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.

Sweet 16 Recap: Nothing Compares to Louisville-Kentucky

As part of the Goizeuta Bracket Buzz contest, we were tasked to determine which of the 8 matchups in the Sweet Sixteen would produce the most pre-game “buzz” on Twitter.  Essentially, we looked at the 24 hour period before tip-off, and collected all tweets that mentioned either team or the match-up in that period.  The Kentucky-Louisville matchup had the most pre-game buzz.  The chart below shows the pre-game buzz for all 8 matchups (it has been indexed with Kentucky-Louisville as 100).

SweetSixteenBuzz

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University, 2014

Round of 32 Recap: Twitter Sadness in Kansas, Elation in Kentucky

As part of the Goizeuta Bracket Buzz contest, we were tasked to determine which of the 16 matchups in the Round of 32 would produce the most pre-game “buzz” on Twitter.  Essentially, we looked at the 24 hour period before tip-off, and collected all tweets that mentioned either team or the match-up in that period.  The Kentucky-Wichita State matchup had the most pre-game buzz.  The chart below shows the pre-game buzz for all 16 matchups (it has been indexed with Kentucky-Wichita State as 100).  It is interesting to note that two teams in Kansas (Kansas & Wichita State) lost this weekend, and two teams in Kentucky (Louisville & Kentucky) won.  We were interested to see if this had an impact on all (not just basketball related) Twitter activity in each state.  We compared the average sentiment and volume of tweets for the three previous weekends with the sentiment and volume of tweets this past weekend in each state.  There was a 26.5% increase in the volume of tweets in Kansas this past weekend and a 9.7% increase in the volume of tweets in Kentucky.  The sentiment (the mix of positive, negative, and neutral tweets indexed between 1 and 100) of all tweets in Kansas decreased by 4.5%!  The sentiment in Kentucky increased by 1.9%.

Round 3 Pre Game

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

The American Athletic Conference: Surprising Results that Portend a Bright Future

We are presenting a series ranking the “best” fan bases in college football.  The study uses data from the past ten years and the rankings are based on Revenue Premium Brand Equity.  For more information on the analysis/methodology, please click here.

The American Athletic Conference (AAC) is the product of conference realignment, and a fascinating story.  The former Big East schools are desperately trying to construct a league that can keep the AAC in discussion of the Power 6 conferences rather than fading back into the pack.  To some degree, our analyses suggest that the AAC has made a few good moves.  We already rank the AAC as the number five conference, and there is reason to believe that the AAC has landed several programs with bright futures.

Number one on our list of the most supportive fan bases is SMU.  This is both a surprising result, and also a result that illustrates the benefit of our approach.  While the last few seasons have seen SMU take a step forward and qualify for bowl games, over the ten years of data, the team has tended to play sub .500 football.  The fan support provided to SMU relative to the on field performance has been outstanding. This issue is best illustrated via a comparison between SMU and Cincinnati.  Over the ten year period of our analysis, SMU was a four win per year team while Cincinnati was a seven or eight win team.  However, while Cincinnati won almost double the number of games as SMU, their revenues were about 20% less.  Our interpretation of these results is that SMU has a sleeping giant of a fan base, and it would like make sense for SMU to invest heavily in their program.

In second place, we have the Memphis Tigers.  Memphis is fairly similar to SMU in that they have very solid support (30K+ attendance) for a team that has been average on the field.  It is these two programs that tell us that the AAC may have a chance to remain a major conference.  We suspect that if SMU and Memphis become on-field successes their fans will be highly supportive.

One the bottom half of our rankings, we had a couple of surprises.  We have already mentioned the issue with Cincinnati.  UCONN has generated revenues similar to SMU but these have been generated with a better performing team, and as a member of the former Big East.  Likewise, Louisville was also a bit of a surprise.  And again, the issue was that the fan support is just not what we should suspect given the Cardinals’ on-field success.  The Louisville story is also interesting because in our analysis of the brand equity of college basketball teams, Louisville finished number one overall.  The UConn and Louisville results suggest that it is a challenge to build fan equity in football when you are historically a basketball school.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.

PREVIOUS: RANKING THE ACC

NEXT: RANKING THE BIG 12


The Best Fan Bases in Big East

Our series on the Best Fan Bases in college basketball concludes looking at the BCS Conferences with an examination of the Big East Conference from 2001 to 2011.  The Louisville Cardinals are on top, followed by the Syracuse Orange and the Marquette Golden Eagles.  Seton Hall and DePaul are on the bottom of the rankings.  (Note: For additional information on our methodology, click here)

Louisville, Syracuse, and Marquette are the top three in the Big East, but also in our overall top ten.  These three schools all have excellent attendance and revenue per seat, regardless of team performance.

It’s worth pointing out a couple of the teams near the bottom of the rankings.  The Georgetown Hoyas finished 13th in the rankings, which may be surprising to college basketball fans.  While Georgetown has enjoyed some on-court success in the past decade, their home attendance has been unremarkable.  In the 2006-2007 season, Georgetown won 30 games and went to the Final Four.  However, their average home attendance was barely over 50% of capacity that season.  This may be partially explained by the Hoyas playing in an arena with capacity over 20,000, but having a relatively small student body.

