So Loyal, They'll Buy Shirts Off Their Backs

In the just-released list from Major League Baseball of bestselling jerseys, nine of the top 10 were players on teams ranked in the top-six in Brand Keys 2011 Sports Loyalty Index.

There were three Phillies, two Yankees [Jeter was #1 on the list], and one player each for the Giants, Sox, Cardinals, and Twins). The only outlier was Josh Hamilton of the Rangers (#12 in fan loyalty). But when you rack up 32 home runs and 100 RBIs, some small variances are to be expected!

The Sports Loyalty Index is created by interviewing self-classified league and team fans within the teams' SMSAs, and uses a combination of emotional and rational metrics to measure real loyalty. The overall team rankings correlate very highly with TV viewership, and more importantly, sales of licensed merchandise, a behavioral measure where fans vote with their wallets.

This year the fans decided that the top six in the MLB in terms of loyalty and engagement going into the 2011 season are:

1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. New York Yankees
3. Boston Red Sox
4. San Francisco Giants
5. Los Angeles Dodgers
6. Cardinals/Twins



At the bottom of the loyalty list are:

1. Pittsburgh Pirates (last)
2. Baltimore Orioles
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Seattle Mariners

Loyalty diagnostics allow teams to identify areas that need strategic coaching and rankings can be influenced depending upon how loyalty drivers are managed. Manage loyalty correctly and you'll see an increase in game viewership - and as the marketplace itself has just confirmed - licensed merchandise purchase. And while everybody loves a winner, it's important to note that neither win/loss ratios nor a history with the team alone entirely govern fan loyalty. Fan loyalty is driven in four ways: and in combination with one another including:

  • Pure Entertainment: How well a team does, but more importantly, how exciting is their play?
  • Authenticity: How well they play as a team. New stadia always help on this driver. New managers can help. Crazy owners can hurt.
  • Fan Bonding: Are players respected and admired? And finally,
  • History and Tradition: Is the game and the team part of a fan's and a community's rituals, institutions and beliefs?

For rankings of other the teams in the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League, click here.

They call baseball America's "National Pastime," and there are very few fans that don't get excited about attending a game wearing a favorite player's jersey. Game attendance correlates with fan loyalty, too, but loyalty is a complex matter. Remember what Yogi Berra said. "If the fans don't come out to the ball park, you can't stop them."

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