Do winning NFL franchises sell more team merch?

With the 2014 NFL season starting to pick up momentum, we wondered to what extent a team’s on-field performance correlates with sales via the team’s online fan shop.

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The Vikings take the field – photo by Flickr user Joe Bielawa

In order to investigate this question, we decided to use the Minnesota Vikings as our test case. You may recall that the Vikes were far more successful in 2012 than they were in 2013. In ’12, they went 10-6, making it their first winning season – and earning their first playoff appearance – since 2009.

The 2013 season was not as successful for Minnesota. They ended with 5 wins, 10 losses and 1 tie. Their win percentage was only .344, they lost every one of their away games, and they came within 4 points of setting an all-time record for points allowed. They ended up in fourth place in their division and did not qualify for the playoffs.

Comparing 2012 and 2013 revenues for vikingsfanshop.com

Comparing 2012 and 2013 revenues for vikingsfanshop.com

Comparing traffic to the fan shop (vikingsfanshop.com) in those two years demonstrates clearly that there is a correlation between the team’s record and sales of its official merchandise. According to SimilarWeb PRO, during the 2012 season, 400,000 fans visited the shop (i.e. considered making a purchase), while only 290,000 did so in 2013.

Although the percentage of fans who reached the checkout page was 9% higher in 2013, actual sales were much lower that year. In 2012, the site’s revenue totaled approximately $1,372,400, whereas in 2013 it peaked at around $979,272, which represents a decline of nearly $400,000.

The Logic Behind the Math

Unsurprisingly, the Vikings do not publicize their eCommerce website earnings on the internet for all to see. However, some smart data collection, the lion’s share of which comes from SimilarWeb PRO, helps us approximate the sales metrics.

Check Website Traffic and Calculate Page Visits

We started with the amount of traffic on the website from the start of pre-season in July through the playoffs in February. To determine the number of page impressions per season, we simply multiplied traffic totals by the average number of pages per visit.

We then compared the number of page visits to impressions of the vikingsfanshop.com checkout page, to find out what percentage of visitors to the site actually made a purchase. (Although it is possible that some people did not complete their purchases after starting the checkout process, we figured that shopping cart abandoners are likely to view their carts but rarely begin the checkout process – the vast majority of people who click from their cart to the checkout page do indeed make purchases.)

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Visits to vikingsfanshop.com during the 2012 season of the NFL

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Visits to vikingsfanshop.com during the 2013 season of the NFL

Scraping the prices of products on the website reveals that the average product costs approximately $100. If we assume that each purchaser bought one item, we can calculate traffic to checkout page multiplied by 100 to get total revenue. Although this number many not be accurate (yes, the average transaction may involve more than one item, and the average item price may not represent the prices of the most commonly purchased products), the comparison between time periods should be proportionately inaccurate, yielding change in revenue metrics we can trust.

Testing the Theory Elsewhere

Using the same methodology, we can see that the same correlation applies to other teams as well. The Houston Texans, for instance, were a top-tier team in 2012, making it all the way to the divisional playoff round. In 2013, they suffered through a season-ending 14-game losing streak following a 2-0 start and missed the playoffs altogether. Just like the Vikings, traffic to their fan site declined, from 660,000 to 350,000. Estimated revenue from the fan site went from $2 million to $1.6 million.

In addition to our creative intelligence methods, some basic franchise revenue information is available public knowledge. For instance, Forbes has the Vikings’ 2012 revenue listed as $234 million, which actually went up the following year to $234 million, perhaps thanks to increases in 2013 ticket sales as a result of the 2012 successes. ESPN’s attendance reports support this theory, listing the Metrodome as filling under 95% of its seats in ’12 and nearly 100% in ’13.

Playing Well for Money

Using the sales of Vikings tickets and swag as indexes, the “fair weather fan” phenomenon clearly still applies to teams that play indoors. Fans are hardly immune to the on-field performance of a team when they decide whether or not to part with hard-earned cash in demonstrations of allegiance.

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Visits to vikingsfanshop.com so far this season

So far this season, the Vikings fan shop site shows lower traffic activity than last season, but if the team surprises us and starts winning again, revenue could rise accordingly. And if their most decorated players can manage to stay out of trouble off the field, maybe fans will spend in kind.

About the Author -

Natalie Halimi is the Head of Marketing Communications & Education at SimilarWeb. With over 10 years of experience in marketing, Natalie has promoted services and products in the B2C and B2B arenas, in various industries.

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