5 Cities Where NFL Fans Feel Most at Home

BOSTON (MainStreet) — 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.