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.

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.

Ranking American Sports Cities: The Top “One Team” Markets – Candidates for Expansion Teams?

Over the last 9 months we have looked at fan support across the 4 major US professional sports leagues using a variety of financial and social media metrics.  The thing that sets our  evaluations of fan support apart is that we focus on observable, objective measures of support AND we control for factors related to market size and team quality.  Our measures are therefore not biased towards large cities and we adjust for the bandwagon nature of fans in markets with teams that are currently winning.

To end the year, we are putting all of these rankings together in order to create a ranking of cities.  For this list we combine our revenue premium based fan equity measure with our social media measure.  To combine these we assume that a social media follower or like is worth $1.  Today we begin our list of the best and worst one team sport towns (cities that have a professional team in only one of the four major sports).  The set of single team sports towns includes Columbus, Jacksonville, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and San Antonio.

#1 Portland

The number one small market (only one professional team) sports city is Portland.  Portland provides exceptional support to the Trail Blazers.  In terms of the fan equity measure the Trail Blazers ranked 4th in the NBA and the social media ranking was 11th.

According to the US Census, the Portland metropolitan area is the 24th largest with a population of almost 2.3 million.  But despite this mid-level population base the Trail Blazers had the 4th highest attendance in the NBA last season and the second highest in 2012.  Notably, this support occurred despite the team missing the playoffs in each season.  The attendance also was NOT generated by deep discounts as the Trail Blazers price at just below the league average.

Our analysis suggests that the Portland market has a great deal of potential.  The population base is decent, median income is above average and the fans seem to be extremely supportive.  We know that there has been some interest in trying to attract an MLB team to Portland.  With the number of struggling franchises across all the major leagues, it is somewhat surprising to us that Portland isn’t mentioned more frequently.

#2 Sacramento

The Sacramento market’s 2nd place ranking was a bit of a surprise.  Sacramento just doesn’t ever seem to be top of mind when we think about sports cities.  The most recent time Sacramento has really been in the news was during the controversy surrounding the proposed sale of the team to a Seattle based group.

The Kings have struggled in recent years.  The last two years’ annual attendance rankings have been 30th and 27th.  But we need to consider that these attendance numbers have occurred in seasons when the team has played well below .500 basketball.  If we go back a few years to when the Kings were winning, the team was able to generate consistent sell-outs.  When we run our analysis over a ten year period the Kings end up with a fan equity ranking of 6thWhat this means is that Sacramento fans are well above average in terms of supporting their team.  If the Kings are reasonably successful then our data suggests that the fans will turn out.

The Sacramento market has a population of more than 2 million and a respectable median income of more than $46,000.  These demographics are favorable to many small markets so it is a bit surprising that Sacramento has been in danger of becoming a “zero” team market.

#3 Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is our number three “one sport” city.  Salt Lake City is a small market with a population of just 1.1 million but the metro area’s median income is a solid $48K (ranking 21st).

The Jazz rank 11th in our NBA fan equity ranking and 19th in the social media ranking.  These rankings are not surprising.  The Jazz has been a very successful franchise with notable players such as John Stockton and Karl Malone.  But recent seasons may not be meeting fan expectations causing the relatively poor social media results.

Based on the metro area population we don’t know that the city could support multiple pro franchises but Salt Lake City is a tremendous “one sport” city.

#4 San Antonio

Now we are getting into the “good” one team cities, but my guess is that folks in San Antonio will be upset by a 4th place finish.  This is the beauty (or enraging) part of our rankings.  When we assess revenue or social media we explicitly control for team performance.  This is important because it is obviously easier and more enjoyable to be a fan of a team that is winning.  It is also likely that fans are willing to pay more for a winning team.  The goal of our rankings is to get at the underlying passion and support of each city’s fans.

