The Los Angeles Lakers have the NBA’s most loyal and engaged fanbase, according to a recent study.
Michael Lewis, the faculty directory of Emory University’s marketing analytics center, analyzed NBA fan loyalty and engagement using three standard metrics — fan equity (home revenue), road equity (attendance draw for the visiting team) and social equity (Twitter reach) — all controlled for variables like team success and market population. Fan equity, which accounts for how well a team’s supporters attend and spend at games in the home arena, is weighted equally to social and road equity combined.
Per Lewis’ analysis, the Lakers led the NBA in both social and road equity while ranking second to the New York Knicks in fan equity, which earned L.A. the top overall spot. The Lakers were followed in order by the Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers in the top five.
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Lewis has conducted similar studies for the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball. The NBA is more difficult for him to analyze, largely because the league has traditionally been more star-driven, and player movement skews the use of three-year data samples in his effort to offset more natural market volatility.
The Cavs, for example, likely benefit this year from the inclusion of data from their 2017 and 2018 Finals runs as well as the social media following that the franchise built during LeBron James’ tenure. Conversely, the L.A. Clippers and Brooklyn Nets will almost certainly see improved equity by the end of the contracts signed by the newly acquired Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Lewis last analyzed NBA fandom and brand equity in 2016, when his study ranked the Knicks, Lakers, Bulls, Miami Heat and Celtics as the top five fan bases. For obvious reasons, the Warriors and Cavs made the biggest leaps over the past three years, from 16th and 20th to second and fifth, respectively. Recent success also led to big jumps in the rankings for the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors.
Meanwhile, the following teams have fallen at least six spots in Lewis’ fan rankings since 2016: the Utah Jazz (eighth to 21st), Denver Nuggets (11th to 22nd), Portland Trail Blazers (sixth to 17th), Clippers (17th to 24th), Phoenix Suns (ninth to 16th), Washington Wizards (23rd to 30th) and Knicks (first to seventh). There are surprise teams in there, to be sure, and their brand managers should further mine this data.
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