DePaul finished last in our Big East fan rankings.  DePaul suffers from playing in a large arena (17,500) that is located far from campus.  Performance, attendance, and revenue per seat have all been atrocious for DePaul.

College Basketball Recruiting and the Best Fan Bases

For Big Ten rankings and a note on our methodology please click here.

For PAC-12 rankings please click here.

For ACC rankings please click here.

For Big 12 rankings please click here.

For SEC rankings please click here.

For Big East rankings please click here.

For the Best of the Rest click here.

While the college basketball season is far away, there are a number of interesting college basketball stories this summer.  Our plan for June is to focus on college basketball issues.  Our main focus will be on topics related to recruiting.

Our starting point, and the subject of today’s post, is a study of college basketball’s best fan bases.  We posted this originally as we launched the site (so very few folks have seen the results).  Fan bases relate to recruiting because they indicate enduring support from the fan base.  We will follow this analysis of fan base quality with more commentary related to the Ed O’Bannon case, and then data on which schools produce the most NBA players after adjusting for recruiting success.

For our College Basketball Fan Equity analysis we use a “Revenue Premium” method.  The intuition of this approach is that fan base quality is reflected in a school’s men’s basketball revenue relative to the team’s performance. To accomplish our analysis, we use a statistical model that predicts team revenues as a function of the team’s performance, as measured by winning rates and post season success.  The key insight is that when a team achieves revenues that greatly exceed what would be expected based on team performance, it is an indication of significant brand equity. The analysis therefore avoids bandwagon effects and gets at the core loyal fan bases.

 

The table provides the top ten overall schools.  Number one on the list also happens to be the most recent NCAA champion Louisville (note these ranking were computed prior to this past tournament).  Louisville scores so well because they have a great tradition, and play in a decent sized metropolitan area that does not have any pro teams.  The list does include many of the usual suspects such as Arizona, Duke and North Carolina.  How does this relate to recruiting?  Simple, strong fan bases equate to strong and high profile programs.  If an athlete wants exposure and opportunities to play on a big stage, then it makes sense to seek out a high brand equity program.  Of course, if the goal is to make it to the NBA, then this may or may not be the best strategy (we will get to this point as the NBA draft approaches).

One possible point of controversy is that Arkansas rates higher than Kentucky.  The key is that while both Arkansas and Kentucky receive outstanding support, Arkansas’ support occurs despite less on-court success.  The other possible interpretation is that Kentucky tends to underprice and may collect less revenues than possible.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

Winners, Losers, and Question Marks from the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament

Later tonight, the NCAA championship game between Michigan and Louisville will tipoff in the Georgia Dome.  Even though a champion has yet to be crowned, we can begin to make some judgments regarding the marketing winners, losers, and questions marks of this year’s tournament.  Before we provide our thoughts, please note that tournament success will usually result in greater publicity, fan loyalty, and all the spoils that come with brand equity (think Apple or BMW).

The two teams in the championship game are both interesting stories.  Louisville is a marketing monster, and enjoys the greatest “revenue premium” relative to on-court performance, but Michigan is another story.  Michigan performs poorly on our brand equity metric because history shows that Michigan needs to win consistently to keep the arena packed.  Anecdotally, we had to explain this poor brand equity finding to a distinguished University of Michigan business school professor, who pointed at this year’s excitement as an indicator of fan loyalty.  Given that this was a UM professor, we had to explain using small words, that true fan loyalty means that the fans even show up in down years.

For the two teams in the championship, Louisville is a clear brand equity winner, as they will continue to lengthen their lead on the competition; but the jury is still out on Michigan.  The only potential losers in the Louisville family are the Louisville fans that could be asked to pay higher prices.  As a frustrated University of Illinois fan, Professor Lewis would view this as a very small sacrifice for basketball success.

Michigan faces the challenge of all football schools: the year consists of the football season, spring football, and the remainder is perhaps a tossup between basketball season and football recruiting.  For Michigan to create true basketball brand equity, the school needs to sustain success.  While Coach Beilein’s history suggests this is likely, Michigan could lose multiple underclassmen to the NBA draft.

Two schools that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament also offer an education comparison.  Tubby Smith failed to make the tournament, and was replaced by Rick Patino’s son, Richard.  Given Minnesota’s high level of brand equity (2nd in the Big Ten), this was likely a decision to protect the brand by trying to bring in a dynamic young recruiter.  The most notable team to fail to make the tournament was last year’s winner, the Kentucky Wildcats.  The Emory Sports Marketing Science Initiative makes no pronouncements about Kentucky.  I think we can all agree that Kentucky and Coach Calipari have developed a new and unique business model.

March Madness is known for its Cinderellas.  This year’s top two Cinderella stories were the Wichita State Shockers and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.  Our assessment is that Wichita State was the BIG winner.  Not only did the Shockers reach the magical level of the Final Four, but also, at least as of now, Coach Marshall is sticking around.  For a mid-major to build equity, the school needs to sustain success beyond that achieved by an individual coach.  This last point brings us to FGCU.  By his hitting the exit for USC with amazing haste, it is likely that any fan excitement created by reaching the Sweet 16 has left the state of Florida with Andy Enfield.