Emory University’s Sports Marketing Analytics department recently released their latest study of NFL fanbases. One of the metrics studied by Emory analysts Mike Lewis and Manish Tripathi was the “bandwagon rates” of NFL teams, which “encompasses looking at how different fan bases respond to variations in winning.” They continued, “If fans only show up when the team wins, does this mean they are bandwagon fans? Or does it mean that they demand quality?”
In this study, Lewis and Tripathi chose to “present a top ten list of the cities with the most fair weather or discerning fans,” from a period spanning 2001 to 2013. And, surprisingly enough, Cleveland Browns fans ranked 10th on the list. The Arizona Cardinals, meanwhile, were deemed to have the highest number of bandwagon fans in the league. On one hand, this makes sense, given that the Browns have struggled during the years the study spans, with just one winning season among them. Fans are less likely to attend games when their team is repeatedly in the losing column. But this study also sells Browns fans a bit short.
Though the Browns have lost more games than they have won from 2001 to 2013, their fans have remained fiercely loyal. But it is true, as Cleveland.com’s Tom Reed pointed out in January of last year, that though the Browns sold 97.3 percent of their tickets during the 2013 season, “there were thousands of no-shows late in the season.” But this isn’t a sign of bandwagoning, but rather, as the Emory study noted, the fans deciding to take a pass at live attendance when high-quality play simply isn’t there.
So while the label “bandwagon fans” may apply to fans of other teams in the study’s top 10, for Browns fans the Emory study’s alternate term, “discerning fans,” may be more apt to describe low attendance at Browns games during the 13 years the university examined.