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.

Documenting the #RedskinsPride Disaster

Yesterday, the Washington Redskins organization asked their fans to tweet @SenatorReid using the hashtag “#RedskinsPride” to tell him what the team meant to them.  There are now numerous examples of how firms should let hashtag campaigns develop organically rather than try to encourage a conversation over which they have no control.  However, the Redskins organization decided to ignore common sense, and the results were predictable.

The chart below tracks the hourly Twitter mentions of “#RedskinsPride” on its primary axis, and the hourly sentiment of all tweets containing the hashtag on its secondary axis (The sentiment is indexed from 1-100, with 100 being the most positive).

#RedskinsPride

While the chart provides a nice overall view of what happened yesterday, it is interesting to see how the hashtag campaign evolved over time and geography.  The table below describes the evolution:

#RedskinsPride Chart

We should note that while a lot of the tweets came from outside of the Metropolitan DC area, even the tweets originating from DC, VA, and MD tended to be more negative than positive.

Manish Tripathi & Mike Lewis, Emory University 2014.

Twitter Analysis: Which NFL Markets Are Most and Least Receptive to Michael Sam?

Top Twitter Michael SamMichael Sam’s announcement has engendered several reports in the media regarding how accepting NFL management and players would be to an openly gay player.  We were interested in looking at how the fans in NFL cities feel about Michael Sam.  In order to do this, we collected all tweets mentioning “Michael Sam” in the 31 NFL markets for the past 2 days (2/9 morning – 2/11 morning).  The tweets were sorted by market, and analyzed for positive, negative, or neutral sentiment.  Looking at the ratio of positive, negative, and neutral tweets allowed us to compare Twitter sentiment for Michael Sam across NFL Markets.

We present the top ten and the bottom seven markets in the NFL.  It is interesting to note that a lot of the tweets in St. Louis and Kansas City that mention Michael Sam also reference the University of Missouri.  The most negative Twitter sentiment toward Michael Sam seems to be in the Nashville market. Worst Twitter Michael Sam

Michael Lewis and Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014

U MAD BRO? Twitter Sentiment for NFL Teams In and Out of Their Markets

In and Out MarketAt Emory Sports Marketing Analytics, we often use Twitter as a marketing research tool that helps us understand the mood and loyalty of fan bases.  Recently, we decided to compare the sentiment of tweets about a NFL football team that originate from the team’s home market with the sentiment of tweets coming from outside the home market.  For example, are tweets mentioning the Cowboys more positive if initiated in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex than if tweeted from elsewhere;  if so, how much more positive?  Furthermore, how does this compare to the other thirty-one teams in the NFL?

In order to answer these questions, we used Topsy Pro, a platform that allowed us to collect all tweets mentioning NFL teams from June 1, 2009 to January 1, 2014.  We then sorted the tweets as originating from inside or outside the team’s market.  Next, the content of the tweets was analyzed and the tweets were marked as having positive, negative, or neutral sentiment.  Using this data, we were able to create a “sentiment” index which was simply the ratio of positive to negative tweets.  The chart above graphs the difference between the sentiment index for in-market tweets and out of market tweets for each NFL team.  The Seattle Seahawks have the biggest difference between how positively they are perceived in their home market versus outside their home market.

There are several factors that can drive this difference between in and out of market sentiment, including:

  • Polarizing team brand (e.g. Dallas Cowboys)
  • Polarizing personalities on a team (e.g. Richard Sherman & Jim Irsay)
  • Off the Field Scandals (e.g. Miami Dolphins & Kansas City Chiefs)
  • On the Field Performance (e.g. Seattle Seahawks & Houston Texans)

umadbroA deeper look at tweets mentioning the Seahawks seems to indicate that in the Seattle area, the Seahawks are beloved on Twitter due to the fact that they have been winning over the past few years, and because of outspoken personalities like Richard Sherman.  These same factors seem to be driving much of the hate for the Seahawks on Twitter outside of Seattle.  The Green Bay Packers are an exception to the factors listed above.  In the case of the Packers, their sentiment index is ridiculously high in the state of Wisconsin.  Even though they also have a high sentiment index outside of Wisconsin, it’s just that no team is close to being as beloved in their home market as the Packers.

It is interesting to note that there are teams that have more positive sentiment outside their home market than within the market.  For the Patriots, Raiders, Bears, Giants, Broncos, and Steelers, this phenomenon seems to be partially due to having a large widespread national fan base that is actually less critical of the team than the fans that still live in the home market.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

Don’t Want to Get Fired? Best and Worst Cities for Firing Professional Coaches

Mike_Shanahan_RedskinsIt’s “Black Monday” in the NFL.  The Vikings, Redskins, Lions, and Bucs have already fired their coaches today, and more firings are possible before the day is done.  There are many variables that can affect the firing of a coach in professional sports.  Of course, three easily observable factors are the performance of the coach (winning percentage, playoff appearances, and championships), the investment by the ownership (team payroll), and the sports league (NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL).   There are also intangible factors endemic to each city in America and Canada with a professional sports team that can influence the probability of a coach getting fired.

We decided to estimate a logistic regression model that could explain the probability of getting fired as a function of performance, investment by ownership, and professional league affiliation.  We looked at data from all four professional sports leagues over the last twelve years.  We then compared the predicted probability from our model of getting fired with the actual firings in each city.  In theory, cities with intangible characteristics that make it more likely for a coach to get fired would have actual firings at a higher probability than predicted through our model of performance and investment.  We tried several specifications of our model, and these rankings are robust.

Based on our study, the Top 8 Worst Cities (Highest probability for getting fired above predicted) are:

  1. Orlando
  2. San Francisco
  3. Montreal
  4. Sacramento
  5. Milwaukee
  6. Oklahoma City
  7. Jacksonville
  8. Miami

The Top 8 Best Cities (Lowest probability for getting fired below predicted) are:

  1. Winnipeg
  2. Nashville
  3. Salt Lake City
  4. Memphis
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Portland
  7. Buffalo
  8. Minneapolis

It’s interesting to note that the top 8 worst cities does not include big media markets like New York, LA or Chicago, where one might think there is large expectation for winning.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.

NFL Fan Equity: Maybe the Cowboys are America’s Team?

Note: This was originally published on August 15, 2013

The NFL is America’s favorite professional sports league, but which of its teams has the most loyal and supportive fan base?  This is not a straightforward question.  A ranking based on attendance would be skewed toward teams that play in more populated metropolitan areas, and a ranking based on profitability or revenues would be biased in favor of teams that are currently enjoying more on-field success.

In our series of fan base analyses across leagues, we adjust for these complicating factors using a revenue premium model of fan equity.  The key idea is that we look at team box office revenues relative to team on-field success, market population, stadium capacity, median income and other factors.  The first step in our procedure involves the creation of a statistical model that predicts box office revenue as a function of the aforementioned variables.  We then compare actual revenues to the revenues predicted by the model.  Teams with relatively stronger fan support will have revenues that exceed the predicted values, and teams that under perform have relatively less supportive fan bases. We provide more details on the method here and here.

The top fan base was the Dallas Cowboys.  Professor Lewis grew up a Steelers fan in the 1970s so this was a bit of a painful result.  Professor Tripathi grew up as a Redskins fan, and is terribly disturbed by the results of the study.  What are keys to the Cowboys’ ability to create a passionate and supportive fan base?  We think it’s a long legacy of success, a football mad Texas culture and a state of the art stadium.  Over the last three seasons (the time period used to calculate fan equity) the Cowboys have played sub .500 football but generated above capacity attendance (at least according to ESPN).

In positions two and three we have the New England Patriots and the New York Jets.  New England has an all-around strong fan base, while the Jets are somewhat similar to the Cowboys in that they draw consistently well, regardless of the on-field product.  In fourth and fifth place we have the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants.  The Saints are a more recent success story, but the team’s new success combined with limited professional sports options in New Orleans has created a very strong fan base.  Two New York teams in the top five is an interesting result when viewed in relation to our college football fan base analyses.  New York is (no surprise here) a pro sports town.  As an aside, we will be interested to see how much value the Big Ten gains from acquiring a foothold in the NYC market starting in 2014.

At the more unfortunate end of the scale we have a bottom five of Detroit, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Atlanta and Oakland.  Detroit, of course, suffers from a relative lack of on-field success and a struggling local economy.  But we should note that our method does explicitly control for these factors.  It may well be a matter of the Wolverines & Spartans winning the battle for fans against the Lions.  Similarly, teams like Atlanta and Tampa Bay may suffer from being located in SEC territory.

Note: Here are the first and second follow-ups to our study.  For an alternative fan ranking using “Social Media Equity,” click here.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.

NFL Fans at the “Twitter Water Cooler”

Note: This was originally published on September 4, 2013

The start of the NFL regular season is upon us.  In cities across America, NFL fans will engage in the practice of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking,” giving an analysis of their team’s performance on the previous day.  Some fans will of course be delighted after a team victory, while others will be dejected after a crushing defeat.  We decided it would be interesting to analyze how the thirty-two NFL fan bases felt the day(s) after their teams played in the regular season.  While we don’t have the ability to observe the millions of “water cooler” conversations that occur every week, we do have access to millions of Twitter conversations about NFL teams.

