Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fan Demand and the Milwaukee Brewers

Rob Neyer links an interesting story on ESPN about the Brewers seeing interestingly large attendance numbers this year, despite being out of the playoff race. Here's a quote from his post:

"I believe that attendance can basically be explained by four things: market size, performance, ballpark, and payroll. But one occasionally finds anomalies, and I believe those anomalies are worth more study. Because I don't think anyone's yet explained why the Brewers, an unexciting team in the 39th biggest metropolitan area in the United States can outdraw all but seven teams in the major leagues."

Neyer asks some very interesting questions here. While market size does describe a lot of variance in attendance, it's an arbitrary term. Market size is only one part of the equation here. But, there are different fan interests in different cities. Why would a hockey team do better in Hamilton than Phoenix? Putting aside any differences in population/metropolitan area size, Hamilton is a hockey town, Phoenix is in the desert. There are differences there. You also have to look at the substitutes. Milwaukee has no other teams playing in the summertime. Their basketball team is terrible. Brett Favre is gone from Green Bay. In addition, it's likely that fans in different cities respond differently to winning (just look at the Cubs!). Finally, ticket prices could have an influence on the number of tickets sold (aka Attendance). We've got to remember our old Price vs. Quantity demand function and optimization pushed into the back of our mind from Intro to Econ (though, I don't know if it's a factor here, and guaging actual ticket prices is trickier than you'd think).

I mostly agree with Neyer, but I'm working on some stuff in 'school' that we might want to check out when investigating demand in sports (not ticket pricing ifself, though that should be included). Unfortunlatey, much of it is not for me to say on a Blog. I just wanted to point out the success Milwaukee is having and how anomolies can really be fun to ponder.

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