Last week ESPN released its annual “Ultimate Standings” results via ESPN The Magazine. This is the ninth year that ESPN has been rating professional sports organizations with the goal to “measure how much MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchises give back to the fans in exchange for all the time, money and emotion the fans invest in them.”*
The standings are determined by eight factors including: bang for your buck, fan relations, ownership, affordability, stadium experience, players, coaching, and title track. These eight factors are based on findings of what a fan expects and desires out of professional sports organizations.
This year the top sports organization slot was captured by the Green Bay Packers. The Packers jumped to number one from the ninth spot last year in large part because of their winning of the Super Bowl. However, their high standard of customer service at Lambeau Field and their lower than the average NFL ticket prices helped the reigning NFL champions leap to the number one spot.
What may be surprising for Lakers fans is the ranking the Lakers were given. They ranked as the 56th best professional sports franchise, dropping five spots from last year’s ranking of 51. Below is a breakdown of how the Lakers ranked in each of the eight categories by ESPN.
Title Track: 15 — Championships already won or expected in the lifetime of current fans.
Ownership: 9 — Honesty and loyalty to core players and local community.
Coaching: 3 — Strength of on-field/court leadership.
Players: 56 — Effort on the field/court and likability off it.
Fan Relations: 45 — Openness and consideration toward fans by players, coaches and management.
Affordability: 109 — Price of tickets, parking and concessions.
Stadium Experience: 47 — Quality of arena and game-day promotions as well as friendliness of environment.
Bang for the Buck: 81 — Wins during the past three years (regular season plus postseason) per revenues directly from fans, adjusted for league schedules.
The Lakers’ performance in this past post-season resulted in a low ranking of the players category due to commitment and off the court issues. The affordability factor hurts the team’s ranking most of all due to the average ticket price of $95.25, which is seven dollars more that the next highest price ticket in the NBA. The coaching and ownership categories were ranked high, which should come as no surprise as Phil Jackson and Jerry Buss are two of the best at their respective roles.
The bang for the buck category came as a bit of a surprise since the Lakers have won two of the past three championships, are one of the most financially successful sports organizations in history with an estimated value of $643 million, and have been a part of the highlight games in the NBA (ie. Christmas day games).
Andy Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles stated, “Good thing the organization’s new television deal with Time Warner, estimated by some to be worth $3 billion over 20 years, kicks in in 2012. It illustrates perfectly what being a Lakers fan comes down to now for so many in LA. The gold standard of franchises is most practically watched from the comfort of one’s living room.” This may hold true to Lakers fans due to the current state of the economy and the high cost of attending the game (prices and travel costs).
What the “Ultimate Standings” don’t rank is the value of the fan-base of professional teams. The Lakers have some of the most dedicated, committed, loyal, and enthusiastic fans in the NBA and professional sports. This is the one thing that is an intangible asset to sports organizations. The fans are what makes the Lakers the premier team in the NBA year after year. Of course, having sixteen championship doesn’t hurt either.
*Source: Information provided by ESPN