We used Twitter data to describe fan base reactions to team wins and losses during the sixteen-game 2012 NFL Regular season.  Our process for data collection can be illustrated with an example using the Buffalo Bills.  Imagine that the Bills played a game on a Sunday.  We recorded whether the Bills won or lost the game.  We then collected all tweets in the Buffalo area that mentioned the words “Buffalo Bills”, “Bills”, or other very frequent terms used to describe the team.  We collected the tweets from Monday (one day after the game), Tuesday (two days after the game), and Wednesday (three days after the game).  We then analyzed each tweet and characterized its content as positive or negative.  Next, we calculated the overall sentiment (roughly the indexed ratio of positive to negative tweets) of the Buffalo Bills related tweets for each of the three days.  We repeated this process for all thirty-two teams, and for all regular season games*.

The chart above displays the average sentiment of fans both after wins and losses.  The chart is based on data from the regular season for all thirty-two teams.  It is interesting to note that by three days after a win or loss, fans on average seem to either come down from their win “high” or recover significantly from their loss “low”.  While the chart above looks at all NFL fan bases in aggregate, we thought it would be interesting to classify each NFL fan base on the following dimensions**:

1)   Happiness After a Win (Highest ratio of positive to negative tweets after win)

2)   Sadness After a Loss (Lowest ratio of positive to negative tweets after loss)

3)   Stability (Least difference in positive to negative tweet ratio between after wins and after losses)

1) Happiness After a Win

The New Orleans Saints’ fans seemed to have just over a 9:1 positive to negative tweet ratio in the two days after the team won a game during 2012 regular season.  We believe that rankings on any of these dimensions are most likely driven by fan expectations (which is in part a function of past and current performance) and by the “expressiveness” of fans.  Since we are presenting descriptive statistics, and not explicitly modeling these drivers, it is tough to make a definitive statement as to why we see this particular order of teams.  Although, is anyone really surprised to see Cleveland or Oakland in the top 5?

2) Sadness After a Loss

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans seemed to take losing really badly in the 2012 season.  This could be because of fan expectations.  The Steelers finished 12-4 in 2011, but failed to make the post-season in 2012.  Early losses to the Raiders and Titans produced especially negative Twitter reaction, as did late season losses to the Browns and Bengals.

3) Stability

We measured “stability” by looking at the difference between average sentiment after wins and average sentiment after losses.  Dallas Cowboys’ fans seemed to never get too negative after losses, nor were they tremendously positive after wins.  Colts’ fans were even more understanding after a loss, but more positive on average than Cowboys’ fans after a win.  This could be due to the Colts being a young team that did not have high expectations going into the 2012 season.    The Atlanta Falcons only lost three times during the regular season, and the last loss was meaningless, as the Falcons had already secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Thus, there was very little negative reaction to the last loss.  The Philadelphia Eagles’ fan base is an interesting story.  It may be surprising to many to see them in the list of “stable” fans.   A better moniker for these fans in 2012 might be “resigned”.  It seems that as Philly began to lose more games, fans started to look forward to the next season, and a new head coach.  A majority of the fan tweets after a game were about changes for the next season, and not about the most recent loss.

The Oakland Raiders’ fan base best resembled “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” during the 2012 season.  Fans were extremely happy when the team won, and terribly negative after a loss.  The Raiders were the only team in the top 5 of the “Happy” and “Sad” fan rankings.

 

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.

*There are, of course, several caveats regarding this study.  First, while we only used tweets from the team’s geographic market, there could always be fans of other teams who may have tweeted about the local team.  Similarly, there are fans of the team that do not live in the local market, whose tweets would have been excluded.  Second, though we used terms that were associated/descriptive of the team, there are tweets related to the team that we undoubtedly excluded because they did not mention the terms we were looking for.  Third, the volume of tweets is not the same for each team.  We are confident, however, that a minimum threshold was met for each day, such that the sentiment score was not heavily influenced by a small number of tweets.  Fourth, this study is only over one year; it would be beneficial to perform a multi-year study.  Finally, there was one game in the 2012 season between the San Francisco 49ers and St Louis Rams that ended in a tie.  We have excluded that game from this analysis.  The Twitter data was collected using Topsy Pro Analytics.

**We computed each of these metrics using one day after, an average of one and two days after, and an average of the first three days after.  Since the rankings were fairly robust across these specifications, we only report the average of one and two days after the game.

