“Locally, the support is still there; people are still paying to go watch the team,” Tripathi said, “but on a national level, there has been a bit of a hit on the brand. That’s manifesting in the decline in sales of merchandise.”
Over the last two weeks, we have been reporting our football fan base rankings conference by conference. Today, we turn to our overall ranking. We started the list with an analysis of the brand/customer equity of the major conferences. The Big Ten and the SEC are the leading conferences largely because they have strong TV deals. That being said, the number one team on our list is not a member of either the Big Ten or the SEC.
Number one on the list is the University of Texas. The Longhorns have some built in advantages that make it such a powerhouse. Texas is the flagship school in a highly populated state with an incredible football culture. Texas is also interesting because it is such a frequent target in realignment discussions. Texas would bring the most valuable fan base to any conference. In fact, Texas football is such a valuable property that we doubt that they will move anytime soon. Texas is a strong enough brand to keep the Big Twelve a viable conference. This means that Texas has an immense amount of bargaining power within the Big Twelve; which would be lost in a move to the Big Ten or the SEC.
Number 2 on the list is a bit of a surprise. Based on the numbers, we found Georgia to have the second highest customer equity. We go into more detail about Georgia football in our SEC writeup.
Number three on the list is the Big Ten’s Ohio State Buckeyes. Ohio State has many of the same advantages as Texas, as they are the flagship school in a highly populated and football crazy state.
Numbers 4 and 5 on the list also hail from the Big Ten. We have Penn State in 4th place and Michigan in 5th. These are two interesting cases, since PSU is obviously in a transitional stage, and may fade a bit over the next couple of years, while Michigan is making moves to become even more profitable. In positions 6 through 8, we have Alabama, Auburn and Florida. Our rankings seem to confirm that the SEC and Big Ten are college football’s top conferences.
The 9th place team is one that we haven’t talked about in any of our previous rankings, Notre Dame. Our guess is that Notre Dame fans will feel slighted by their 9th place ranking. But, at the end of the day, our approach is driven by a combination of revenue and team quality data. What we find is that Notre Dame is a great college football brand, but far from the dominant brand their fans believe it to be.
In tenth place we have the lone West Coast team in the rankings. The Washington Huskies were the surprise leader in the Pac 12, beating out teams like USC and Oregon.
Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.
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.
As a conference, the Big 10 finished second only to the SEC in overall football brand equity. The conference added Nebraska in 2011, and will add Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. The Big Ten has been very successful at creating a network that capitalizes on the appeal of its members. This fan appeal is also manifested in the top three schools in our rankings; all three schools have football stadiums with capacities over 100,000, and are regularly sold out.
The Ohio State University finished in first place in our ranking of Big 10 fan bases. In the ten year period of our study, the Buckeyes averaged 2.5 more wins per season than Penn State and Michigan, but also generated 20% more revenue. Remarkably, Ohio State made this revenue with fewer fans in attendance, on average, than Penn State or Michigan.
Penn State very narrowly edged out Michigan for second place in our study. Over the course of the study, Penn State and Michigan averaged almost the same number of wins (Michigan had more) and football revenue per year. However, Penn State’s second place ranking may be short-lived. The last couple of years have seen a decline in attendance. This may, of course, in part be due to the recent scandal and sanctions at Penn State.
Indiana and Northwestern are at the bottom of the Big 10 fan base rankings. Indiana seems to suffer from the same issue faced by Kansas or Duke. That is, how do you build football brand equity in a “basketball school”? Northwestern is an interesting case. A comparison with in-state “rival” Illinois (ranked 8th) is quite revealing. In the period our study, Northwestern averaged 1-2 more wins per season than Illinois. However, Illinois average 88% of capacity attendance, while Northwestern averaged 62%. Illinois also produced 30% more football revenue than the Wildcats.
Michael Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.