Oakland Raiders “Least Loyal” NFL Fanbase per Marketing Firm
Marketing firm Brand Keys, which brands itself as a consultancy firm to help companies develop better “brand loyalty” has released a ranking of NFL fanbases in terms of least loyal to most loyal. Raider fans finished 32nd out of 32 fan bases, and are the so-called “least loyal” fan base in the NFL.
Of course this little tidbit, when relayed on Twitter by sports law and business writer Darren Heitner, caused much consternation and gnashing of teeth amongst Raider fans – as well as fans of the Browns, who were also ranked in the bottom five. Raider fans of course consider ourselves among the most loyal fanbases in all of North American sports, having stuck by the team through a 12-year stretch without a winning season or playoff appearances.
Brand Keys analyzes four factors in compiling the overall “loyalty” ranking for an NFL team: History and Tradition, Fan Bonding, Pure Entertainment and Authenticity. The latter two factors are essentially measurements of the on-field product and success of the team, which of course would be abysmal for the Raiders, Browns, Jaguars and other teams that have struggled for several years, and would be high for teams like the Patriots, Packers and Seahawks, all of whom finished in the top 5.
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The measure of “fan bonding” involves the popularity of players on the team among fans, something that Raider fans have only recently begun to enjoy with exciting young players like Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper, Derek Carr and others, but of course for every fan favorite there is also a player that the fans can’t stand, like DJ Hayden. Of course, Raider fans have managed to convince ourselves that players like Terrelle Pryor were superstars at various points, so it stands to reason that the Raider Nation would have done well in this category.
As for the “History and Tradtion” aspect of the ranking, is the game and team a part of community rituals, institutions and beliefs? There may be some question here. For teams in smaller cities in the Midwest like, say, the Browns…this is obvious. There’s nothing else to do on a Sunday in the fall but go to a Browns game. But in Oakland, part of a metro area that is home to another NFL team, it would be hard to say that the team is a part of community rituals, institutions and beliefs.
Oakland and the larger Bay Area is home to a diverse population with a large number of transplants from other states and immigrants from other countries who may not even watch football at all. And of course the numbers are hard to argue with: the Raiders are continually one of the worst attended teams in the NFL.
Of course there is another side to this coin. The Raider Nation is not exclusive to Oakland, the Bay Area or indeed Northern California at all, hence the term “nation.” Much of the Raider fan base lives elsewhere, like Southern California, or Las Vegas, where regular game attendance is unrealistic. But the Raiders still do very well in terms of jersey and merchandise sales every year, regardless of how poorly the team performs on the field. This seems to be textbook brand loyalty – the Raider brand is one of the most visible and profitable in football, after years of ineptitude.
Frankly, the term “loyalty” is heavily loaded and used by Brand Keys in a way other than the way it is used and understood for most people, especially most football fans. Fans who stick by a team through long stretches of tough times are the ultimate in loyal fans, in the common sense. Fans who are really into a team because it’s a winner but then lose interest when the team stops winning are of course not loyal at all. Brand Keys was measuring brand loyalty in sense of economic interest and investment, which of course will be higher for teams with legions of fairweather fans.
But it’s also important to keep in mind that the NFL is a business, and the Raiders are a company that is trying to make money. The issues that caused Brand Keys to rank the Raiders dead last in fan loyalty are very real. The team has consistently failed to put a quality product on the field that people wanted to buy in to. The fans have not showed up to games. But no one is questioning the loyalty of those of us who, 12 years into this funk, are still buying new Raider jerseys every year, attending games when we can or going to the bar to watch games wherever we live. That’s loyalty.