The Spurs ranked 10th in our NBA fan equity measure and only 24th in social media.  This is a very solid showing on the fan equity metric.  In terms of social media, San Antonio is an under performer. Based on the San Antonio market’s demographics and the Spurs on-court success our model suggests that the Spurs should have an additional 1.7 million Facebook Likes and Twitter followers.  In other words, in comparison to other NBA teams’ social media communities the Spurs fall short of what is expected for a market with San Antonio’s population and the Spurs’ winning rate.

#5 Orlando

The number 5 city on the list is Orlando.  While many observers might question the intensity of the Magic fans, the numbers tell an interesting  story.  For example, last season the Magic won only 24% of their games.  However, despite this futility, the team reported a 93.4% attendance rate.

Orlando also has a relatively rich history for a newer team. In addition to two conference titles, the team has featured notable players such as Shaquille O’Neal, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard.

Within the NBA, the Magic rank 17th in terms of fan equity and 21st in social media equity.  As we noted below, Florida teams tend to struggle in our rankings.  Demographically Orlando is a decent market with a population of over 2.2 million.  However, while the Magic doesn’t compete with other pro teams, the Magic does face tough competition. In the case of Orlando, pro sports compete with the weather, golf and the mouse.

#6 Oklahoma City

Oklahoma at number 6 may be a bit of a surprise. The Thunder has enjoyed recent success, Kevin Durant is a marquee player and over the past few years the team has usually played  before a packed arena.  But the sellouts have only been achieved as the team has become a winner.

Our analysis explicitly controls for bandwagon fans.  After controlling for winning percentage and market characteristics we find that the Thunder ranks 19th in terms of revenue based fan equity and 15th in social media equity.

From a marketing perspective, the Oklahoma City NBA franchise made an interesting decision to drop ties to the team’s previous incarnation.  Typically, the belief is that the previous brand contains some value.  By keeping names like the Jazz or Colts some connection to historical achievements is often retained. We should note that we don’t know why the Sonics name was dropped – perhaps this was negotiated with the city of Seattle.

On the plus side, our analyses also confirm that the key to building fan equity is a tradition of winning.  The Thunder has not gotten over the hump but they have made strides.  We also suspect that the social media results are a leading indicator for fan equity.   

#7 Columbus

Columbus finishes #7 on the list of one team towns.  Columbus is the 32nd largest metropolitan area by population and the 57th ranked based on median income.  In terms of our rankings the Blue Jackets ranked 23rd in the NHL based on revenue premium based fan equity and 29th for social media equity.

The Blue Jackets were founded in 2000 and they therefore lack the multi-generation history of other franchises.  The team has also struggled on the ice as it took 9 years for the team to reach the NHL playoffs.  As such it’s not surprising that Blue Jackets are below average in terms of fan support.  Of course, the real issue with the Columbus market is that it is dominated by Ohio State sports.

#8 Jacksonville

The state of Florida is an interesting situation for professional leagues.  The state population has boomed and college sports have great following.  However, almost all professional franchises have struggled and many believe that the pro leagues have created too many Florida teams.  In terms of key demographics, Jacksonville ranks 82 in median income and 40th in population.  This is a bad combination of population and income given that the average ticket price in the NFL exceeds $80.

Within the NFL, the Jaguars ranked 27th in terms of revenue premium based fan equity but the team did score a much healthier ranking of 17th for our social media measure. It’s not surprising that Jacksonville ranks low as a market given these marginal demographics, a lack of franchise history and stiff competition from college teams. 

On the plus side, Tebow is still available.

#9 Memphis

In last place on our list we have the city of Memphis.  The Grizzlies are the only pro game in town.  Within our NBA rankings the Grizzlies were ranked 25th in terms of revenue premium based brand equity and 20th in terms of social media equity.  Of the nine onesport markets, Memphis was ranked last in terms of revenue premium equity and 7th for social media equity.

