Congratulations, Oakland Raiders fans! If you’re a member of the vaunted Raider Nation, it’s time you knew the truth. You’re a terrible, terrible fan. In fact, you’re the worst fan in the league. For shame, Raider fans, you’re horrible, awful, and no good at all.
At least you are if you believe the recent study conducted by Emory Sports Marketing Analytics, anyway.
The study, published in Sports Illustrated, boasts of using “advanced statistical metrics” to rank the various fan bases around the league in a couple of different categories. Those categories are “fan equity” and “social media equity.” They also give out a “bandwagon” ranking which determines how likely fans are to buy tickets to a game relative to their purported team’s winning percentage.
According to the study – which can be found here – the Dallas Cowboys rank first among NFL teams, a ranking they’ve held for the last five seasons. And because the Raiders have such terrible fans, the team ranks dead last in the “fan equity” category.
Emory Sports Marketing’s study gives out the “fan equity” ranking they say, based on the fans’ willingness to support their team financially. What they don’t divulge is how the exact nature of how they come to determine a fan’s willingness to support their team financially. Is it raw ticket sales? Jersey sales? Hats? Other assorted team merchandise?
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Showing that perhaps, this study is dubious, or at least makes certain and perhaps, incorrect assumptions, is the fact that the Seattle Seahawks – who have some the most notoriously loyal and loud fans – earned the 27th spot on the list, just narrowly avoiding being one of the five worst fan bases in the league.
From the Emory study:
“The team ranked sixth from the bottom is likely to raise some eyebrows. The numbers suggest that while the Seahawks fans are very loud, they are a below average fan base on the Fan Equity metric. At the end of the day, it appears that Seahawks fans are not willing to pay the prices that you would expect for a team of the quality of the Seahawks in a market with the demographics of Seattle. However, there is another explanation for the Seahawks fans poor showing. Maybe the assumption that the Seahawks are pricing to maximize revenues isn’t correct. Our Fan Equity measure implicitly assumes that teams are revenue maximizers. There is a reasonable case to be made that this assumption is not always true. For example, the Steelers and Packers could easily raise prices and continue to sell-out their stadiums.”
It’s mind numbingly difficult to understand exactly what Emory Sports Marketing means when they talk about the fans’ willingness to support the team financially and how they are quantifying that. As it stands, the Raiders have two players within the top twenty of the league’s best selling jerseys – Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. And among wide receivers, rookie Amari Cooper has the third best selling jersey right behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant – not exactly bad company to be in.
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As far as fan attendance, granted, the O.Co hasn’t been selling out on a regular basis, perhaps partly a product of the team’s poor performances, perhaps a condition of the local economy, which isn’t terrific. But even though the Raiders haven’t had a winning season since 2002, and even though they’ve won exactly eleven games over the past three seasons, the Raiders have still averaged about 80-85 percent attendance at their home games – though the raw numbers may look bad simply because the Raiders have the fourth smallest stadium in the league.
The trouble with studies like these is the simple fact that they do not analyze or take into account, the fact that some team’s fan bases are more affluent than others. Some team’s fan bases have more disposable income than others and can afford to go out and buy every team related piece of merchandise under the sun.
And studies like these do not take into account the fact that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to love and support your team. You cannot quantify the love and loyalty of a fan base. With the Raiders’ stadium situation in flux, you are seeing the fan base in two entirely different cities, one in Northern California and one in Southern California rising up to battle for the right to either keep or bring back the team they love.
There is a lot that studies like these cannot measure and quantify when it comes to identifying the “best” fans in the league. Though the pump out a few numbers, slap a label on it, and do it anyway. But you cannot measure heart, you cannot measure desire, and you cannot measure a fan’s love for their team.
The Raiders have some of the most passionate, devoted, and loyal fans in the league. You can see it in the fact that despite going twelve seasons without a playoff appearance, that fans still flock to the stadium to support the Raiders and have not lost their spirit, pride or enthusiasm for their team. They are every bit as boisterous today as when the Raiders made their Super Bowl run back in 2002.
And it’s for reasons like those that studies like the one conducted by Emory Sports Marketing are completely invalid, or at least, should be viewed with incredible skepticism. By every measure that actually counts and means something, the Raiders have some of the best fans in the league.