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TheStreet Open House

America's Best Cities for NFL Fans

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Move to Denver or Seattle and you'll find plenty of Broncos and Seahawks fans right now, but two Emory University experts say neither one of this year's Super Bowl cities comes close to having football's most loyal fans.

Sports-marketing professors Michael Lewis and Manish Tripathi of Emory's Goizueta School of Business rank Denver 12th and Seattle just 23rd in an analysis of long-term fan loyalty among the NFL's 32 teams.

"There are a lot of johnny-come-lately fans that cheer for the Seahawks, while Denver was struggling before Peyton Manning showed up," Tripathi says.

The Emory professors, who hold doctorates in marketing, estimated NFL cities' long-term fan loyalty by estimating teams' ticket revenues between 2002 and 2012 and adjusting for such variables as win/loss records and local population levels.

Tripathi says teams with the most-loyal fans over the long haul don't necessarily have the best records today, but usually had dynastic periods at some point in the past that continue to attract nostalgic fans.

For instance, he theorizes that the New York Jets still benefit from the team's Joe Namath era, while the Dallas Cowboys continue to draw crowds thanks in part to their 1970s glory days.

"I think you can make the argument that the Cowboys are still living off of the brand equity they built up in the 1970s when they were 'America's Team,'" Tripathi says, although the D.C. native admits he's a "Cowboys hater" who roots for longtime Dallas rival the Washington Redskins.

Teams that place well on Lewis and Tripathi's rankings also tend to have newer stadiums that justify higher ticket prices, as the study looked at total ticket revenues rather than number of tickets each franchise sells.

But Tripathi says only franchises with strong fan bases can get spectators to pony up big bucks for seats, so he considers his and his partner's measure of fan loyalty valid.

And even though you'll probably face high ticket prices if you move to a city at the top of the professors' list, Tripathi says diehard football fans should enjoy the atmosphere they find there.

"If you really like to get behind your team, these might be good cities to live in," he says.

Click below to check out the cities and teams atop Lewis and Tripathi's rankings of franchises with the most-loyal fan bases, as well as market tracker Zillow.com's latest median-home-price data and property listings for each metro area.

The professors compiled their rundown by projecting how much ticket revenue each franchise should have seen the 2002-12 period and comparing that with estimated actual sales (which teams don't generally disclose). Teams with the most revenues above expected levels top of the list.

To control for differences between markets, Lewis and Tripathi factored in each team's stadium capacity, average ticket price and win/loss records during the period, and also looked at local population and income levels.

No. 6 best city for loyal NFL fans: Indianapolis

Perhaps it's not surprising Indy has a loyal NFL fan base, given that the Colts had superstars Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck as quarterback during the period Lewis and Tripathi studied.

Tripathi says the franchise's ticket revenues have also benefited from Lucas Oil Stadium's 2008 opening, as well as from the fact the Colts are just about the only pro-sports game in town. Indianapolis doesn't have a pro baseball or hockey team, just the Colts and the Indiana Pacers NBA franchise.

Put it all together and Tripathi says fans "still packed the stadium" even when the Colts posted an embarrassing 2-14 record in 2011.

Would-be Colts fans can expect to pay around $117,600 to buy an Indianapolis home. Click here for a look at some 9,500 local properties that Zillow lists for sale.

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