Brand study finds US sports fan loyalty shifting

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on May 23, 2005

Brand study finds US sports fan loyalty shifting

Sports fan loyalty levels in the USA have shifted dramatically since 2004 throughout the four major leagues and 120 sports teams tracked by the 2005 Brand Keys Sports Fan Loyalty Index, with particular disappointments stemming from steroids and strikes.

According to Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys' president, both baseball and hockey fans have been the most disappointed this year - a factor which has dramatically affected fan loyalty rankings. Overall, league rankings have shifted negatively since 2004 with Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL) taking the hardest falls.

Loyalty drivers The category loyalty drivers ¬of Pure Entertainment, Authenticity, Fan Bonding, and History & Tradition have been affected by a steroid scandal and a hockey 'lockout'. League loyalty (benchmarked against and index of 100) currently stand as follows: 1. National Football League (112) 2. National Basketball Association (109) 3. Major League Baseball (91) 4. National Hockey League (80)

The MLB, one of the strongest sports in 2004, had an index strength equal to the NFL (as measured against a fan ideal of 120) before the steroid-related crisis. After grand jury hearings, MLB loyalty strength suddenly decreased to an index of 94, with its current overall loyalty index being only 91 - the lowest ever score recorded for baseball.

Loyalty dropped "Athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs erodes trust and the bonds that fans form with players and, therefore, loyalty," explained Passikoff. "When you speak of the trust placed directly in the players themselves and relationship between players and their fans, unadulterated talent is most important. The National Hockey League lost nearly 25% of its fan loyalty this year. You can't disappoint a fan much more than just not showing up."

Passikoff warned: "Loyalty strength as low as we're seeing for baseball and hockey will decrease both TV viewership and purchases of league licensed products. Some of this can be offset by marketing, but only if marketers address the right fan loyalty values in the right way."

About the study Brand Keys assessed fan loyalty from a sample of 12,700 self-classified league and team fans. The assessments took into account the degree to which loyalty can be affected by steroid use, strikes, winning the Super Bowl or World Series, how the teams play (including win/loss ratio), and having coaches and players with whom fans can bond. The loyalty index has been made available on the Brand Keys web site.

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