Football fans, followers of the Indianapolis Colts and residents of central Indiana could argue all day about the avidity of the Indianapolis Colts’ faithful.
Some say Indianapolis is a soft market that needs an indoor venue, winning team and cheap concessions to keep fans happy. There's been plenty of bellyaching about Colts fans’ bellyaching about things like the sun beating on them when the Lucas Oil Stadium roof is open.
And to be sure, Colts fans are on the frugal side. Colts’ ticket prices are about average in the NFL, and when the team is not playing great, the team’s season waiting list does shrink. While the team has sold out the vast majority of games since Peyton Manning was drafted in 1998, there were plenty of empty seats in the year’s before No. 18’s arrival.
But there appears to be another side.
The Colts didn’t exactly set the world on fire on the field last year and are struggling again this season. Yet, as television viewership for the NFL declines—by double digits in some cases—compared to last year, the Colts’ ratings in this market are up 2 percent this season despite losing four of their first six games.
Then there’s this.
In a new ranking of which NFL teams have the most die-hard fans, personal finance technology company SmartAsset.com placed the Colts in a tie with the Washington Redskins. The study covered a five-year period that ran through last last season.
Only Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, New York (Giants) and San Francisco were found to have more die-hard fans among the 32 NFL teams, according to the study.
“There's no doubting Colts fans' dedication,” the SmartAsset report said. “They have the highest average attendance rate in the league at 103.9 percent. Fans continue to show up although the on-field performance hasn't quite matched fan enthusiasm. The Colts only won 53 percent of their games over the five-year period we researched.”
Of course, the Colts sold the vast majority of their tickets for the 2011 season when fans still thought Manning would be the Colts’ quarterback. They found out closer to the season opener he would be out for the season, and the Colts went 2-14 in his absence. Another caveat is that the No. 1 draft pick the Colts used in 2012 to select quarterback Andrew Luck certainly helped bolster ticket sales that would have almost certainly lagged following such a horrible season.
The primary reason the Colts don’t rank even higher, the report says, is the relatively inexpensive tickets offered by the Colts.
While 19 of the other 31 NFL teams were found to have cheaper average ticket prices than the Colts, none of them could boast the Colts' attendance capacity. Of the five teams that were deemed to have more die-hard fans, only one (Philadelphia at $98.69) had cheaper tickets. The Giants topped the heap in terms of average ticket prices at $123.40.
The average Colts ticket price (not including premium seats) over the five-year period was $87.44. The average price of a hot dog and beer—at $17.75—at Lucas Oil Stadium also was on the cheap side compared to other frontrunners in SmartAsset’s rankings. In San Francisco, where a hot dog and brew costs $22, fans would be smart to fill up at the tailgate party before the kickoff.
So what’s the price of tickets and a hot dog have to do with determing how die-hard a team’s fans are?
SmartAssets' study looks at the cost of tickets and concessions, then takes a look at average attendance, and figures that fans willing to pay more to see their team play in person are more diehard. The more fans are willing to pay for a hot dog and drink also means a higher score on the die-hard meter.
The study also rewards fans who continue to show up even though their chances of seeing their team win is not great. So SmartAsset compared the attendance rate over the five years of the study to their teams’ victory rate over the same period. That's why the Chicago Bears, who have high attendance and expensive tickets despite a lousy winning percentage, topped the list.
So, maybe Colts fans aren’t as soft as many think. Or maybe they’re just becoming less cheap.
To see more on the study’s methodology and a complete list of the findings, click here.