Twitter Analysis: The Seat is Warm for Philbin & Shanahan

During the NFL season, columnists & “insiders” provide their speculation on coaches that are on the proverbial “hot seat”.  It seems like coaches can be on the “hot seat” before the season even starts, and they can jump on and off the seat on a weekly basis.  We assume that the columnists & “insiders” are basing their speculation on institutional knowledge.  While Emory Sports Marketing Analytics does not have access to NFL team management, we do have the ability to gauge fan/customer opinion through Twitter.  We would like to present the NFL Coaching Hot Seat from the fan perspective.

The methodology for creating our “hot seat” is straightforward.  Using Topsy Pro, we collected all tweets from the last thirty days that mention a head coach.  Each tweet was then characterized as having positive, negative, or neutral sentiment based on its content.  We computed the ratio of negative to positive tweets for each coach (e.g. If the ratio is 2, the coach has twice as many negative tweets as positive).  We believe that this ratio can serve as a proxy for public sentiment towards a coach.

A quick scan of today’s sports news shows that most columnists & “insiders” believe that Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay) and Leslie Frazier (Minnesota) are receiving the most heat from their coaching seats.  Our analysis of public sentiment over the last thirty days shows that Joe Philbin (Miami) has the highest negative to positive tweet ratio (2.47).  At a distant second is Mike Shanahan (Washington), and Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh) is in third.  Thus, it seems that if the public were making coaching decisions,  Philbin and Shanahan would be on the hottest seats!  We realize that much of the negative tweeting about Coach Philbin is probably connected to the Martin-Incognito incident, but ultimately this does reflect on Philbin’s job status.

It is interesting to note that in terms of sheer quantity of  tweets (number of mentions), Rex Ryan is the leader in the NFL over the last thirty days.  Schiano  and Philbin are second and third, respectively.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory 2013

The NFL’s Most Benevolent Owners: Atlanta Football Fans Get the Best Value, while Dallas and New England Fans Pay a Steep Price

We spend a lot of time thinking and writing about the consumer behavior of fans.  For example, our fan equity rankings provide a measure of fan loyalty that controls for factors such as team performance.  Today we take a look at the other side of the equation, by asking which NFL teams show loyalty to their fans. Specifically, our goal is to understand which teams provide the best value to fans.

Our analysis is built around a statistical model of team prices*.  The first step is to model team prices as a function of team winning percentages, stadium capacity, metropolitan area population and metropolitan area median income.  The model also includes quadratic terms and interactions between several of the variables.  We estimate the model using the last 11 seasons of data.  The second step is to compare each teams reported prices with the predicted prices from the model.  If teams price above the prediction, the implication is that the team is extracting more revenue from fans than would be expected based solely on team quality and market characteristics.  Of course, the alternative explanation is that the teams have additional knowledge of their markets that is not observable to the analyst.  But, in the course of previous analyses the point has been raised by several teams that they often price below the market in order to build fan equity.  Perhaps, a better way to describe the rankings on the left is that the teams on the top are providing the most value (bang for the buck) to fans.

The Atlanta Falcons are number one on our list.  Over the last decade, the Falcons have won 57% of their games while pricing at about 10% less than the league average.  This pricing is even more remarkable given that Atlanta is fairly large, and above average in terms of median income.  Other good values include Arizona, Carolina, Seattle and Jacksonville.

Perhaps the more interesting part of the list is at the other extreme.  This portion of the list identifies the teams that extract every last penny from fans.  At the very bottom of the list are the New England Patriots.  The Patriots have delivered a great product but they have also charged prices that are about 40% higher than average.  Second from the bottom are the Dallas Cowboys.  Over the last decade, Dallas fans have had the privilege of paying large price premiums for a very average product.  In fourth and fifth positions from the bottom, we have Tampa Bay and St Louis.  In both cases, these are relatively small market teams that have struggled on the field while charging fairly steep prices.

*Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index Data

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.

 

 

 

Tebow Fatigue?

In the past, we’ve discussed Tim Tebow in the context of the brand equity he created for the University of Florida.  With his recent departure from the New England Patriots, we thought it would be interesting to see how fans reacted to his being cut this time around (as compared to in April from the NY Jets).  The chart below simply illustrates the ratio of positive to negative tweets that mentioned “Tebow” on April 29, 2013 [when Tebow was cut from the Jets] and on August 31, 2013 [when Tebow was cut from the Pats].  The ratio dropped from 1.55 to 1.05.  Thus, while overall there were still more positive than negative tweets when Tebow was cut from the Pats, the ratio has declined dramatically from the first cut by the Jets.  There were also fewer mentions of Tebow overall.  Does this signal Tebow fatigue?

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.