What does it mean to be a great fan base for the National Football League? Is it showing up to every game? Is it buying tons and tons of merchandise? Is it single-minded devotion on social media? Is it stadium volume?
There’s probably no way to accurately control for every single factor that might go into the totality of what makes an NFL fan. (If you stay at home and stay off social media, does that make you less of a fan than someone who posts Twitter updates from the stadium, even if you both watch all the games?) But Forbes did some digging into the NFL.
It came up with some interesting ways to measure for all the types of NFL fandom, from stadium attendance over three years to merch sales to, yes, Facebook and Twitter fandom, as well as how many local people actually watched the games. A pretty comprehensive effort, it serves as the bedrock of this list of the five best fan bases in the National Football League. Does your team make the cut?
5. Baltimore Ravens
Coming out in a five-way-tie for stadium attendance — not a huge surprise, considering that all of these teams have been very competitive over the last few years, with the Ravens topping it all off with a Super Bowl win in 2012 — Baltimore’s faithful have been rewarded with a half decade of Harbaugh, near constant playoff appearances, and general success. The Ravens land in the top ten for social media and TV audience rankings (coming in the eight and six slots, respectively), while making it to the top four in hometown rank and the top twelve in merchandise sold.
4. New England Patriots
Proving that Tom is best when it’s phonetically pronounced with an A and a W between the T and the M, Patriots fans have been supporting their team in earnest since Tom (Tawm) Brady’s ascension to quarterback back in 2001, when he led the Pats out of the doldrums and into six Super Bowls, winning four of them. The New England football team are number four in merchandise and fifth in social media, although they are only number ten in Forbes‘ ‘hometown crowd’ ranking.
3. New Orleans Saints
No, we didn’t know that the child of Mickey Mouse and Kermit the Frog was a Saints fan, either. The New Orleans franchise, which became a rallying point for the community after Hurricane Katrina (and after the ascent of Drew Brees into the Quarterback stratosphere), is ranked either first or second in each of Forbes’ categories — hometown crowd, TV audience, stadium attendance, and social media — except for merchandise, which could be because they make their own.
2. Denver Broncos
Looks like the legal marijuana influx into Colorado hasn’t blunted the love for the Broncos one ounce, although we were unable to determine if Denver fans are any more sympathetic to the plight of former Browns receiver Josh Gordon. Anyhow, the Broncos had the best offense in football during the 2013 season, broke every offensive record worth mentioning, and got blown out in Super Bowl XLVIII. But their fans still love them. Possibly because they’re high. Why else would you wear a fedora in public?
1. Green Bay Packers
First in hometown crowd ranking, social media ranking, and stadium attendance, the only community-owned football team in the NFL is also in the top ten for TV audience (coming in at number two) and merchandise (coming in at number seven). That said, Green Bay plays on a field that’s colloquially referred to as the frozen tundra, and it’s a lot easier to sell a ton of Packer’s gear when people need to dress up like our intrepid fan pictured above in order to see them play. No one’s wearing that to see the Chargers.
Last season, ESPN announced that the Packers would be selling a 22 inch kielbasa and a hot donut ice-cream sandwich at Lambeau. That sounds alternatively amazing and awful, depending on how full you are when you read it, but we’re pretty sure the NFL’s best fans are stoked. For more info on Forbes’ list, click here.