Feb
24

Measuring fan loyalty

By

In city after city, baseball fans like to claim that their town is home to the most loyal, the most rabid fan base. New Yorkers will fight Bostonians and Philadelphians to the death while Chicogoans just sit back in watch. In Los Angeles, the fans leave in the 7th to beat the traffic, and in Atlanta, well, no one really cares.

While we could all debate the subjectively loyalties of fans until we are collectively blue in the face, a RAB reader took it upon himself to model fan loyalty. Jim Lane has spent the last few weeks refining a model of fan loyalty. The raw data is available here in spreadsheet form. I’m going to drill down a bit on it tonight.

Lane decided to assess fan allegiance by using a payroll figures, average ticket prices, win percentage and 2008 attendance. He started off by computing what he calls team appeal. It’s the average of the percentage of payroll of the MLB whole, the average ticket prices also expressed as a relative percentage to the MLB total and the club’s winning percentage. He then compared his team appeal figure to attendance capacity to come up with the final fan allegiance number.

As you might guess, the Red Sox with their high win total, high payroll and small park were the top team on Lane’s list. Their fan allegiance figure was 31.12, nearly triple the second-place Cubs. Having a ticket demand that far exceeds supply will do that.

The Yankees and Mets, meanwhile, came in at six and seven respectively. They both had fairly high attendance figures and tickets were, all things considered, somewhat reasonable. Combine that with high payrolls and three years of regular season success, and you’ll get a formula for fandom.

There are of course a few lessons we can glean from the spreadsheet. The teams on the bottom — Kansas City, Florida, Tampa Bay — suffer from one problem or another. Either the teams weren’t very good or they can’t draw fans. All three of those teams are finding that low ticket prices don’t exactly spur attendance.

The Braves, at number 23, are one of the outliers. The ownership is willing to spend some money, the ticket prices aren’t very high and the team’s winning percentage is decent. Fans, however, aren’t going to the games.

So what conclusions can we draw from this? Well, it certainly doesn’t solve that good old fan loyalty question, but we can look at a few patterns. Popular teams that put a winning product on the field are going to draw, and mediocre teams that keep ticket prices low are going to draw. But at some point, fans just won’t show up. They don’t come to Miami; they don’t go to Atlanta. Why is a question we can debate for a long time. Some of it is geographic; some of it is apathy.

Anyway, feel free to chew on this spreadsheet for a few hours as the lazy days of Spring Training tick away. Jim broke the years down so you can see his raw data. Perhaps you’ll find a conclusion in the numbers. After all, if the Indians are doing it, so can we.

Categories : Analysis
  • radnom

    If fan loyalty is measured in Pink hats and Elsbury jerseys then yes, Boston is numero uno.

  • Januz

    The numbers are actually shocking with the White Sox rated so high I always thought they were the Cubs ugly step-sister). I found the Diamondbacks number amazing (Below Pitsburgh!). But perhaps most shocking were the Angels. This team won 100 games last year and graded below the Nationals & A’s.
    .

  • andrew

    I don’t like % of attendance as a factor… give me total tickets sold
    then again, i am a little biased

    • radnom

      Either way is a bit unfair. One way, you penalize teams with a large stadium and the other way you penalize those with a smaller one.

      • andrew

        maybe they could be combined somehow and averaged out…i imagine if Fenway had 55,000 seats, their attendance numbers would be similar to Yankee stadium

  • Rich

    I think any good measure of fan loyalty should account for the distraction factor. That is, the pull of other interests and activities that divert a fan’s time and resources. New York, given its size and diversity, would undoubtedly offer the most distractions. When you think about it, it’s kind of amazing that the area can support two teams to the degree that it does.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      But on the flip side of that is what I like to call the Sheer Number of People factor. There are 8 million people in New York and another 10 million in the Tri-State area. To fill up old Yankee Stadium, just three-tenths of one percent of those people had to decide to go a Yankee game.

      I’ve lived in this city my whole life, and I’m still shocked when things don’t sell out simply based on the number of people who live around the area.

      • Rich

        That’s a good point, but it’s also possible (I don’t have empirical data) that the population of New York is so much more heterogeneous (in terms of language, culture, etc.) than other cities that there is a substantial portion of people who could not be convinced to attend a baseball game, no matter what.

  • NaOH

    From a recent e-mail dialogue with a colleague, here was his response to my interest in seeing a game at Turner Field.

    Careful what you wish for in terms of seeing a game at Turner Field, though.

    It’s in a pretty shady part of town and stories of car break ins, hold ups on the way back to the car, and other assorted fun stuff like that are legendary in Atlanta.

    I’ve fortunately never had any issues, but I can’t remember, for instance, the last time I went to a Braves game without getting hit up for money, more than once, by panhandlers. Having to steel yourself for the ‘f*%$@ you, I’m not giving you any money’ conversations to and from the car do definitely take away from the experience.

    Later in our e-mail exchange, he added this:

    All I know is that, yes, while not the ‘worst’ part of Atlanta, the area around the stadium is definitely sketchy at best, and I’m sure that element gravitates towards the stadium because of the fact that so many people come in from other areas of the city (suburbs), and state as a whole.

    I think they view the crowds as ‘easy pickings,’ so to speak.

    Atlanta’s police department, too, is a mess, and that doesn’t help matters, but that’s another story entirely

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Another important note about Atlanta’s relative suckiness as a sports town (not only the Braves, but the Falcons and Hawks also rarely sell out their buildings, even when the teams do well) is that Atlanta is one of the least dense major cities in the country. The Atlanta metro area is huge and disjointed, it’s spread out over large suburbs. There’s a commuter rail called the MARTA, but it sucks and doesn’t barely begin to cover the population center. Wiki says the Atlanta metro is spread out over an area the size of the entire state of Massachusetts.

