Newsday’s John Jeansonne reports the results of some consumer research which suggests that baseball’s popularity is eroding compared to the other major sports:
It’s not just the stupid economy. (Although the Yankees’ 76.3-percent jump in average ticket price amid our Great Recession could have its unpleasant consequences this season.) Major League Baseball, according to the New York-based consumer research firm Brand Keys, has fallen below the NFL and NBA in its latest Sports Fan Loyalty Index. While ballyards across America swell this week with crowds celebrating the ritual return of the national pastime, Brand Keys founder and president Robert Passikoff argues that baseball’s drawn-out steroids scandal heads the list of factors that have eroded the sport’s popularity.
Passikoff uses what he calls “loyalty drivers” — pure entertainment, authenticity, fan bonding and history/tradition — to produce his annual loyalty yardstick that provides leagues and teams with data to address broadcast viewership, merchandise purchases and ticket revenues. In 2000, he ranked baseball No. 1, the NBA second, the NFL third and the NHL fourth.
Based on the information provided on their website, the Brand Keys survey really gauges the intensity of fandom — how much merch is bought per person and stuff like that — as opposed to sheer numbers of customers as measured by ticket sales or television viewers, though those obviously go into it too. This might explain how, despite the fact that baseball’s overall revenues and ticket sales have risen steadily for the past decade — with a slight decline in attendance last year — Brand Keys has baseball steadily falling on its scale over that same time frame. More casual fans, fewer body-painting fanatics who buy anything with their team’s logo painted on it.
Which I’m fine with, quite frankly. The numbers go up and down — and baseball will surely see a dip in everything this year due to the economy — but I’m much happier in a world where just about anyone I know is likely to go to a ballgame once in a while than I am to be in a world of a relatively smaller number and considerably scarier brand of intense enthusiasts.