Go Yankees! Or Phillies!

Player/Coach Tommy Lasorda once opined, "There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens." But player or fan, everyone knows what happened. After a six-year wait the Yankees are back in the World Series business.

It's the 40th pennant for the Yankees, so you'd figure their odds of winning a World Series would be pretty good. But that's just sports. Winning fan loyalty, on the other hand, is a little different. Oh, don't misunderstand us. Winning matters, but only to the degree that it reinforces one of the critical four sports fan loyalty drivers. In this case that's the "Pure Entertainment" driver.

Sure, winning is important. And it's never just a game when you're winning, but a team's win-loss ratio is only one component of the "Pure Entertainment" driver, that win-loss ratio making a 25% contribution to real loyalty when it comes to entertaining the crowd. How a team plays (whether they win or lose) is an important component, too. "Pure Entertainment" gets a lot of media attention but is only one of four loyalty drivers that define how -- and to what extent -- a sports fan becomes a loyal sports fan. And there's a difference.

Fans watch the games. Or don't watch the games. Loyal fans always watch the games -- or least to the extent of six times more than just someone who "follows baseball." Real fans are also six times more likely to buy licensed team merchandise, which is still a big business, even in this economy.

The other drivers are "Authenticity" (Do they play like a team, or as Hal Steinbrenner said of the Yankees, "... they really care about each other. They are a family ... they support each other." And what the managers like counts, too), "Fan Bonding" (are there players like Derek Jeter with whom a real emotional bond is established?), and finally "History and Tradition," the ultimate loyalty driver.

If you watch baseball (or any other major league sport) sitting with three generations of Yankee or Phillies fans, watching the game wearing team shirts and hats, you'll have an understanding of precisely how that driver resonates.

So, how do the Yankees and Phillies stack up in terms of fan loyalty? For that answer we looked to our 2009 Brand Keys Sports Fan Loyalty Index, a scorecard of all the teams in the MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL. Well, on an overall basis, the Phillies were #2. That has a lot to do with what the season was like last year. The Yankees were #3. Rankings for the top and bottom five in all the leagues can be found at

Assessments are indexed against a benchmark of 100, so higher is better, just like sports scores. These assessments correlate very highly with TV viewership, merchandise purchase, and heart rates!

Pure Entertainment110131
Fan Bonding116111
History & Tradition130119

So will "History and Tradition" win out over "Pure Entertainment?" Will "Authenticity" score big against "Fan Bonding?" The games will give some indication of the sports record's outcome, but that's mostly all down to the managers and players.

But in sports marketing and TV and licensing deals it all comes down to loyalty and when it comes to loyalty, it all comes down to the fans, and you've got to manage those fans carefully. Because you know what the great Yogi Berra said about fans? "If the fans don't come out to the ball park, you can't stop them!"

2 comments about "Go Yankees! Or Phillies! ".
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  1. Howard Brodwin from Sports and Social Change, November 3, 2009 at 12:59 p.m.

    I totally agree. Building fan loyalty for teams is no different than building brand loyalty - and on field performance can be equated to a product delivering on its brand promise.

    I'm not trying to say players and teams are just a commodity to be marketed - not at all. But the team they play for has an emotional connection to the fans. Players change, teams do not (unless you're the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts/Ravens, Washington Expos/Nationals...ok, teams do change ;-) But fan bonding happens based on an emotional connection. Could be a childhood memory, regional preference, crosstown rivalry, etc.

    And I think professional sports offers one thing that no other form of entertainment can deliver. Neil Simon said it best: "Sports is the only entertainment where, no matter how many times you go back, you never know the ending."

  2. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, November 4, 2009 at 4:10 a.m.

    I will be honest. Any chance that any sports team would ever win my "fan loyalty" was when I was in a bar in San Francisco and the most beautiful woman I had ever met in my life told me that the 49ers team was expected to arrive shortly at the bar and that she would prefer to meet one of the athletes as a matter of course. If any single male knew just how much the fervor and attention of other males turns pro athletes into "Gods" for even highly educated young women to pursue, they wouldn't so irrationally promote their own competition. The first rule of marketing is not to promote the competition. :-)

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