Baseball, A Game Of Stats, Needs Better Numbers

A new report from Forbes shows that while the top three most valuable sports franchises in the world are soccer clubs (Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona), all 32 of the NFL's teams are in the top 52, led by the Dallas Cowboys at No. 4 overall (valued at $2.1 billion).

The 20 non-NFL franchises in the top 50 include just seven of 30 teams from MLB, led by the New York Yankees at No. 4 (valued at $2.3 billion) and Los Angeles Dodgers at No. 7 ($1.6 billion).

There are as many international soccer clubs in the top 50 as there are MLB teams, with the remainder of the top 50 coming from the NBA (3), Formula 1 (2) and NHL team (the Toronto Maple Leafs).

The average value of the top 50 teams is $1.24 billion, a 16% increase from last year, according to Forbes.

In another survey, from The Harris Poll conducted by Harris Interactive, only 34% of people said they follow baseball, down from 41% in 2009 and the lowest such figure since 2004. This is in line with two previous Harris Polls from this year, one of which named the NFL as the best sports league brand, with MLB third behind college football; and another that showed the NFL as the favorite sports among fans in the U.S.for the 11th consecutive year, outdistancing MLB by a 2-1 margin.

According to Harris, since 1985, "Professional football has gone up 10 points from 24% of sports fans saying it was their favorite sport then to 34% saying so now. Baseball, on the other hand, has gone down 7 points, from 23% in 1985 to 16% today."

Baseball also is skewing older: The largest group of fans who follow baseball (39%) are Baby Boomers ages 48-66. Another 29% are considered Matures (ages 67-plus), according to the just-released Harris Poll.

These numbers are reflected in another Harris Poll that came out last week: Of the favorite male athletes in America, only 39-year-old Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees made the top 10. The rest of the top 10 was populated by three NBAers (Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant), three NFLers (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Tim Tebow), two golfers (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson) and Nascar's Dale Earnhardt Jr.

MLB recently had a successful All-Star Game in New York, during which league marketing partners professed their financial and emotional loyalties to the game. PepsiCo, in particular, upped its alliance by adding Lipton Tea to MLB's official roster (joining such siblings as Gatorade, Pepsi and Aquafina); and Chevrolet took over (from State Farm) as title sponsor of the Home Run Derby and activated both on- and off the field throughout All-Star weekend.

MasterCard, as well, put its association with MLB front-and-center, in particular via its support of Stand Up To Cancer, which included two new TV spots starring the mascots from the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. 

MLB also can look at the positive contributions being made on the field (as well as their deals on Madison Avenue) by young players. In the 2013 All-Star Game, 19 players 25 years old or younger were either voted onto the rosters or named as replacements. And that does not include 22-year-old Yasiel Puig, who joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in June and has been performing at the plate and on the field at an All-Star clip (expect deals from him soon as he just signed with Radegen Sports Management).

However, the bottom line is this: Baseball will not strike out as the most popular sport among a vast number of U.S. and international fans. But as the polls show, the NFL has taken the No. 1 spot and is showing no signs of slowing down.

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