The Cubs May Have Single-Handedly Increased MLB's Popularity

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The Cubs May Have Single-Handedly Increased MLB’s Popularity

Chicago Cubs

The headline may be hard to believe – well, it probably would be harder to believe if we didn’t see everything through Cubbie-blue colored glasses – but it could very much be true.

According to Geoff Baker at the Seattle Times, the Chicago Cubs’ thrilling seven-game World Series victory has been cited as the reason Major League Baseball recently topped the 25th annual Sports Fan Loyalty Index.

The Sports Fan Loyalty Index – as we all totally know – is a figure created by a New York consulting firm, Brand Keys, to measure fan-loyalty to teams in the four major U.S. professional sports leagues (NHL, NBA, NFL, and MLB).

The index was created to help teams, leagues, and advertiser do, you know, business stuff (like maximize revenue), but for our purposes today, it can be used as a psuedo-measure of each sports’ relative popularity among its fanbase.

And, for the first time in a decade, MLB has recorded the highest loyalty score among the group. For reference, the rest of the list shook out like this:

  1. Major League Baseball
  2. National Basketball Association
  3. National Football League
  4. National Hockey League

After years of locking down first-place, the NFL took a tumble to third, as MLB rose to the top. Beyond the Cubs’ popularity and attention-drawing season, Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff credits the ascent of small market clubs: “All of a sudden, you’ve got Cleveland, St. Louis, Kansas City, but not the Yankees. What are the Yankees doing? You’re not hearing about the big-market teams. You’re hearing about the smaller-market teams doing stuff and that’s a shift generally.”

The rise of small market clubs is good for the sport in two distinct ways. First, it increases league parity, which is inarguably the best thing for any sport. Nobody wants to see the same few teams win the championship every single year (cough, NBA, cough). Consider that, since 1999, just eight different teams have won the NBA Championship: Los Angeles Lakers (5), San Antonio Spurs (5), Miami Heat (3), Detroit Pistons (1), Boston Celtics (1), Dallas Mavericks (1), Golden State Warriors (1), Cleveland Cavaliers (1). [Brett: well, the NBA was second behind MLB on the list, so … (I kid).]

Major League Baseball, on the other hand, has had eleven different teams win the final game of the year, with none recording more than three wins in the eighteen year stretch: New York Yankees (3), Boston Red Sox (3), San Francisco Giants (3), St. Louis Cardinals (2) Arizona Diamondbacks (1), Anaheim Angels (1), Florida Marlins (1), Chicago White Sox (1), Philadelphia Phillies (1), Kansas City Royals (1), Chicago Cubs (1). That’s a huge, very important difference.

The second way small market success is better for the sport is pretty simple: larger markets are able to draw more fans regardless of how the team is doing, but that’s not so for smaller market teams. Obviously, competitive seasons boost a big market’s signal, to, but the impact of a good season on a small market club is much larger (relatively) than it is too a big market. The Kansas City Royals recent string of huge TV ratings (after back-to-back World Series appearances) is a perfect example.

But back to the Cubs.

On a team level, the Chicago Cubs scored the highest fan loyalty score in MLB. Given that the score is calculated based on History and Tradition (30%), Fan Bonding (29%), Pure Entertainment (21%), and Authenticity (20%), I’d say that’s not much of a surprise. (The authenticity thing is especially funny, given that it’s one of Joe Maddon’s themes this year).

The rest of the top five, if you’re interested, looked like this:

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Washington Nationals
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. San Francisco Giants

The Cardinals, then, did not make the top five (maniacal laugh) and the Arizona Diamondbacks, perhaps unsurprisingly, ranked last. Regardless, Major League Baseball has seen an explosion in fan loyalty relative to the other professional sports leagues in this country and the Chicago Cubs led that league.

In a way, then, the Cubs had more to do with the shift in popularity than any other team.

And they’re taking advantage/helping push it further with spots like the recent, brilliant Bryzzo Souvenir Company ad.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami