By Barry Janoff
April 8, 2014: The 2014 MLB season is barely into its first full month, but there already is heated discussion about which teams have the most loyal and least loyal fan bases.
The title of most loyal fan base, at least for the current season, goes to the St. Louis Cardinals, followed by the Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants.
The least loyal? The Houston Astros.
The rankings are not from MLB but engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy Brand Keys, New York, which just released its 2014 MLB Fan Loyalty Index.
According to Brand Keys, the Sports Fan Loyalty Index "provides an apples-to-apples comparison of the intensity with which fans within a team’s SMSA (standard metropolitan statistical area) support the home team versus corresponding values for fans of other teams in that market."
The Sports Fan Loyalty Index is driven in four ways: "Pure Entertainment" ("How well a team does, but more importantly, how exciting is their play"), "Authenticity" ("How well they play as a team, which can be driven by such factors as a new stadium or a new manager"); "Fan Bonding" ("Are players respected and admired?"); and "History and Tradition" ("Is the game and the team part of a fan's and a community's rituals, institutions and beliefs").
Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, said that the survey can help teams to increase broadcast, ticket and merchandise revenues by providing loyalty rankings and fan diagnostics in their home and national markets.
“Theses insights enable league and team management to identify areas, particularly emotional aspects, that need strategic brand coaching,” Passikoff said in a statement.
“Theses insights enable league and team management to identify areas, particularly emotional aspects, that need strategic brand coaching."
"Fan loyalty correlates very highly with broadcast viewership, merchandise purchase, and ticket revenues. Happier fans too," said Passikoff. “Everybody loves a winner, but it’s important to note that win/loss ratios do not entirely govern fan loyalty."
Considering that the Cardinals lost to the Red Sox in the 2013 World Series, even winning the MLB crown "doesn’t immediately jump a team to the top of the loyalty list," said Passikoff. "It certainly helps build loyalty, but there are three other emotionally based factors that must be taken into account.”
Winning the Series can add up to 20% to a team’s loyalty score, according to Passikoff. "That certainly moves you up the list, but it doesn't load the loyalty bases for a team either.”
Among the Brand Keys' four factors, "History and Tradition" "is the most emotional of values when it comes to major league sports,” said Passikoff. “It is often the fan loyalty driver that accounts for nearly a ll the loyalty that exists for a team.
As an example, Passikoff said that it’s been 106 years since the Chicago Cubs won a World Series, and 69 years since they won a National League pennant, "but they remain among the top five teams when it comes to being part of the Chicago community."
In the Brand Keys report, however, the Cubs are down at No. 17 among all MLB teams.
“Overall league and team rankings correlate with viewership and merchandise sales, and since rankings can be influenced depending upon how loyalty drivers are managed, it’s critical that team marketers do accurate scouting regarding the strategic ball they intend to pitch fans,” said Passikoff. “Otherwise they can be literally thrown out by the fans.”
“All teams all brands, for that matter can benefit from increased loyalty levels, but as baseball is traditionally called America’s ‘National Pastime,’ there’s an extra emotional connection for fans.” said Passikoff, “As this is just the start of the 2014 season, it’s worth quoting Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, who noted, ‘It ain’t over till its over,’ and real emotional loyalty metrics can put a team into extra innings with their fans."
Brand Keys 2014 MLB Fan Loyalty Index
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Atlanta Braves
4. Boston Red Sox
5. San Francisco Giants
T6. New York Yankees/Detroit Tigers
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
8. Oakland Athletics
9. Washington Nationals
10. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
T11. Cincinnati Reds/Baltimore Orioles
12. Anaheim Angels
13. Milwaukee Brewers
14. Chicago White Sox
15. Minnesota Twins
T16. Miami Marlins/Texas Rangers
17. Chicago Cubs
T18. Toronto Blue Jays/Cleveland Indians/Pittsburgh Pirates
T19. San Diego Padres/Kansas City Royals
20. Colorado Rockies
21. Seattle Mariners
22. Arizona Diamondbacks
23. New York Mets
24. Houston Astros
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