Memphis as a market has some natural disadvantages for teams in terms of population base (ranked number #41) and income levels (ranked number 104).  But even after controlling for these factors Memphis fans support levels are well below the levels provided by other cities.  For example, the Grizzlies average ticket price of $29.49 is far less than the league average of $50.99).  Even at these low levels attendance has been poor.  Despite winning 56% of games in the 2010-2011 season, the Grizzlies only sold 74.4% of their available seats (ESPN.com).  It was only last year when the Grizzlies broke the 90% capacity utilization rate and the team needed to win 68% of its game to do that well.  In comparison, Orlando sold about 94% of seats with a winning percentage of 24%.  In terms of social media, the Grizzlies have just over 407,000 Facebook Likes compared to Portland with 550,000 and Oklahoma City with about 2.3 million.  For reference the Lakers have 17 million Facebook Likes.

But while Memphis ranks last on our list, there are a few positive indicators.  Last year was the team’s most successful season and ESPN has ranked the Grizzlies organization as the top professional franchise.  It is also true that the Grizzlies have only been in Memphis since 2001.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.

NHL Pricing: A Social Media Based Approach to Assessing Ticket Pricing “Fairness”

Of late we have been looking at value provided by sports franchises in different leagues.  For most of these analyses, we have basically focused on how much fans are asked to pay for each win.  We also make adjustments for factors related to market size, median income and capacity.  Today’s analysis looks at pricing in the NHL.

Of all the pricing analyses we have done, the NHL is the strangest.  The most surprising result is a lack of a positive correlation between winning rates and ticket prices.  Our standard procedure is to develop a model that predicts ticket prices as a function of winning percentage, payroll, market size, median income and other factors that we would expect to be related to demand for tickets.  We do a lot of testing in these models in terms of evaluating different specifications (interactions, nonlinear effects, etc…). In none of these specifications did we find a significant positive relationship between winning rates and prices.  The most powerful predictor was median income.

The other thing that we have been experimenting with in these models is using social media data as an explanatory variable.  The logic is that social media metrics (follows and likes) provide an unconstrained measure of fan support.  This provides a means to assess the relative aggressiveness of how team’s price.

Something to consider in these pricing analysis is the question of how prices are set.  At one extreme, we might suppose that prices are set in order to maximize revenues.  This is a reasonable starting assumption but the implication is that teams are extracting every dollar possible.  On the other hand, teams may price below fan’s reservation prices if the team is trying to build brand loyalty.  The key point is that while consumers might be willing to pay very high prices, if they don’t view the prices as “fair” then loyalty can be adversely affected.  Perhaps the best way to look at our list is that the teams at one extreme price the least aggressively (most benevolently?) while the teams at the other extreme are trying to extract every dollar they can from their fans.

At the top of the list we have Ottawa, Dallas, Boston, San Jose and Chicago.  After adjusting for market sizes, income levels and social media presences we find that these teams underprice. This is an interesting list as it contains both high brand equity teams like the Blackhawks and the Bruins as well as less prominent teams like Dallas and San Jose.  It is also notable that the Blackhawks and Bruins price above the league average while Dallas and Ottawa price near the bottom.  Interestingly, over the past 3 years Ottawa has basically sold out its arena.  The implication is that Ottawa (and the other teams on the list) could likely impose a price increase without too much loss of demand).

At the other extreme we have Philadelphia, Florida, Winnipeg, Toronto and Edmonton.  Again, this list contains both high (Toronto, Philly) and low profile teams (Florida).  Toronto is especially notable as they charge by far the highest prices in the league.  Winnipeg’s price are also extreme as they price higher (according to Team Marketing Report) than teams in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.

NBA Pricing: Teams that Provide the Best Value

Today we are taking a look at pricing in the NBA: according to the Team Market Report’s fan cost index there is a wide range of prices across the league.  Last year, the Knicks had the highest average price at $123.22 while Charlotte’s average was just $29.27.  Rather than compare raw prices our objective is to look at the value provided by teams.

