By Barry Janoff
September 7, 2016: The New England Patriots have grown accustomed to being the whipping boys for the NFL and NFL fans (other than its own) with "Deflate-Gate," "Spy-Gate"and other detrimental-gates on its resume.
But relying on an us-against-them mentality, intensified now with Tom Brady out for the first four games of the NFL season due to what the league deemed as his role in "Deflate-Gate," Pats' fans have rallied behind the team and its players more so than ever.
For the third consecutive season, the Patriots sit atop the NFL Sports Fan Loyalty Index compiled by research, consulting and marketing firm Brand Keys, NY.
The Patriots were No. 1 last season as defending Super Bowl XLIX champions and also the year before when the team reached the AFC championship game.
"All the teams have an ideal outcome in mind and the fans have an ‘ideal’ team in mind," Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys’ founder and president, said in a statement. “Fans see their ideal team as the one that can better meet their very high expectations."
The Patriots' fan loyalty extends to social media, where the team has more followers on Twitter — 2.54 million — than any other team in the league. The Dallas Cowboys are second at 1.89 million, the Denver Broncos third at 1.85 million.
The Broncos, 24-10 victors in Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers this past February, moved up to No. 2 in the Brand Keys index from No. 3 last season and No. 4 the previous year.
The Top Ten also includes the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets.
The Rams were down at No. 21, adding fuel to the fire for the franchise's move to Los Angeles for 2016.
The Dallas Cowboys, aka in some circles "America's Team," were farther down the Brand Keys list at No. 27.
Concurrently, the Bottom Five teams, those with the least loyal fans, according to Brand Keys, are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 28), Washington Redskins (No. 29), Oakland Raiders (No. 30), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 31) and Cleveland Browns (No. 32).
(See full list below.)
The same five teams have also held the Bottom Five spots in the Brand Keys index, in various orders, for the previous two seasons.
"Everybody loves a winner but it’s important to note that win-loss ratios do not entirely govern fan loyalty. Neither does game attendance figures," said Passikoff. "When it comes to emotions, and particularly emotional games like the Super Bowl, you could fill that venue fifty times over."
"That said, there are other powerful and emotionally-based factors that need to be taken into account."
Brand Keys said its Sports Fan Loyalty Index is based on four key factors:
• History and Tradition (30%): Is the game and the team part of fans’ and community rituals, institutions, and beliefs?
• Fan Bonding (29%): Are players particularly respected and admired?
• Pure Entertainment (21%): How well a team does: Wins, losses sure. But even more importantly than a win-loss ratio, how entertaining is their play? On-the-field aggressive play is an acceptable component of this loyalty driver.
"Everybody loves a winner but it’s important to note that win-loss ratios do not entirely govern fan loyalty. Neither does game attendance figures."
• Authenticity (20%): How well they play as a team, both offense and defense. New managers, as they’re seen to be responsible for the genuineness and credibility of their team, can also help lift this driver. So can a new stadium.
The Sports Fan Loyalty Index was designed to help professional sports team management identify precise fan loyalty rankings in their home and national markets "with insights that enable the league and team to identify areas – particularly emotional ones — that could use some strategic brand defense," said Passikoff.
"Those insights are always based upon fans’ ‘ideal team,’ which includes values beyond win-loss ratios."
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 home market support the home team versus corresponding values for the fans of the other teams or leagues in the same market.
"All teams show up with the intention of winning," said Passikoff. "But the nature of sports fan loyalty is that overall league and team rankings correlate very highly with fans’ positive behaviors toward the team and the league.
"And, since rankings can be influenced by how loyalty drivers are managed, it’s critical that team marketers manage strategically. In particular to better meet fan expectations. You have to know what fans really expect to do that — beyond a winning season," he said.
Brand Keys 2016 Sports Fan Loyalty Index
1. New England Patriots
2. Denver Broncos
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Seattle Seahawks
5. San Francisco 49ers
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Indianapolis Colts
8. Carolina Panthers
9. Baltimore Ravens
10. New York Jets
11. New York Giants
12. Atlanta Falcons
13. Houston Texans
14. Philadelphia Eagles
15. New Orleans Saints
16. Kansas City Chiefs
17. Cincinnati Bengals
18. Arizona Cardinals
19. Minnesota Vikings
20. Detroit Lions
21. Los Angeles (St. Louis) Rams
22. Buffalo Bills
23. Miami Dolphins
24. Chicago Bears
25. San Diego Chargers
26. Tennessee Titans
27. Dallas Cowboys
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
29. Washington Redskins
30. Oakland Raiders
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
32. Cleveland Browns
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