Recently a study has been making the rounds saying that the Chiefs are the 31st best fanbase in the NFL. That surprised a lot of people in the media, and upset a lot of Chiefs fans. So today we’re going to break it down and explain where it all went so terribly wrong. The big problem is that this study adjusted all these measures for market size and regular season record. Market size is fine, but judging the quality of a team just by regular season record misses a big part of what fans get excited about. Namely the playoffs. As Chiefs fans know, the Chiefs have been one of the biggest under-performers in the playoffs, so the adjustment based on performance unfairly punishes the Chiefs.
The other part of fan engagement is star power. Even though the Chiefs have been one of the best teams in the NFL recently, we haven’t had many marketable stars until Mahomes came along. Those star players increase the excitement around the team. Compare the Chiefs with Alex Smith to the Packers with Aaron Rodgers. While the Chiefs won more regular season games, the Packers got more hype and were more exciting to watch. The model, however, says it’s the Chiefs fans who should be more engaged.
Yet another problem is the model itself. Even though it corrects for market size it still seems to benefit teams in large markets or who have been successful recently. Of the top 10 teams on their list, every single one is either in a large market (Giants, Patriots, Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, 49ers) or are medium or small markets that have won a Super Bowl in the past 15 years (Steelers, Packers, Broncos, Saints). On the other hand, every single team in the bottom 10 is either in a smaller market, or is one of the two LA teams who recently moved to a larger market and haven’t had time to use their market to their full advantage. Also none of them have been to the Super Bowl in the past 15 years excluding the Rams, which don’t count since the fans didn’t know they’d appear this year.
It’s clear that they haven’t adjusted for these factors enough. I suspect it’s because they use a linear correlation model, which basically means that for each addition win or each additional person in the media market there is a certain increase that’s the same. However good teams and teams in big markets get positive feedback. They have large fanbases, so the media talks about them more, which makes their fanbases larger and more engaged, which makes the media talk about them even more, etc.
Overall, this study didn’t prove the Chiefs have a bad fanbase, but it’s also just like everything in sports, just for entertainment. They put together a fun study and didn’t put a ton of work into it to make it 100% accurate, so its really nothing to get too worked up about.