CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." For NFL teams, especially small-market franchises seeking to increase their fan base, winning does help, but so does team longevity in the market as well as the number of games played in prime time, according to research by a University of Illinois sports economist.
Scott Tainsky, a professor of recreation, sport and tourism at Illinois, says that many of the same factors that influence whether fans attend a game in-person also influence a team's television ratings.
"Sports economists have traditionally relied on attendance figures as a proxy for demand in order to figure out what's motivating fans to go to games," Tainsky said. "Even though the NFL is priced just a little bit below where it could maximize revenue at the gate, it still requires a large income or at least a large outlay of money for the average fan to see a game in-person."
According to Tainsky, whose research was published in the Journal of Sports Economics, since the vast majority of fans watch the games on TV instead of in-person, and with the NFL generating over half of its revenue through TV contracts, TV ratings might actually function as a better proxy for consumer demand in both the home and road teams' markets.
"We have a long history of studying consumer demand for major league baseball, but there's very little research done on the NFL, even though it's the largest revenue, most popular sport in the U.S.," he said.
Of the three factors that positively influence demand, fielding a winning team is the most difficult variable to account for on a year-to-year basis, especially for small-market teams.
"From the first day of training camp, winning is the goal for every team in the league," Tainsky said. "But that's going to be somewhat cyclical, since the league has a pretty hard salary cap. If the spend
|Contact: Phil Ciciora|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign