Note: We have received a lot of responses to this study. For more about the specifics of the study and answers to common questions, click here.
One of the core concepts we work with at Emory Sports Marketing Analytics is brand equity. Brand equity is basically the advantage that a firm has over its competitors due to their brand being better known and having more loyal followers. In the realm of sports, brand equity can be thought of as capturing the size and intensity of a team’s fan base. As the NBA playoffs proceed to their climax this year, we decided to examine the brand equity of all 30 NBA franchises (for a similar analysis of NCAA basketball click here).
A quick Google search shows several other rankings of fan base quality (links below). These rankings are largely based on consumer surveys or opinion. In contrast, our method uses statistical models of team revenue results to measure which fan base best votes with their wallets. Basically, what we do is estimate a statistical model of team box office revenues as a function of the team’s winning percentage, team payroll, market population, arena capacity, number of all-stars, and other factors that capture the quality of the team’s product and revenue potential in a given year.
Home Revenue = f(win%, Payroll, Market Population, etc…)
We then compare team’s actual home revenue with predictions from our model to discern teams that out- or under-perform.* We call this quantity “Fan Equity.”
Fan Equity = Reported Home Revenue – Predicted Home Revenue
For the 2013 regular season, we find that the New York Knicks have the top ranked fan base. The Knicks are followed by Chicago, Boston, Portland and Dallas. Of these, Portland is probably the most interesting case. A quick look at attendance data from ESPN shows that the Trail Blazers regularly exceed capacity for entire seasons. Portland is a small market, but a market with passionate and supportive fans. Portland also likely does well because they are the only “pro” game in town.
At the other extreme, we find that the Brooklyn Nets, the Atlanta Hawks and the Detroit Pistons are the greatest underperformers. To reiterate, our method basically suggests that these teams should be making more revenues based on their markets and on-court performance. The Brooklyn Nets are a fascinating example, given the hype that surrounded the move to Brooklyn, and Jay-Zs “ownership.” While the Nets finished dead last in our rankings, if we look at year over year changes we do see signs of life. In terms of year-to-year changes, the Nets had the 5th greatest improvement from 2012 to 2013 (even though their overall ranking did not change).
On a local level, we find that the Atlanta Hawks have very little fan support. This comes as little surprise to folks from the South (aka SEC territory). Atlanta as a city has the reputation of a place where everyone is from somewhere else. This is probably a critical factor as a great deal of fan loyalty is built as fans grow up watching the home team.
*As with any analysis of this type, it is possible to quibble with assumptions. For example, our method does not consider television revenues or that some cities have a greater corporate presence.
Links to other rankings of fan base quality:
Ranker.com on Teams with the Best Crowds (Golden State #1)
Forbes Study of Loyal Fans (Miami #1)
Bleacher Report on Best Fan Bases (Chicago #1)
Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.