers
5 Houston
6 Phoenix
7 Utah
8 Denver
9 Miami
10 Detroit
11 Indiana
12 Boston
13 Chicago
14 Orlando
15 New Orleans
16 Sacramento
17 LA Clippers
18 Memphis
19 Philadelphia
20 Cleveland
21 Portland
22 Atlanta
23 Milwaukee
24 Brooklyn
25 Toronto
26 Golden State
27 Minnesota
28 Charlotte
29 Washington
30 New York

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

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.

Impact of NBA Draft Day on Social Media Following

Social Media is of course a popular medium for athletes to build their brand.  Two popular platforms are Twitter and Instagram.   I tracked the Twitter and Instagram followers for the top 100 draft prospects in the weeks leading up to the draft, and the morning after the draft.   The chart below presents the growth in followers for the lottery picks.

Akash Lottery

It is interesting to see how the following of second-round picks of the teams that had lottery picks as well was affected by the draft.  The chart below documents the social media presence of some of these players.

Akash Non LotteryNote: Gary Harris should have 35,265 Twitter followers on June 13

Guest Entry By Akash Mishra, 2014.

2014 NBA Draft Efficiency

Last night, the NBA held its annual draft.  The NBA draft is often a time for colleges to extol the success of their programs based on the number of draft picks they have produced.  Fans and programs seem to be primarily focused on the output of the draft.  Our take is a bit different, as we examine the process of taking high school talent and converting it into NBA draft picks.  In other words, we want to understand how efficient are colleges at transforming their available high school talent into NBA draft picks?  Today, we present our second annual ranking of schools based on their ability to convert talent into draft picks.

Our approach is fairly simple.  Each year, (almost) every basketball program has an incoming freshman class.  The players in the class have been evaluated by several national recruiting/ranking companies (e.g. Rivals, Scout, etc…).  In theory, these evaluations provide a measure of the player’s talent or quality*.  Each year, we also observe which players get drafted by the NBA.  Thus, we can measure conversion rates over time for each college.  Conversion rates may be indicative of the school’s ability to coach-up talent, to identify talent, or to invest in players.  These rates may also depend on the talent composition of all of the players on the team.  This last factor is particularly important from a recruiting standpoint.  Should players flock to places that other highly ranked players have selected?  Should they look for places where they have a higher probability of getting on the court quickly?  Last year, we conducted a statistical analysis (logistic regression) that included multiple factors (quality of other recruits, team winning rates, tournament success, investment in the basketball program, etc…).  But today, we will just present simple statistics related to school’s ability to produce output (NBA draft picks) as a function of input (quality of recruits).

NBA 2014 Full Draft Efficiency

Here are some questions you probably have about our methodology:

What time period does this represent?

We examined recruiting classes from 2002 to 2013 (this represents the year of graduation from high school), and NBA drafts from 2006 to 2014.  We compiled data for over 300 Division 1 colleges (over 15,000 players).

How did you compute the conversion rate?

The conversion rate for each school is defined as (Sum of draft picks for the 2006-2014 NBA Drafts)/(Weighted Recruiting Talent).  Weighted Recruiting Talent is determined by summing the recruiting “points” for each class.  These “points” are computed by weighting each recruit by the overall population average probability of being drafted for recruits at that corresponding talent level.  We are trying to control for the fact that a five-star recruit is much more likely to get drafted than a four or three-star recruit.  We are using ratings data from Rivals.com.  We index the conversion rate for the top school at 100.

Second-round picks often don’t even make the team.  What if you only considered first round picks?

We have also computed the rates using first round picks only, please see the table below.

NBA 2-14 First Round Efficiency

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

*Once again, we can already hear our friends at Duke explaining how players are rated more highly by services just because they are being recruited by Duke.  We acknowledge that it is very difficult to get a true measure of a high school player’s ability.  However, we also believe that over the last eight years, given all of the media exposure for high school athletes, this problem has attenuated.

NPR Marketplace: For NBA, courting Steve Ballmer could be a strategic move

NPR Marketplace: For NBA, courting Steve Ballmer could be a strategic move

Going forward, Emory University’s Mike Lewis says the NBA would be psyched to have a deep-pocketed guy own the Clippers.

“You know they are sort of the New York Mets or the Chicago White Sox. They are the second team in that city. I think it’s really attractive to the league to essentially have two really strong franchises in a major city like LA,” he says.

NBA Conference Finals: Spurs & Thunder Dominate Local Twitter Market

Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.  We were interested in examining the Twitter presence of both teams in their respective markets during the game.  Thus, we collected all tweets that included the word “Thunder” originating from the Oklahoma City market and all tweets that included “Spurs” originating from the San Antonio market, that were tweeted during the hours that the game was played.  We then divided the number of collected tweets by the total volume of tweets in the respective markets during the time period of the game.  This essentially gave us the “Twitter Share of Voice” for the Spurs in San Antonio and the Thunder in Oklahoma City.   11.8% of all tweets in Oklahoma City during the game included the term “Thunder”!  9.3% of all tweets in San Antonio included the term “Spurs”.  We performed a similar analysis for all other conference finals games thus far.  The results of the analysis are presented in the chart below.

Local Market Twitter Share NBA Conf Finals 2014

It seems as though tweets that mention the local team in the Western Conference Finals cities tend to have a higher Twitter Share of Voice than the Eastern Confernce Finals cities.  We can also examine the content of the team-related tweets to determine if the sentiment of the tweets is positive, negative or neutral.  The chart below presents the ratio of positive to negative sentiment for the team-related tweets in each market during the playoff games.

Local Market Twitter Sentiment Ratio NBA Conf Finals 2014So far, local market Twitter “happiness” in highest for San Antonio fans during the first game of the series, and for Oklahoma City fans during the third games of the series.  Indiana fans seem to tweeting progressively less about the Pacers, and the positive to negative tweet ratio has been decreasing as the series advances as well.

Manish Tripathi & Mike Lewis, Emory University 2014.