Before they signed Al Jefferson this summer, the Charlotte Bobcats (soon to be Hornets again) were the laughingstock of the NBA. Majority owner and Oz behind the curtain Michael Jordan fired another one-year coach Mike Dunlap this offseason and hired Steve Clifford to take over a franchise that’s been lottery-bound in every season since Larry Brown’s ouster from the bench. But a recent study out of Emory University shows that Charlotte’s basketball fans are some of most social media savvy around.
Obviously, the Lakers took the top spot in the study, but the Emory Sports Marketing Analytics department created a model that explores social media interactions on Twitter and Facebook as a percentage of a team’s overall market size and winning percentage. Basically, it eliminates market outliers that normally prevent a team like the Bobcats/Hornets from being recognized for their social media engagement because they play in a smaller market and trot out woeful personnel on the court.
The world of social media provides an opportunity to look at fan base support without worrying about capacity or pricing issues. To look at NBA teams “social media equity” we collected follows and likes from Twitter and Facebook. We then created a statistical model that predicts these measures of social media engagement as a function of market size, tweeting activity and team performance for this past season and for the season before that. We then compared each team’s actual follows and likes against the model predictions. This method attempts to control for short term fluctuations in winning percentage and market differences.
With that model in place, the Bobcats are actually pretty high. The top team is the Lakers, followed by the Heat and the Celtics. None of those teams are surprising since Boston and LA serve large markets and possess the franchise history most people associate with the top of the NBA’s pyramid; the Heat have won the last two championships. But the Bobcats finshed fourth in the study, and it’s a surprising revelation for a franchise many consider near the top of the list for league contraction; especially if you consider the fan support and the big bucks backing the Chris Hansen-led group trying to bring a team to Seattle.
Here’s what the study says about the next three teams on the list: Charlotte, Golden State (5th) and New Orleans (6th):
It is the next three teams that are surprising as Golden State ranks 5th, New Orleans ranks 6th, and Charlotte ranks 4th. The case of Charlotte illustrates the value of our model based approach. In absolute terms, Charlotte performs relatively poorly in terms of social media metrics. However, when we adjust for team performance and market size, the team does fairly well. This indicates that the Charlotte market has fairly resilient fans, and likely speaks to the potential of the market if a consistent winning team is developed.
This is big news if you’re a Bobcats executive worried about Nascar and other distractions that can rob revenue from your team in Charlotte. Basically, the Bobcats/Hornets possess some of the most engaged fans in basketball, now all they need to do is put a winning team on the court. Easier said than done, but if you’re looking for diamonds in the rough, you can’t do much better than this. Social media engagement will go a long way towards explaining future fan support, and Charlotte’s doing pretty good so far with very little talent enticing fans to tweet or share things on Facebook.