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The NFL season always kicks off with teams planning for an Ideal season leading to Super Bowl. This year, the annual kickoff game felt familiar, with the Carolina Panthers opening the season in Denver looking for a chance to bounce back from last year’s Super Bowl loss, the first time a Super Bowl rematch kicked off an NFL season, but the 24th time Brand Keys has announced the results of its annual Brand Keys 2016 Sports Fan Loyalty Index, this round focusing on the NFL.

Appearing in the Super Bowl is every team’s Ideal outcome. Fans also have an “ideal” in mind – the Ideal team. Fans see their ideal team as the one that better meets their very high expectations. Teams that can, always win the “Loyalty Bowl.” There’s no trophy, but it comes with something more important – emotionally engaged fans, increased game viewership, and increased purchases of licensed merchandise.

Here are the 2016 – 2017 season NFL teams that scored when it comes to fan loyalty, and those that didn’t. For comparative purposes, #’s in parentheses are team’s rankings for last season:

Top 5

  1. New England Patriots (#1)
  2. Denver Broncos (#3)
  3. Green Bay Packers (#2)
  4. Seattle Seahawks (#3)
  5. San Francisco 49ers (#6)

Bottom 5

  1. Cleveland Browns (#30)
  2. Jacksonville Jaguars (#31)
  3. Oakland Raiders (#32)
  4. Washington Redskins (#29)
  5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#28)

Brand Keys’ Sports Fan Loyalty Index was designed to help professional sports team management identify precise fan loyalty rankings in their home and national markets with insights that enable the league and team to identify areas – particularly emotional ones – that could use some strategic brand defense.

Those insights includes values beyond win-loss ratios, and provides an apples-to-apples comparison of the intensity with which fans within a team’s home market support the home team versus corresponding values for the fans of the other teams or leagues in the same market. Winning is great, but there are three other powerful and emotionally-based factors that need to be taken into account when it comes to fan loyalty. Percentages next to each indicate the contribution they currently make to fan loyalty and engagement:

History and Tradition (30%):

Is the game and the team part of fans’ and community rituals, institutions, and beliefs?

Fan Bonding (29%):

Are players particularly respected and admired?

Pure Entertainment (21%):

How well a team does, wins, losses sure. But even more importantly than win-loss ratios, how entertaining is their play? On-the-field aggressive play is an acceptable component of this loyalty driver.

Authenticity (20%):

How well they play as a team, both offense and defense. New managers, as they’re seen to be responsible for the genuineness and credibility of their team, can also help lift this driver. So can a new stadium.

Ultimately you need to know what fans really expect to do that – beyond a winning season because some people think football is a matter of life and death. Depending on your level of fan loyalty, sometimes it can get much more serious than that.

To check out where your team ranked, take a look at


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

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