      For comparison purposes, Atlanta is the 33rd biggest city in the US with an official population of 519,000 (the Atlanta metro area is about 5M.) Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is the 59th biggest city with an official population of 311,000 (and a metro area of 2.3M.) But, in terms of population density of the core city, Atlanta proper has 3,162.3 people per square mile; Pittsburgh has 6,017.3 people per square mile. (Boston, Chicago, Philly, San Fransisco, and Miami all have pop densities greater than 10,000 people per square mile, FWIW; NYC is above 26k.)

      For anybody who’s ever been to Atlanta or spent time there, I’m sure you’d agree with me: it’s like a little isolated downtown surrounded by miles of independent, satellite suburbs.

  • http://theenlighteneddespot.com NC Saint

    I think this all conflates loyalty and interest. Some of the most active fan towns (us, Boston, Philly all jump to mind) are wont to turn on their own players and in some cases entire teams, despite continuing to show up to games. That counts as loyalty in these stats, but I’d say it’s the opposite. If there was a good way to make the distinction, Philadelphia would almost certainly drop to last place. Showing up to boo the national anthem, cheer injuries, and throw batteries at whoever is bothering them that day is a sort of perserverance, but it ain’t loyalty.

  • JeffG

    A stat for fan loyalty? What has the baseball world come to?

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      A stat for fan loyalty? What has the baseball world come to?

      It’s come to its senses. It’s pulled its head out of the sand and refused to be an ostritch, that’s what the baseball world has come to.

      OH NOOOOES, ANALYSIS!!! I CANT ENJOY TEH GAME BECAUSE YOUSE ARE TALKIN ABOUT STUFF BESIDES TEH BATTING AVERAGEZ!!!!!!1!!!!1!!!!

  • Artist formerly known as ‘The’ Steve

    ‘We’re gonna boo Teixeira . . were gonna boooo Teixeir-aaah’

    Sorry. Its stuck in my head now.

    • jsbrendog

      we got nick markakiiiiiiiiiiiiiis

      haha. awesome

  • Mike

    I’m a yankee fan who recently moved to Atlanta. Let me first definitly agree with the stadium being in a shady location. Secondly, but probably more importantly, Atlanta is a transplant city. More people have moved here over the last 10 years that just about anywhere in the country. Unlike, NY, where you have your core people staying there, most of the people living in Atlanta are not from the area. With them not being from the area it makes it tough for them to root for the Braves. I went to a Cubs/Braves game late in the year last year and there there a 3:1 cub to brave fan ratio at the game. This would never happen in NY. I really do not go to many games down here like I would in NY, but can I tell you how damn excitied I am that the Yankees are coming down this year!

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      That too.

      I can’t remember where I read the stat, but I read somewhere that Atlanta has the highest percentage of 20-40 year olds who are not native city residents of any major city in the US: basically, a huge chunk of Atlantans move away after high school and another huge chunk of Atlantans move to the city for college. There’s a discontinuity there.

      Basically, Atlanta is like the perfect storm for a big city that doesn’t really have any city history or ethos or connectedness, and that’s a recipe for disinterest, nonchalance and ennui.

  • RobC

    How do you turn the tables and measure team or organization loyalty to fans?
    I grew up a die hard Phillies fan disliking owners like Steinbrenner who bought championships (the Catfish, Reggie era).
    My oldest son was born while we were living in northeast PA and became a Yankees fan.
    Minewhile I am a Phillies fan agreeing with then Phillie Curt Shilling that ownership needs to be as committed to winning as the players. I agree.
    George Steinbrenner wanted to win just like any other Yankee fan.

    Funny thing about the Rays.
    I was in Tampa in 06 and called about same day tickets. Since they told me a lot were available I did not want to pay the fee for a phone order.
    While walking up to the ticket window there were scalpers selling tickets. I walked up to the ticket window 1 hour before the game and bought tickets 20 rows from the field. Could have been closer but not safe for my kids.
    How do scalpers expect to sell tickets when you can walk up and buy almost feild level????

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    I wonder if the Red Sox would sell out all of their games if they played in a major league stadium instead of a park?

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      OOOOOOOOOOOH, BURN!!!

      Where’d you get that park from, the… toilet store?

  • Ace

    Wow, Tampa Bay only sold 52.80% of their tickets last year. I thought it would be a little higher. This year I would think they would sell more.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Massive economic recession
      +
      90% of Tampa residents being octogenarian retiree transplanted New York City Jewish snowbirds living on a pension-based fixed income
      =
      increased Rays ticket sales FAIL

      • Ace

        Ha. Hard to argue with that logic.

  • lp

    this is some great data. i like andrew’s comment about combining % attendance and tickets available…luckily jim made the raw spreadsheet available, anyone can have a whack at a refined or different number…this is fun stuff…i think the atlanta discussion is amazing – quality team for so long with what to show for it? and is their stadium in a worse locale than shea/citi? or yankee stadium for that matter?

  • Bo

    This is really dumb.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Your streak of never having a single positive thing to say about anything in any of your comments is truly impressive. You’ve already bested Carew, Molitor, and DiMaggio; you now stand atop the summit of the consecutive-things-done mountain like a mighty Colossus.

      http://www.sadtrombone.com

  • Ron D.

    This is a very interesting sheet. i’d like to see what the numbers are for the dynasty teams of the late 90′s

    • Ace

      Me too. Hopefully he does these figures for the 90′s and 2000-2005