The method to our madness

How do you calcuate the value of a franchise to it's fans?

Updated: July 1, 2009, 12:58 PM ET
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine

The Ultimate Standings measure how much MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchises give back to fans for all the time, money and emotion we invest in them. Here's how: Working with Maddock Douglas, a Chicago consulting firm, we polled 1,000 fans across North America to find out what they want most from their favorite teams. Our survey covered 21 topics, from "has strong leader as coach" to "players who act professionally on and off the field" to "provides avenue for fan feedback." Then asked fans to rate their favorite clubs in these categories; we received more than 50,000 responses. We grouped those responses into seven of the eight broad categories listed above. For the eighth category, Bang for the Buck, we examined how efficiently teams convert dollars from fans into on-field wins (regular- and postseason). Fan costs were calculated by researchers at the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. Finally, we combined each team's scores across all eight categories into one final, weighted score, taking each category's importance from our national poll. (For example, Stadium Experience counts for slightly more than twice as much as Coaching because that's how fans rated the categories.) The result is the only ranking that combines fan perspective with an objective measure of how well teams turn fan dollars into wins.

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.