Professional sports teams compete with national rivals on the field, rink, and diamond, but when it comes to fan loyalty and engagement they are also competing against other Major Leaguers in their area. And that means they are competing with them at the bank, too: loyalty means sponsors, merchandise licensees, media, player spokesperson relationships, venues, ticket sales, and just about everything in the cornucopia of fandom.
So which teams have the most loyal fans? Some of the answers aren't a big surprise. According to the 21st annual Brand Keys 2013 Sports Fan Loyalty Index, the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cards and Atlanta Braves are on top for loyalty among fans. At the other end are the Houston Astros; Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and New York Mets.
The survey-based study uses four measures of loyalty to gauge the four Major Leagues’ local draw: How exciting a team is during competition; how well they play as a team; how well respected and admired the players are; the extent to which the game and team are part of fans’ and community's rituals, institutions and beliefs.
Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, tells Marketing Daily that it's not just about how successful a team is. "Winning the World Series helps, but you can win and play boring -- win and not play as a team."
He says the Index is based on interviews with people only in a given market and only for teams in that market. "We ask if they have a favorite Major League sport. If you say baseball, we ask who your favorite team happens to be. And if that team is not in that [local Major League market], I don't interview you."
Depending on how those statistics compare with other Major League sports in that market, one can see how profitable that team is likely to be, notes Passikoff. He says results aren't uniform -- that just because someone is a "fan" of a team doesn't mean they are inherently passionate. "Of the 30 teams we look at, there are only 7 that tie."