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Study ranks NFL's fans bases: How do the Falcons fare? Below the Panthers


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Say it isn't so, Falcons fans.

Emory University's sports marketing expert Michael Lewis recently released his annual NFL fan base rankings and there were some surprises this year, including the Falcons fans rolling in at 19th overall.

How did Falcons fans like the ones below end up on the bottom half of this list?

While the top-five teams on this list won't really surprise anyone – the Cowboys, Patriots, Eagles, Giants and Steelers – the team coming in dead last is a bit shocking: the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 32. Yes, the team with the so-called loudest fans in the NFL ended up last at the bottom of the rankings. For what it's worth, the Chiefs finished 30th in 2016.

First, let's look at Emory University's complete list of overall rankings.

  1. Cowboys
  2. Patriots
  3. Eagles
  4. Giants
  5. Steelers
  6. Saints
  7. Bears
  8. Broncos
  9. Packers
  10. 49ers
  11. Colts
  12. Ravens
  13. Jets
  14. Dolphins
  15. Redskins
  16. Bills
  17. Panthers
  18. Seahawks
  19. Falcons
  20. Raiders
  21. Lions
  22. Texans
  23. Vikings
  24. Chargers
  25. Buccaneers
  26. Browns
  27. Cardinals
  28. Bengals
  29. Jaguars
  30. Titans
  31. Rams
  32. Chiefs 

So how exactly does Lewis determine who has the best fans?

Is it all about the brand? How many fans show up, even when the team is losing? Is it about which fans spend the most money? Is it about which fans travel best? Or who has the most followers on social media? And how do you compare a team based in Jacksonville with one based in Los Angeles or New York?

Yes, apparently all of those questions factor into the equation. For a much more in-depth explanation, click here.

Lewis breaks his rankings down into three categories and takes the average from each: Fan equity, social equity and road equity.

And how do the Falcons fare in each?

  • Fan equity: 26
  • Social equity: 16
  • Road equity: 14

Ouch, that fan equity number hurts. Clearly, the Falcons' ranking here is among the worst in the NFL.

So, what is it and how is it measured?

According to Lewis, fan equity "looks at home revenues relative to expected revenue based on team performance and market characteristics. The goal of the metric is to measure over or under performance relative to other teams in the league. In other words, statistical models are used to create an apples-to-apples type comparison to avoid distortions due to long-term differences in market size or short-term differences in winning rates."

Lewis does make an important clarification when it comes to fan equity, and this is "some teams may not be trying to maximize revenues. Perhaps the team is trying to build a fan base by keeping prices low. Or a team my price on the low side based on some notion of loyalty to its community. In these cases, the fan equity metric may understate the engagement of fans."

For what it's worth, here's how the rest of the NFC South ranked in fan equity:

  • Saints: 7
  • Panthers: 22
  • Buccaneers: 25
  • Falcons: 26

Now when it comes to social and road equity, the Falcons are in the middle of the pack in comparison to the rest of the league.

And what is social equity? According to Lewis, social equity "is more of a national level measure. So while the fan equity metric focuses on local box office revenues, the social metric provides insight into how a team's fandom extends beyond a metro area."

Here's how the Falcons stack up socially with their South rivals:

  • Panthers: 4
  • Saints: 10
  • Falcons: 16
  • Buccaneers: 25

And how do Falcons fans travel? When it comes to road equity – Lewis looks at how the local fans travel and whether a team with a high road attendance has a national following. He writes, "When the Steelers turned the Georgia Dome Yellow and Black was it because Steelers fans came down from Pittsburg or because the Steelers have fans everywhere?"

Here's how the Falcons stack up with their South rivals when it comes to following the team on the road:

  • Saints: 10
  • Buccaneers: 13
  • Falcons: 14
  • Panthers: 28
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