Chiefs Rank 21st in NFL Fan Base Analysis; K-State Outranks Kansas, Missouri


Nov 18, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; An overall view of Arrowhead Stadium before the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati won the game 28-6. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

A string of miserable seasons has the Chiefs near the bottom third in fan base ranking, according to Emory sports marketing analytics. The same group ranked the Jayhawks last in the Big XII in football fan bases, while Kansas State ranked sixth. Missouri came in 12th in the SEC ranking.

Here is a quick breakdown of how Emery came to these conclusions:

"In our series of fan base analyses across leagues, we adjust for these complicating factors using a revenue premium model of fan equity.  The key idea is that we look at team box office revenues relative to team on-field success, market population, stadium capacity, median income and other factors.  The first step in our procedure involves the creation of a statistical model that predicts box office revenue as a function of the aforementioned variables.  We then compare actual revenues to the revenues predicted by the model.  Teams with relatively stronger fan support will have revenues that exceed the predicted values, and teams that under perform have relatively less supportive fan bases. We provide more details on the method here and here."

This story is less about the quality of fans for each of these teams as it is about the current state of the market for these teams. For example, if the Chiefs go on a big run this season then ticket sales, merchandise sales, and the general vibe of the team in the eyes of the consumer will improve well beyond what is likely predicted for the Chiefs’ revenues this year. As a result, the Chiefs will jump up pretty quickly on this list.

Basically: If the Chiefs win then the money will come in. And, as a result, the Chiefs “fan base” will suddenly rank higher.

The likelihood the Chiefs ever surpass national teams (i.e. Cowboys) or large market teams (i.e. Jets, Giants, Bears) is probably low. But the Chiefs have been a regional team moreso than a metro team – their fan base stretches through Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. So there are more people for the Chiefs to reach than just the Kansas City area.

Still, it is hard to beat a city that has over 10 million people living in it.

The college aspects of this are a bit more daunting.

Missouri is in a lot of trouble when it comes to competing financially with the top of the SEC.

Missouri ranked 12th in their ability to generate revenue in the SEC last season, ahead of only Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The chances Missouri can leap over Vanderbilt and Kentucky in the near future are probably high. Mizzou’s revenue took a hit in 2012 because of the fines they had to pay to the Big XII and the cost of rebranding the university. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt is having problems selling season tickets for their football team.

Things look less optimistic when one looks at the top six schools – 1. Georgia, 2. Alabama, 3. Auburn, 4. Florida, 5. Texas A&M, and 6. LSU. If you want to know why the Atlanta Falcons ranked next to last in the NFL rankings, it is because their true professional team is the Georgia Bulldogs. The amount of money and attention that floods into Georgia Bulldogs athletics from fans is far superior to that of the state’s professional teams.

And consider this: Georgia outranked Alabama in a year where Alabama won a national title – their third in four years.

Schools like 7. Tennessee, 8. Arkansas, 9. South Carolina are probably the target for Missouri, but reaching their level won’t be easy. Basically, the ceiling for Missouri athletics is to rank seventh in a 14-team conference. That’s not going to be good enough if they want to be competitive in the SEC East on an annual basis.

The good news is Arkansas and Tennessee each won SEC without making as much money as the top-tier schools. If I’m a Missouri fan – or Mike Alden – I’m studying how those schools have invested into their programs and how they established winning traditions. The formula for Missouri winning in the SEC will be different than those two schools, but there are certainly things to learn from each of them.

The Big XII is a different story in terms of depth and potential.

After Texas and Oklahoma, any given school in the conference could rank third on this list in with the exceptions of Iowa State and Kansas State.

K-State, in terms of quality of fans and on-field performance, would rank in the top three. The issue is their university is too small in comparison to many of the other Big XII schools. Competing financially on an annual basis with the rest of the Big XII is not something K-State is built for. Even competing with in-state rival Kansas is an uphill battle for them despite KSU’s tremendous football success over the last two years.

Market size is what is going to keep K-State down based on the way Emory constructs their formula.

Kansas’ upside is higher because they have a national bandwagon fan base built by their basketball program to tap into should on-field performance ever occur. KU simply has more people and more money to work with than Kansas State does when it comes to maximizing revenue.

Consider that Kansas brought in $18.77 million in ticket sales as an athletic department last year even though they had a 1-11 football team. Kansas State brought in $14.6 million in ticket sales as an athletic department. And that’s with Big XII titles in each of the three major men’s sports.

KU is also at a low-water mark. Last year was the first since 2008 KU did not crack $20 million in ticket sales. KU also paid out $8.5 million in severance payments for Turner Gil, Mark Mangino, and Lou Perkins.

If one were to rank the financial futures (read: financial growth) of the four teams over the next five years, it’d probably look like this:

1. Kansas

2. Missouri

3. Chiefs

4. Kansas State

Disagree? Let us know in the comments.