For our first look at value, we created a model of average prices as a function of variables such as team winning percentage, team payroll, metro area population and metro area average income.  This model is used to predict how team and market quality influence ticket prices.  A comparison of actual prices to predicted prices tells us which teams provide the best value.  This is along the lines of looking at the ratio of price to wins but with a bit more sophistication as we also control for factors such as market size and star power.

Astute readers will likely realize that this analysis is somewhat related to our fan equity rankings.  A key assumption of that analysis was that teams price in order to maximize revenue.  Today’s analysis can be interpreted in two ways: teams that price under the market are pricing low either because they are not trying to maximize revenue or because they are mispricing.  For now, we will just say that teams that price below market (according to the model) are providing added-value value.

Over the last 3 years, the top 5 teams in terms of value are the Brooklyn Nets, LA Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies and Washington Bullets.  These teams provide the best product in terms of winning relative to their market positions.  At the other end of the spectrum are the Knicks, Celtics and Suns seem to be the most overpriced.

Obviously, we have an issue in that the value provided is negatively correlated with brand equity since the Knicks and Celtics are two of the league’s most prominent brands while the Clippers and Hawks are not.  As a further look into pricing we performed an additional analysis, which was similar to the first pricing model but we added social media data (Twitter Follows and Facebook Likes) to the model.  These measures are useful because they are largely independent of owner’s objective functions and observable fan interest is not constrained by prices or capacity.  We also included an interaction between social media success and market size.  We like this model a bit better because it accounts for fan interest and excitement in addition to team and market quality.

When we use this model to compare actual vs. predicted prices we see a few changes.  Now Memphis is the best value followed by Brooklyn, Indianapolis, Charlotte and New Orleans.  Including social media into the model makes the biggest difference in the results for the Bulls and the Lakers.  These teams appear to be underexploiting their brand equity when it comes to pricing.  According to ESPN, both teams have had attendance levels of over 99% of capacity for the past three seasons so it seems that price increases are doable.  Ticket pricing is tough in sports because observable demand is constrained, but it appears that these teams have more pricing power than they realize.  It is also difficult to reach conclusions based on average ticket prices.  As we all know there is considerable heterogeneity in prices based on seat quality.

As always, no analysis is perfect and there are factors that we don’t capture in the market.  For example, perhaps in the case of the Knicks the team has additional pricing power because fans are willing to buy during down cycles in order to insure tickets during winning years.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.

Social Media Equity: The NBA

A challenge in evaluating fan bases in professional and college sports is how to adjust for capacity constraints.  Unlike most consumer categories, teams have a limited number of seats to sell.  One way to get around this issue is to look at team revenues.  But this approach also has some strong implicit assumptions in that we must assume that teams are trying to price in a manner that maximizes revenue.

The world of social media provides an opportunity to look at fan base support without worrying about capacity or pricing issues.  To look at NBA teams “social media equity” we collected follows and likes from Twitter and Facebook.  We then created a statistical model that predicts these measures of social media engagement as a function of market size, tweeting activity and team performance for this past season and for the season before that.  We then compared each team’s actual follows and likes against the model predictions.  This method attempts to control for short term fluctuations in winning percentage and market differences.

The top team in terms of social media equity is the LA Lakers.  The Lakers crush the competition both in terms of raw numbers and in our model.  In second place, we have the Miami Heat.  This one is interesting, and we suspect that the Heat results may be a bit misleading.  While the Heat does very well currently it is not possible to separate out how much of the social media equity is driven by the team versus by LeBron.  This is something to watch as we collect more social media data over the next few years.  In third place, we have another non-surprising result in the Celtics.

It is the next three teams that are surprising as Golden State ranks 5th, New Orleans ranks 6th, and Charlotte ranks 4th.  The case of Charlotte illustrates the value of our model based approach.  In absolute terms, Charlotte performs relatively poorly in terms of social media metrics.  However, when we adjust for team performance and market size, the team does fairly well.  This indicates that the Charlotte market has fairly resilient fans, and likely speaks to the potential of the market if a consistent winning team is developed.

