America's Worst Cities for NFL Fans

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Sure Seattle crushed Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII, but football enthusiasts who move to the Seahawks' hometown will find some of the NFL's least-loyal fans there, two Emory University experts say.

"You definitely see a decrease in the number of people coming to [Seahawks] games at times when the team's performance has gone down," says Emory researcher Manish Tripathi, who recently conducted a study with colleague Michael Lewis that ranked Seattle fans 23rd among those of the NFL's 32 teams.

Tripathi and Lewis, two sports-marketing experts at Emory's Goizueta School of Business, analyzed fan loyalty by measuring how much money each team took in from ticket sales between 2002 and 2012 after adjusting for variations between cities. For instance, the pair took each team's win/loss record and stadium size into account.

Tripathi says franchises with the most-loyal fans don't always have the greatest records, but historically had at least one string of championship seasons that diehard supporters still wax nostalgic about.

By contrast, NFL cities with weak fan bases generally have few good times for fans to fondly recall, as well as lots of "transplant" residents who grew up somewhere else and didn't root for home team.

Tripathi adds that many communities with low fan loyalty also have warm climates and top pro teams in other sports vying for residents' attention.

So the professor says true football fans might want to avoid moving to cities that sit at the bottom of the study's rankings. "If you like a packed house and fans putting their money where their mouths are and buying tickets to games, you probably [won't] enjoy these places," Tripathi says.

That said, the expert admits that NFL cities with weak fan bases do often offer one advantage: low ticket prices.

"You might not see people showing up at games in these cities through thick and thin, but you're often able to enjoy a quality football product at a lower ticket price," Tripathi says.

Read on to check out the five NFL cities at the bottom of the Emory professors' rankings, as well as some details about each community's housing market.

Tripathi and Lewis compiled their rundown by projecting what ticket revenues each team should have had the 2002-12 period and comparing that to estimated actual sales.

Teams with the highest ticket sales above expected levels topped the professors' rankings, while those with the lowest revenues relative to predicted amounts placed at the bottom.

To account for differences between markets, Lewis and Tripathi factored in each franchise's stadium capacity, average ticket price and win/loss record during the period studied. The pair also adjusted results to account for variations in each metro area's local population and median-income levels.

Home-price figures refer to market tracker Zillow.com's estimates of median values for all properties (not just those up for sale) in a given metro area as of December 2013, the latest month with data available.

No. 5 worst city for loyal NFL fans: Detroit

Detroit Lions fans have had little to roar about in recent years.

That's because the team finished below .500 in 10 of the 11 seasons Tripathi and Lewis studied, including a humiliating 0-16 record in 2008. Detroit did manage to have a winning season and make the playoffs in 2011, but New Orleans eliminated the Lions in the first round.

Tripathi says that when you add in the fact that the Lions have never reached the Super Bowl and Detroit has long suffered from a weak economy, it's not surprising the team has substandard ticket revenues.

"People either won't show up or won't pay much to watch a poor product," he says.

Still interested in moving there? Zillow says the median Detroit home is worth $100,300. Click here to check out the roughly 14,000 local properties the site lists as for sale.

No. 4 worst city for loyal NFL fans: Tampa

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can count on about as much loyalty from their fans as a pirate ship's captain can expect from his crew.

"Tampa Bay did win a Super Bowl at the beginning of our study period [in 2002], but we still found that people are primarily not showing up for games," Tripathi says.

The professor attributes that to a combination of warm weather and plenty of transplant residents who continue to root for their old teams. "A lot of people come from other places and still have their loyalties elsewhere," Tripathi says.

If you want to buck the Buccaneers' low-fan-loyalty trend, Zillow estimates the typical Tampa-area residence will cost you around $134,400. The site lists some 5,000 homes for sale there.

No. 3 worst city for loyal NFL fans: Phoenix

The Arizona Cardinals spent most of their history in Chicago and St. Louis, so perhaps it's not surprising Phoenix residents don't flock to home games even though the team reached the Super Bowl in 2009 (but lost).

"The Cardinals have had periods of success, but they just don't have the following, draw the same crowd or get the same ticket prices that other NFL teams do," Tripathi says.

The professor believes ticket sales suffer partly from the fact that the Cardinals only came to town in 1988, meaning older Phoenix residents didn't grow up rooting for the team. He says the warm Arizona weather and lots of interest in the historically strong Phoenix Suns basketball franchise also hurt Cardinal fans' loyalty levels.

But if you have your heart set on building a "nest" in Cardinal country, click here to check out some 9,600 Phoenix-area homes currently listed for sale. Expect to pay about $188,200 for a median-priced home there.

No. 2 worst city for loyal NFL fans: Atlanta

The Atlanta Falcons made the playoffs in more than half of the seasons that researchers studied, but Tripathi says that doesn't translate into a loyal fan base.

"The Falcons just haven't had sustained success -- and because of that, you don't see the following that you might expect," he says.

Tripathi, who lives in Atlanta, adds that the city's large contingent of non-native residents also cuts into fan loyalty.

So does big local interest in the University of Georgia Bulldogs football team, which plays in nearby Athens, Ga. "Atlanta is much more of a college-football town." Tripathi says.

NFL fans who still want to get behind the Falcons should expect to pay about $136,300 to buy a median-priced Atlanta home. You can check out some 5,200 local listings here.

No. 1 worst city for loyal NFL fans: Oakland, Calif.

Oaklanders haven't had much reason to raid their savings to buy Raiders tickets in recent years -- much to Tripathi's surprise.

"I think the Raiders do have passionate fans, but the team just doesn't seem to sell tickets," he says.

True, the Raiders lost the 2003 Super Bowl at the beginning of the study's period and haven't managed anything better than an 8-8 season since then. But Tripathi says the franchise's storied past -- three Super Bowl wins, including one under legendary 1970s coach John Madden -- should translate into better ticket sales.

"The Raiders are one of those teams that have had some brand success, so you'd think they'd be higher on the [fan-loyalty] list," he says.

Of course, low fan loyalty means Oakland residents should have no trouble finding tickets for home games.

If that sounds good to you, Zillow lists around 1,250 Oakland-area properties for sale. Expect to pay about $642,900 for a median-priced home in the Oakland/San Francisco metro area.

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