The 2012 MLB season started yesterday with the christening of a new ballpark for the Miami Marlins and a 20th-anniversary park celebration for St. Louis. Yesterday’s openers will be followed by an additional six today.
The official cry of ‘play ball’ was accompanied with fan cheers and the release of Brand Keys 2012 Sports Loyalty Index, our 20th annual fan survey conducted to help professional sports teams measure precise fan loyalty rankings in home and national markets. Beyond the rankings, the diagnostics provide the kinds of insights that enable league and team management to identify areas where strategic coaching of the brand is required.
For 2012, MLB top-5 and bottom-5 brand-standings are:
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. New York Yankees
3. Boston Red Sox
4. San Francisco Giants
5. St. Louis Cardinals
In the Cellar
26. New York Mets
27. Seattle Mariners
28. Kansas City Royals
29. Baltimore Orioles
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Sports Loyalty Index provides an apples-to-apples, cross-league comparison of the intensity with which fans in the team’s home market support one team – versus fans of the other teams in the market.
It turns out that fan loyalty is more than people screaming for a hit, a goal, a touchdown, or a basket, or even teams getting them. Yes, everybody loves a winner, but a win/loss ratio on its own does not command fan loyalty.
There are three other factors that have to be taken into account, and they count no matter which league is your favorite. More importantly, real fan loyalty correlates very, very highly with broadcast viewership, merchandise purchases, and ticket revenue. And, ultimately, happier fans. Here’s the four ways fan loyalty is driven:
• Pure Entertainment: How well a team does, but more importantly, how exciting is their play?
• Authenticity: How well they play as a team. New stadia and new managers can lift this driver.
• Fan Bonding: Are players respected and admired?
• History and Tradition: Is the game and team part of fans’ and community rituals and institutions?
Ultimately, teams want to migrate fans from Pure Entertainment all the way through to History and Tradition. History and Tradition alone may get a fan’s blood boiling, but you need all four in place to see the benefits of increased viewership and merchandise sales. Rankings can be influenced depending upon how loyalty drivers are managed, so it’s critical that team marketers do accurate scouting regarding the strategic ball they intend to pitch to their fans.
And whether you’re a baseball, basketball, football, or hockey fan, The Brand Keys Sports Fan Loyalty Index measures all the teams in the four Major Leagues. If you want to see if your favorite team made the top-5 (or bottom-5) in their league, click here.
The final score? All teams can benefit from increased loyalty levels, but as baseball is America’s ‘National Pastime,’ there are very few fans that don’t get excited about seeing a game, especially on Opening Day. After all, as the great Yogi Berra said, “A home opener is always exciting whether it’s home or on the road.”