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NFL Fan Loyalty: Methodology

bizjournals - September 4, 2006


The NFL�s best fans

Bizjournals has rated the level of fan loyalty for all 32 National Football League teams, based on seven statistical indicators over a 10-year period. Here are the details:

Goal: The study�s objective is to identify the NFL�s best fans. Not the ones who turn out in strong numbers for a winning team, but the ones who stay loyal even if their team is losing, the weather is frightful or their local market is small.

Period: The study covers the 10 seasons from 1996 through 2005. Twenty-eight of the NFL�s 32 teams played in the same market throughout the 10-year period. The exceptions are Tennessee (which began play in 1997), Cleveland (1999), Houston (2002) and New Orleans (which spent the 2005 season on the road in the wake of Hurricane Katrina). Statistics for the first three teams cover all seasons that they played during the decade. Attendance figures for New Orleans are limited to 1996-2004.

Source: Attendance figures have been tabulated annually by Bizjournals and cross-checked against totals reported by other media outlets. (The NFL does not release team-by-team attendance figures.) Winning percentages are based on NFL standings. Population and income statistics are from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Temperatures are from the National Weather Service and Weatherbase.com.

Support factors: Sixty percent of each team�s score is based on three support factors. A team with high average attendance, high percent of capacity and low attendance fluctuation will do best on this side of the formula. Here�s an explanation of these three support factors:

1. Average attendance -- Average crowd at regular-season home games, 1996-2005.

2. Percent of capacity -- Percentage of all available seats that were occupied at home games, 1996-2005.

3. Attendance fluctuation -- Difference (in percentage points) between the best and worst annual percentages of occupied seats, 1996-2005.

Support rank: Teams are ranked from first to 32nd according to their overall levels of support. First place goes to the team that received the strongest support over the decade.

Difficulty factors: Forty percent of each team�s score is based on four difficulty factors. A team with a low winning percentage, low market population, low per capita income and low December temperature will do best on this side of the formula. Here�s an explanation of these four difficulty factors:

1. Winning percentage -- Team�s 1996-2005 regular-season record.

2. Market population -- Population of the BEA economic area that includes the team, 2004. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis sets the boundaries for BEA economic areas.

3. Per capita income -- Average income per resident of the BEA economic area, 2004.

4. December temperature -- Average high temperature for the month. Domed-stadium teams are automatically assigned the worst score in this category.

Difficulty rank: Teams are ranked from first to 32nd according to the overall difficulty they present to supporters. First place goes to the team that was the most difficult to support over the decade.

Formula: Each team has been compared against the leaguewide averages for all seven factors. Teams less than seven years old have had their scores cut according to a sliding scale, reducing the statistical impact of the honeymoon period enjoyed by all new sports franchises. (Houston is the only franchise affected this year.) Factor scores have been totaled according to the 60-40 ratio noted above, with final results expressed on a 32-point scale. The higher its score, the greater a team�s level of fan loyalty.