If respect is to be earned, not given, then the result of this year’s annual study of NFL fan bases is hard to argue for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“The Best NFL Fans 2016: The Dynamic Fan Equity Methodology,” has been conducted each summer by Emory University marketing professors Mike Lewis and Manish Tripathi. The results can be found here and a full academic description of the study’s methods can be found here.
A basic, quick explanation for what the Emory duo does to sort out 32 NFL franchises is determining “fan interest.” This is attempted by looking at statistics such as attendance, traditional and social media engagement, and spending.
Using the descriptors “best” and “worst” just adds to the lightning-rod nature of studies like these.
According to the results, Tampa Bay supporters rank 24th out of 32 fan bases, down from 21st last year. The Bucs find themselves above Arizona, Cincinnati, Miami, Buffalo, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Oakland and Jacksonville.
Lewis notes that attendance data is used from the past 15 years and social media metrics from the past four.
The front end of that time frame includes the organization’s Super Bowl title and three playoff appearances in five years. It’s the last 10 seasons that don’t help Tampa Bay’s cause. The last decade has resulted in one trip to the playoffs, three seasons above .500 and an overall record of 58-102.
Even in the late-1990s to early-2000s glory years period the Bucs weren’t cracking the upper reaches of total attendance numbers, but that’s also because Raymond James Stadium is not a high-capacity stadium. Understandably, traffic at the turnstiles has mirrored the Bucs’ success in the win column – both dropped and remain low.
A problem with these studies/rankings/etc. is that it puts too much on fan bases. Teams that can weather extended periods of ineptitude while staying at the top of a league’s attendance rankings and earnings are few and far between.
Teams sitting toward the bottom of these rankings can be the target of a little ridicule. That’s fine. But it shouldn’t just be directed at fans. Ownership, management and those involved with overall leadership should be front and center to take the hits, too.
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Arizona behind Tampa Bay? C’mon JonnyG, what’s up with that? Not surprising that the Bucs, Jaguars, Dolphins and Cardinals are near the bottom since those areas are populated by retirees and other assorted transplants holding onto their old “home” team loyalties. How are the Rams even among the 32 since they only abandoned St. Louis this off-season? The televised Chiefs games sure look like the fans support them. Bills and Raiders seem to be on the upswing and have always had a loyal following in spite of their recent lack of success. Bengals have been on the cusp for the past few years, so I can only attribute the lack of fans because of that atrocious uniform. Why aren’t the Browns near the bottom? Many in eastern Ohio are Steelers fans.
One of the challenges with this area is that so many people are transplants that still root for their former teams. Folks that have moved to this area within the last decade have little incentive to follow their new team. Even Buccaneer Heaven went out of business. I’ve been a season ticket holder and you can sense the “show me” attitude of the fans. We are wary of cheering too soon because we feel like sooner or later they are going to let us down. Some years it is disheartening to carry a lead into the fourth quarter only to let the defense blow it. Other years the defense plays their heart out but the offense can’t score. I think that with having a franchise quarterback for the first time in our history, if they can produce a winning season, the area is primed to get behind this team. Heck, we’re so desperate that if the team shows promise toward the end of the season you’ll see an up-tick in season ticket sales. For now we are guardedly optimistic.
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