Falcons Come in at #19 in New NFL Fandom Rankings, Goizueta Fanalytics

Staff Report

Wednesday, June 7th, 2023

Emory Goizueta Business School professor Mike Lewis has released his 2023 NFL Fandom Rankings. The New England Patriots take the #1 Fandom spot, followed by the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Coming in at #19, our Atlanta Falcons remain a mid-tier NFL brand. Atlanta is a top-10 market, and the Falcons fall short of the performance of other big-market clubs. But over the last decade the Falcons have been on the upswing. The Mercedes Benz stadium and a rejuvenated Atlanta sports environment are the drivers.

Why Are Fan Rankings Important? The fan base rankings are a critical sports business story. Knowing where the passion lies and will lie in the future is important for every sports league.
Fandom is a source of social identity
Fandom is the driver of revenues for leagues
Brands with more intense fan bases can leverage that into higher ticket prices, stronger media deals, and more robust sponsorship opportunities

Other Key Points:
The NFL currently finds itself in a situation where the elite QB talent is not playing for the elite brands
Goizueta’s Fandom Rankings use Fan Equity, Social Media Equity, and Talent Equity to determine the results
NFL 2023 Fandom Rankings

The NFL occupies a unique position in American sports. The NFL dominates the sports calendar almost year-round. The Super Bowl is consistently the highest-rated televised sports event, and even off-season happenings like the draft and free agency lead sports media.

The NFL is also the closest thing to a cultural unifier remaining in American society. About 100 million people watch the Super Bowl each year, fantasy football has become a tradition for many families, and the NFL QB is often the best-known local celebrity in most media markets.

That is all to say that the NFL is important both in terms of its scale as a business but also in terms of its role in American culture. It’s an interesting and important league to study. Today, we look at the question of NFL fandom: specifically, we investigate which franchises have the best fan bases (or brands).

The fan base rankings are a critical sports business story. Knowing where the passion lies and will lie in the future is important for every sports league. Fandom is the driver of revenues for leagues. But beyond basic questions of which teams to put on TV, the analysis shed light on something fundamental about fandom. Fans chose to be fans because they want to belong to something. Being a Green Bay Packers fan is like being part of a cool club. Being a fan of the Washington NFL franchise also used to be being part of something aspirational. Now being a fan of the Commanders is much less appealing.

A ranking of the “best” fans is likely to inspire arguments (fans love their teams so much they are willing to argue about who is the most intense fans) because we have no agreement on what being the best fan means. Is it being the loudest or being the most willing-to-be body slammed through a table while tailgating during a blizzard? Maybe. Passion is an important component of fandom but passion is impossible to directly measure across 32 NFL franchises. But what about willingness to spend or to show up when a team is losing or following a team on social media? Fundamentally, we want to know which team has the most fans and the fans with the deepest emotional connection to their teams. Practically, we can look at measures of engagement (spending, attending, following) while controlling for variation in team performance (it’s easy to follow a winner) and market potential (New York has more economic potential than Jacksonville). We also add a small component related to each team’s ability to attract talent without breaking the bank.

We’ve crunched the numbers (20-plus years of data and multiple statistical models), and we have our NFL fan base rankings for 2023: