Big Data, Big Data and Analytics, Digital Strategy

Batter Up – Who’s a Baseball Fan?

15 Aug , 2018  

I recently wrote about how social media, in particular, Facebook can map the fandom of college football and NFL fans. These examples show how social media and digital operators can leverage data to measure assets, like the value of teams, the size and location of college alumni, and even put a price on things like sponsorship and brand placements. That economic surveillance is powerful and forms the basis for data monetization.

The NFL and college football fan maps are also fun to examine. Fans are not rational, but emotional. They make great customers, because the buy products, even when the product is inferior and call it entertainment. I thought it would be great to look at the baseball fandom maps and see some of the lessons in how we enjoy America’s summer sport.

Here is the baseball fandom map, generated from Facebook. Specifically, they did not ask people their favorite team, but rather measured the teams named on peoples pages and related that to location.

Here is version from the New York Times.

The shading helps communicate where fandom is not as strong and reveals where there are bleeding boundaries. There are no bleeding boundaries between the Yankees and the Red Sox (see below for more on this historic rivalry).

A few things jump out at me:

The Yankees. The Yankees are really followed everywhere, including Florida. It makes sense. The Yankees once trained in Ft. Lauderdale and now train in Tampa, and of course George Steinbrenner lived in Tampa. New Yorkers might have vilified him at times, but the people of Tampa loved him and can still tell you about his great philanthropy to the Tampa Bay area (which continues after his passing). Surely, this large and diverse fandom contributes to the estimated $4 billion value of the Yankees, making it one of the most valuable teams in all of sports, ever. CBS sold it to George Steinbrenner for $10 million in 1973. In its statement CBS said “the $10 million purchase price substantially recoups the original CBS investment of $13.2 million, taking into account consolidated financial results during the period of ownership. The purchase price is well in excess of the value carried on the CBS books.” Keep that in mind. Selling firms based on the value carried in the books, not market value – wow! Think about the deal “The Boss” got. I think the Cubs were a deal, too, btw.

Go West and South, Young Man. The Giants and Dodgers really won by going west. They would have never amassed as many fans in the crowded NYC market. Western teams seem to enjoy very large fan geographies, and have opened themselves up to growing cities, and to populations with larger Hispanic and Asian fan bases, which is good for growing an international brand, since baseball is popular in parts of Latin America and Japan.

The Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee and then to Atlanta. From a fandom perspective, what a great move! The Atlanta Braves are more or less king of the South in baseball. That level of fandom would have never been available to them if they stated in older cities up north. Brave move. Smart move.

Being Second Sucks. In baseball, teams like the White Sox, Athletics, Indians, and Angles just don’t get the fan base of their nearby and much larger rivals. Consider the Chicago map of Cubs fans versus White Sox fans.

New York and Boston. Consider the sharp divide between the Red Sox and Yankee territories. It lines up nearly perfectly with the New York state border. Strange, because an upstate person has a better chance of catching a game at Fenway than Yankee stadium, plus, for many parts of upstate New York, Boston is closer than New York City. Maybe it has something to do with the radio network of the Yankees and Red Sox, but then again, maybe people just turn off the Red Sox in New York state, due to interest or self hubris.

The radio rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox is alive and well in Florida, too.

When I was a young boy growing up in Tampa, I enjoyed seeing the Cincinnati Reds in their spring training games at Al Lopez field (named for “El Señor” the Spanish-American, Hall of Famer, Al Lopez of Tampa fame). Tampa was their spring training base, followed by nearby Plant City. It was commonplace to see Pete Rose and Johnny Bench at Al Lopez Field and nothing extraordinary to meet the stars around town. Just across the bay, in St. Petersburg, the Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Phillies played spring ball. The spring training line-up has changed a lot since the 1980s, and teams now have new stadiums, but Florida still has a great set of teams visiting each year. These games are a great opportunity to get up close to your favorite star. Check out a major league game when you are in Florida next spring.

But until the Tampa Bay Ray’s joined Major League Baseball, there was not team in Tampa, even with its history of producing baseball stars. In fact, Florida was the largest population center without a baseball team, until the addition of the Florida Marlins. The cities and towns of Florida still play host to many spring training sites and also are home to farm teams.

As the above map shows, the Yankees are still boss in the sunshine state, but the Red Sox (denoted on red) do have fan bases near their spring training site in Ft. Myers and surprisingly near Cape Canaveral. The Yankees even encroach on a large part of the South Florida region.

It’s good to be “The Boss.”


Professor Walker roots for the Rays, Reds, and Yankees, and living in a northern suburb of Chicago, flies the W after a Cub win.

Professor Walker provides keynote talks, seminars presentations, executive training programs, and executive briefings.

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About Russell Walker, Ph.D.

Professor Russell Walker helps companies develop strategies to manage risk and harness value through analytics and Big Data. He is Clinical Professor of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University. His most recent book, From Big Data to Big Profits: Success with Data and Analytics is published by Oxford University Press (2015), which explores how firms can best monetize Big Data. He is the author of the text Winning with Risk Management (World Scientific Publishing, 2013), which examines the principles and practice of risk management through business case studies.

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Russell Walker helps companies develop strategies to manage risk and harness value through analytics and big data. He has done novel research in data monetization and digital disruption and advises leading firms on these topics. As Director of Experiential Learning in Analytics and Associate Teaching Professor of Marketing and International Business at the Foster School of Business, at the University of Washington, Dr. Walker is an academic thought-leader on analytics. Russell Walker has developed and taught leading executive programs on Big Data and Analytics, Strategic Data-Driven Marketing, Enterprise Risk, Operational Risk, and Global Leadership. Previous to moving to Seattle and the Foster School, Dr. Walker was Clinical Professor at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University, where he founded and taught many popular courses in analytics and risk management. His is the author of the book From Big Data to Big Profits: Success with Data and Analytics (Oxford University Press, 2015) which examines data monetization strategies and the development of data-centric business models in the new digital economy. He is also the author of the award-winning text Winning with Risk Management (World Scientific Publishing, 2013), which examines the principles and practice of risk management as a competitive advantage. Dr. Walker consults with firms on the topics of Big Data and Analytics, Data Monetization, Risk Management, and Business Strategy. Russell Walker can be reached at: @RussWalker1776

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