Who are the best fans in the NFL? And who’s the worst? You have guesses. Emory University has knowledge. Let’s dive in.
The study: Dr. Mike Lewis of Emory’s Goizueta Business School tracks NFL fanbases via multiple means: social engagement, home and road attendance, gear purchase and so on. Basically, the more you show you love your team, in good times and in bad, the more juice you give your team. Are you doing your part?
The best fanbases: It will come as no surprise to you that the most ardent fanbases in the NFL are, in order, the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots. Decades of Texas-sized arrogance on one side, fifteen years of consistent winning on the other. It’s once we start digging deeper into the numbers that we start unveiling some interesting facts. For instance, the Philadelphia Eagles edge out the New York Giants for third place, with the Pittsburgh Steelers coming in fifth. The Denver Broncos (8) and Green Bay Packers (9) enjoy long-term fan loyalty, and even teams that are currently terrible can engender fan loyalty, like the New Orleans Saints (6), Chicago Bears (7), and San Francisco 49ers (10).
The worst fanbases: Oh, this is going to get Arrowhead hopping. But by the numbers, the worst fanbase in football is … the Kansas City Chiefs. Just above them: the Los Angeles Rams, the Tennessee Titans, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Cincinnati Bengals. Also curious: the Seattle Seahawks’ 12th man apparently doesn’t travel, as Seattle ranked 19th, and the Oakland Raiders’ resurgence pegs them at 20th. What will be interesting is to see whether the Los Angeles Chargers, moving to LA with an already-divided fanbase, can somehow rank lower than 32nd next year.
How this was calculated: The ranking consists of three factors: Fan Equity, Social Equity and Road Equity.
Fan Equity measures fans’ willingness to support a given team, while adjusting for factors such as market size and win-loss record. The Cowboys, Patriots and — surprisingly — the 49ers rank high here, with fans willing to pay a premium for tickets and merchandise to support these teams.
Social Equity measures fans’ willingness to stand up for a team online, following and liking them across multiple social networks. The Patriots, Cowboys and Broncos head the pack here. Social Equity is often a more reliable barometer of national awareness than Fan Equity, since anyone anywhere can follow a team online without having to purchase tickets.
Road Equity documents how well a team draws fans on the road. In the NBA, you can always count on a LeBron or Golden State bounce; the correlating teams in the NFL are the Cowboys, Eagles and Raiders, with the Patriots (5) not far behind. Sometimes these teams have fans that travel (Steelers, 6) and sometimes the bandwagons have set up shop around the country (hello, Cowboys fans in Los Angeles). Either way, the result is the same: a strong road presence.
But this is WRONG!: If you’re a fan of one of the low-ranked teams, you’re surely seething. And if your rival ranks ahead of you (we see you, non-Dallas NFC East fans), you’re probably furious as well. Hey, don’t blame the numbers, blame your fellow fans. For teams, this is a valuable way of measuring how well their brand is resonating with fans both locally and nationwide. In other words, step up your game, Titans.
Read more: The full study is available on Emory’s website, including a detailed breakdown of where your team ranks in all the different categories.
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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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