At the bottom of the list, the most surprising result is the New York Knicks’ 27th place finish.  This is doubly interesting because when we ranked fan bases in terms of “economic” support, the Knicks were number one.  What these two results imply is that the Knicks’ fan base is economically valuable but not engaged (at least in terms of social media).  The Knicks play in the largest market but have only about 20% of the social media activity of the Lakers.

There were a couple of other interesting findings from this study.  First, the number of Twitter followers was uncorrelated with the number of times a team tweeted.  This suggests that fans follow based purely on their feelings for the teams, rather than the entertainment of following an interesting Tweeter.  We also found a very high correlation between the two social media platforms as the social media equity estimates across the two platforms exceeded 0.91. However, when we looked at the correlation between the social media equity and the economics based fan equity the correlation was just 0.3.  We will leave this disconnect between social media and revenues for a future post.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University, 2013.

Social Media Equity in the NFL: Another Metric for Evaluating Fans

Please click here for our NFL Fan Equity Rankings

Please click here for our NBA Social Media Equity Rankings

Our approach to NFL fan equity begins from the premise that teams try and maximize revenues.  This is an important assumption, and one that one that seems to be justified by teams pursuing practices like dynamic pricing and personal seat licenses.  But, if a team is pricing below what local market conditions would allow, our method can be problematic because NFL stadiums are of finite capacity.

What we would ideally like to have is a fan metric that is not constrained by stadium sizes.  The world of social media can provide this type of metric.  In today’s installment we assess NFL fan base quality using information on teams’ ability to acquire Twitter followers.

The simplest measurement of social media strength is to look at Twitter follower counts across teams.  Using this metric, the top 5 teams are the Patriots, Cowboys, Jets, Steelers, and Packers.  The bottom five includes the Titans, Buccaneers, Rams, Jaguars and Cardinals.  While gathering this data we did come across some interesting results.  The Patriots lead the league with about 650,000 followers while the Cardinals are in 32nd place with 62,000 followers.  Notably the Cardinals had only 31 more followers than the Cowboy Cheerleaders.

But as always, the raw numbers can be deceiving. The Jets play in a market that dwarfs the Steelers, and Twitter success is probably highly correlated to teams’ recent on-field success.  To calculate “Social Media Equity” we start by building a statistical model that predicts Twitter followers based on team winning percentage from 2012, market population and median income.  We then compare this prediction with the actual follower count.  The difference between actual and predicted followers provides a measure of over or under performance in the social media space.  Note: We could also have used Facebook fans for the analysis.

In terms of this measure of “social media equity” the top 5 were the Steelers, Cowboys, Patriots, Packers and Saints (and the Jets in 6th).  In terms of our previous fan equity ranking, the biggest change was for the Steelers and Packers.  The Cowboys, Patriots, Saints and Jets were strong in both rankings.  In terms of the critique that some owners may systematically underprice, the Steelers and Packers seem like two of the most likely candidates.

At the other end of the list in last place are the Arizona Cardinals.  The Cardinals play in a larger market than the Steelers but only have 11% of the Twitter followers.  Another notable bottom dweller is the Redskins.  The Redskins play in a large market but have less than half the Twitter followers as do the Cowboys.

We have noted the advantage of using Twitter followers as a metric.  This measure is not constrained by stadium capacity and fans are able to show there interest without an economic sacrifice.  However, this measure could also be criticized.  For example, if the goal is to assess fan passion or loyalty it is not clear how correlated an unobservable trait such as loyalty will be with Twitter follow rates.  A second issue is that teams may invest different levels of resources into their social media efforts.  If team A emphasizes their Twitter handle in ad copy while team B does not, then a straight comparison can be misleading.  A third issue is that the data available for this type of analysis is very limited.  While attendance rates are observable for decades, social media data is a very recent phenomenon.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.